Ombudsman for Future Generations to Reduce Noise pollution Caused by Air Traffic

Ombudsman for Future Generations Gyula Bándi encourages the creation of a legal and incentive system that guarantees the peace of the citizens at night in order to systematically reduce the noise pollution caused by the dynamically increasing air traffic in Hungary, which already generates mass-scale complaints filed by the citizens, and asks the competent minister to conduct a comprehensive review of the legal regulation of air transport.

The Ombudsman for Future Generations pays special attention to action against noise pollution when he investigates into the enforcement of the right of citizens to a healthy environment guaranteed in the Fundamental Law of Hungary. This is all the more justified because there is an outstanding rate of noise-related complaints among the environmental matters inquired into by the Ombudsman’s Office. According to health research, the human body cannot get accustomed to the impact of noise of a disturbing extent and this leads to the deterioration of health. This was also mentioned at a recent round table meeting that was organized by the Deputy Commissioner with the participation of the representatives of regulatory, official, civil society and professional organizations on the subject of the noise pollution caused by the operation of the Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport.

The Deputy Commissioner recalled the policy statement made by his predecessor, the former Ombudsman for Future Generations, according to which special protection should be provided to the environment and the interests of future generations in case there is a conflict with other fundamental rights and constitutional values. It should also be taken into account that the air traffic noise that thousands of citizens are exposed to directly affects the fundamental right to private property, due to the limited use of residential property. According to the well-established practice of the Constitutional Court, a fundamental right may only be limited for the protection and promotion of another fundamental constitutional right, a constitutional value or goal, to the extent that is vitally necessary.

Air transport is not a public service, it is aimed at achieving economic gains, so it cannot in itself justify any restrictions of the fundamental right to a healthy environment and property. However, it is also pointed out by the Constitutional Court that occasionally, private interests may indirectly serve the interests of the entire community, just as in the case of air transport. The operation of the largest airport undoubtedly serves the interests of the national economy and the community too but Gyula Bándi thinks that the extent and necessity of disturbance are to be seen from the aspect of the enforcement of fundamental rights. In such circumstances, profit-oriented economic associations can be expected to take reasonable steps to alleviate the harmful consequences of the disturbance caused by their operations.

The health care value limits are seen by the Constitutional Court as the guarantee for the enforcement of the right to a healthy environment. However, experts think that the average calculation method that is applied for measuring noise does not reflect the actual health burden caused by the short-term but rather significant noise effect in the case of air space noise. The noise pollution that one is exposed to during deep sleep is especially critical from a health aspect, this is why it raises concerns that the number of night overflights even exceeds the planned value, which is high as it is, due to the regular delays in the flights.

If the serial delays remain without consequences, the air companies will not even be interested in complying with the requirements. The state has to apply sanctions, which mean adequately severe financial disadvantages, for compelling the air companies to keep the requirements, in order to protect its citizens and enforce its obligations arising from the Fundamental Law of Hungary. These will make the air companies interested in the realistic planning of air traffic. On the other hand, the collected amounts of fines should contribute to the reduction of the noise pollution that the population is exposed to. It is due to these factors that Ombudsman for Future Generations Gyula Bándi requested that the number of night overflights be reduced to a level that is medically still acceptable, and that efficient measures be taken against any and all irregular aviation operations.