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Roma blamed for water misuse and disconnection of water supply, Ózd, Hungary

Local authority disconnects public water supplies in a heat wave in 2013 while accusing Roma community of water misuse. The pattern of discrimination continues in later years.


In the northern Hungarian city of Ózd, almost 40 percent of the Romani population live in Kiserdőalja and Hétes, segregated Roma settlements [6].  On a hot day on 3 August 2013, the council of Ózd disconnected 27 pumps providing drinking water. Up to 500 families could no longer easily access safe clean drinking water. A further 62 taps were restricted in use by the authorities with the water pressure so low that it took several minutes to fill a 10-litre bottle. While the majority of the area, located in a depressed area  of metallurgical industry in the county of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén in the city Ózd, are Roma, both Roma and non-Roma were affected by the decision, as many people living in the area were too poor to have running water in their homes [3]. To make the situation even worse, according to the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Roma were blamed in part for water misuse. [3] Ózd's council did not directly accuse local Roma, but said "residents were wasting water and it could no longer afford to operate pumps and wells". [4]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Roma blamed for water misuse and disconnection of water supply, Ózd, Hungary
State or province:Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén
Location of conflict: Ózd
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The city of Ózd received 5,435,700 Euros from the Swiss-Hungarian Cooperation Program for the express purpose of providing running water to the Roma settlements; still it is alleged that improvements have not been made to provide running water to the Roma [3]. Roma communities largely started to move out of the settlement in Ózd and opposition politicians demanded to know what happened with the money aimed at providing clean running water to the Roma [3].

Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,435,700
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:500-800
Start of the conflict:01/08/2013
Relevant government actors:The mayor and city council of Ózd in 2013 and later years.
Swiss-Hungarian Cooperation Program.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Infectious diseases, Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Proposal and development of alternatives:The city's website indicates that works on the modernisation of the whole water system will be done between 2013 and 2017, but so far there is no sign of any work on the water supply in the settlement where Roma communities live [3].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Roma community still does not have access to clean, potable, and running water. Also, Roma communities largely moved out the settlement which can be interpreted as indirect racially motivated displacement of the Roma people by cutting off their only water supply.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The right to water and sanitation according to the General Comment No. 4 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provided as follows: “The water supply for each person must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses. These uses ordinarily include drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, personal and household hygiene. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met and few health concerns arise.” Hungary only ensures 20 liters per day for some groups of people. Pursuant to Article 58 of the Act CCIX of 2011 on Public Water Utilities (Public Water Utilities Act) the service provider shall limit or cut off the users insofar as the supply of drinking water meets the needs of subsistence and public health. The public health requirements of drinking water supply is ensured if the drinking water supply is at least 20 liter per person and day and the utility is within a distance of 150 meters or less from the place of residence. In order to supply drinking water that meets the needs of subsistence and public health, the water utilities provider shall establish a public water tap at the expense of the local government. The costs of operating the public water tap are paid by the local government to the water utility service provider. The Public Water Utilities Act only provides to those the amount of 20 litres per person and day who are cut off by the service. Those who have never been part of the service area as it is the case with Roma in segregated neighbourhoods are not covered by the provision.

[1] New Discrimination: A dangerous shift for Hungary’s Roma
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[4] BBC 5/8/2013: Hungarian Roma affected by water supply cuts
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[4] BBC

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[7] Far-right Hungarian mayor imposes tough working conditions on Roma
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ksenija Hanacek (ICTA-UAB)
Last update29/09/2019
Conflict ID:4296
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