null Statement of Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and Ombudsman for Future Generations on World Water Day

Dr. Ákos Kozma, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and Dr. Gyula Bándi, Deputy Commissioner for the Interests of Future Generations call attention to the importance of the protection of groundwater in their joint statement issued on the occasion of World Water Day.

Ever since 1993, we commemorate World Water Day annually on 22 March. This year, the UN’s motto, “Making the invisible visible” places groundwater in the limelight.
Groundwater provides approximately one half of all the drinking water and irrigation water in the world, and about one third of the water supply needed by industry. Despite its priority role, this water treasure receives little attention; its vulnerability and damage may easily remain hidden, therefore its importance cannot be emphasized enough.

“The existence, condition and use of water, especially freshwater, is one of the most important factors of our life. (Drinking) water is a natural element which cannot be substituted by any artificial material, its regenerative capacity depends on weather and the recipient geological medium, more specifically, on soil (its structure and level of pollution), and which is available only in limited amounts.” (Constitutional Court Decision 13/2018)

The population and wildlife of numerous countries of the Earth are already struggling with water scarcity, thus it is our national interest and common responsibility to protect our existing water resources and to use them sustainably. This includes preventing the overproduction of underground water tables, the overexploitation of surface waters and the pollution of waters, as well as the protection of the natural environment (including the ensuring of the basic flow of watercourses, and the protection of riparian vegetation and water-based ecosystems and habitats).

Groundwater resources have an increasing strategic importance in the water supply of the world’s population. Due to Hungary’s basin-like location and geological composition, the quantity of our groundwater resources and their environmental and use value are outstanding in a European comparison. About 95% of the Hungarian water supplies is satisfied from groundwater resources; however, two thirds of those come from vulnerable drinking water tables. The common wisdom according to which Hungary must be considered a “great power” in terms of water resources available holds true only if the requirement of horizontal protection is enforced from the level of decision-making to that of operational everyday activities. Accordingly, during the creation of all pieces of legislation concerning natural resources and upon making state- and municipality-level decisions, the requirement of the preservation of natural resources, and simultaneously, of ensuring the living conditions of future generations, must be taken into consideration in an integrated manner.

It should be mentioned in connection with this special day that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently issued its latest report, which is a part of a comprehensive series of reports focusing on climate change and its impacts. The report studies the trends and causes of climate change, the vulnerability of human societies and natural ecosystems, as well as the adaptive solutions that may be applied in response to these phenomena. The report confirms that the changes in climatic conditions are making their effect felt all over the planet, and that negative trends are going to escalate. Climate change is aggravating the lack of global water security because it plays a part in more frequent and more severe droughts, floods, extreme precipitation, the accelerated melting of glaciers, the shrinking of groundwater resources and the deterioration of water quality. Europe is especially exposed to four risk factors: heat, the unsustainability of agriculture in the current conditions, water scarcity and floods. The key message of the report is that humanity may be able to mitigate the harmful effects of change, it is possible to adapt, but we are rapidly running out of time to act.

The Fundamental Law of Hungary declares that one of the ways to enforce citizens’ right to physical and mental integrity is to ensure their access to drinking water, and quite obviously, this is the state’s obligation. At the same time, Article P) of the Fundamental Law of Hungary identifies the reserves of water, among others, as forming the common heritage of the nation, stipulating that it is the obligation of the state and everyone to protect and maintain them, and to preserve them for future generations – and this applies not only to the state but also to civil society and to each and every citizen.

The idea that clean, potable water is a real treasure that we all need to protect should be internalized by society as soon as possible. It is up to us to make a change!