Call for NGO projects to improve the environment around Lake Balaton
The €1.6 million Hungarian fund established to protect the environment surrounding Lake Balaton, Central-Europe's largest fresh water lake, launched its call for NGO projects on 2 April 2008.
Situated one hour's drive south from capital Budapest, Lake Balaton is a major attraction in landlocked Hungary. However, the one million visitors drawn to the country's favourite summer retreat each year put a heavy strain on the local environment and makes precautionary measures necessary.
Through the EEA Grants, the region has now established a €1.6 million fund to preserve and improve the environment in the area through small-scale projects carried out in partnerships between municipalities and public benefit companies, social actors, NGOs and other civil society organisations.
The Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (LBDCA), managing the fund, launched the open call for projects on 2 April and applicants have until 30 June 2008 to submit their proposals. The environmental fund will award grants to around 30 projects, and supported activities include increasing green spaces through planting flowers and trees, eradicating ragweed, maintaining bicycle paths, eliminating illegal waste disposal sites and organising waste collection campaigns in the nearby communities.
Director of the Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency Gábor Molnár underlined the fund's importance to the region. The fund will be the first regional source of financial assistance aimed at civil society organisations involved in environmental protection.
Molnár explained that the area was in a poor environmental condition in the 1980s, but thanks to government-financed environmental infrastructure projects, such as water treatment and waste management systems, improvements are now becoming highly visible in this region. "Now we need to mobilise local sources who can continue the work of improving the environment through small-scale projects," Molnár said.
"NGOs are a recent addition to Hungarian society, and we are on the way of learning how civil society works," Molnár said, adding: "The fund will be a useful tool for civil society organisations in the region, who can now get support to implement what may perhaps be their first projects". The fund will encourage the establishment of partnership projects between civil society groups and municipalities, and the LBDCA hopes the fund will spark a broader process of cooperation between the local community and local governments.