Unbearable air pollution in Budapest from ships on the Danube

The Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) urges a solution to eliminate the harmful emissions from liners on the Danube both for the health protection of the inhabitants of Budapest and for the enjoyability of the World Aquatics Championship. „Based on several complaints from residents, and on our own experiences we came to the conclusion that passenger ships on the Danube are excessively health damaging, emitting barely acceptable diesel exhaust gases into their surroundings” – wrote CAAG to Miklós Seszták, minister of national development, asking for prompt measures. Even though the minister gave detailed information about the problem, he has not offered any kind of solution. CAAG suggested several solutions in its reply to the minister by which emission of the liners could be curtailed significantly by minimal state contribution.

According to data received from the Association of Liners 90 % of the Danube’s liners need its engine to be replaced. Replacing the outdated engines is advantageous also economically on the long-term as the new engines consume reasonably less fuel. However, banks are not willing to provide loans for such an investment as the they do not accept the liners as collateral for a loan. Therefore, CAAG suggests state credit guarantee for the modernization to the Hungarian liner companies. CAAG also considers necessary a state aid worth 600 million Forints that would supply particulate filter for liners moving on the Budapest-section of Danube.

Moreover, foreign vessels that are operated as hotels produce considerable noise and air pollution due to supplying electricity from their diesel generators around-the-clock. Therefore, electricity should be supplied for them from the riverbank.

CAAG has also asked for immediate development of an environmental rating system for the vessels sailing on the Danube in order to determine the port fees accordingly and comprehensibly.

The second letter, dated on the 19th of January 2017 containing amongst others the above-mentioned suggestions should have received an answer from the minister within 30 days according to legislation; however, this has not happened until today. The affected residents are also waiting for the minister’s answer, some of whose complaints to the CAAG are quoted below:

„I live in a rental apartment in Újlipótváros, and I frequently take a walk on the Danube’s bank between Liberty Bridge and Árpád Bridge. Unfortunately, the air quality is often insufferable due to the small tourist ships, which continuously emit a pungent smell that almost stings while breathing. The situation is not any better in the inner streets.” „In the summer months, the soot almost becomes visible due to the increased ship traffic, especially in the central part of Budapest and around Margaret Island.” „I have worked in one of the beautiful apartment houses on Belgrád quay for years. The proximity of the Danube, the view of Gellért Hill is breathtaking. I had the time to notice and continuously experience the overwhelming problem caused by the traffic of the International Passenger Port and of the bus connections next to Belgrád quay. Most of the apartments on the quay are empty. Those who can, flee from here.” „We usually go to the northern side of the Parliament in the evening, where a lot of foreign tourists go also, but the view often cannot be enjoyed as the diesel engines of the many tourist liners cause intolerable smell.”

Translated by Judit Nyári