Land and Resources, Environmental Issues
Rapid industrialization in Hungary contributed significantly to a number of major environmental problems, including air, water, and soil pollution. Emissions from automobiles and electric power plants have created most of the air pollution. A significant percentage of the country's forests, waterways, and buildings suffer damage from acid rain, which is caused by sulfur dioxide in the air. Winds carry Hungary's polluted air into neighboring countries, where it has caused similar problems.
River, lake, and groundwater pollution in Hungary are the result of industrial runoff, much of which is untreated when it enters the water. Insufficiently treated sewage also contributes to water pollution, as a large percentage of the country's population does not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Hungary's Lake Balaton, the largest lake in central Europe, is severely polluted.
Soils are also susceptible to pollution from chemical runoff from local industries. Because Hungary shares its major waterway, the Danube, with other European countries, pollution problems affecting neighboring countries often affect Hungary as well, and vice versa.
Reforestation efforts have allowed the country to steadily gain forestland. About 6.8 percent (1997) of Hungary's land is protected in parks and other reserves, preventing development but not the ill effects of acid rain and water pollution.
Hungary is party to international treaties concerning air pollution, biodiversity, climate change, endangered species, hazardous wastes, and wetlands.