Lake Balaton Integrated Vulnerability Assessment, Early Warning and Adaptation Strategies

The project was launched following many years of water quality problems and a negative water balance induced by water shortage starting in 2000 and lasting for four years. This raised a serious sustainability concerns in the Lake Balaton area, Hungary and the region. Due to the Lake Balaton sensitivity to climate change and its impacts the problem came to the fore both for policy and science.

Lake Balaton’s internationally unique vulnerability situation is the combined result mainly of its very shallow profile and the fact that through heavy reliance on tourism as a primary source of livelihoods, the socio-economic consequences of ecological deterioration can be severe and immediate. This is particularly the case as society has not fully dealt with the legacy of transition from centrally planned to a market economy. If the frequency of years with negative water balance indeed increased in the future, as indicated by applicable climate change scenarios, Lake Balaton and the coupled socio-economic system is expected to emerge as a highly sensitive and internationally unique indicator of vulnerability to global change. On a more positive side, it could also serve as a high profile example of adaptation measures consistent with sustainable development. In recognition of this potential UNEP’s Division of Early Warning and Assessment confirmed its interest in designating through this project Lake Balaton as a pilot under its Early Warning Strategy.

The project was complementing ongoing policy initiatives and scientific research, and had a clear niche by focusing on better understanding the vulnerability of the Lake and its watershed from an integrated perspective. Climate change was seen as one of the emerging important determinants of vulnerability, but its impacts were considered in the broader context of sustainable development.

The overall objective of the project was to contribute to a better understanding of the Lake Balaton ecological and socio/economic system’s vulnerability and resilience arising from multiple forces of global and local change, including land use, demographic, economic and climate change and build capacity for more effective policy making and adaptation measures in response.

Duration: 01/2006 – 12/2008
Financed by: UNDP-GEF