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Roma communities had their access to water shut down during heatwave in Gulács and in Nyíregyháza, Hungary

Roma saw the closure of the public water wells and private water access in households during a summer heatwave. Access to water remains volatile.


The Roma neighborhood of Gulács, a small village of 800 people in North-East Hungary,  saw the closure of the public water well on 1 August 2017 during a summer heatwave. [1] The Tisza Regional Waterworks suddenly removed the well. The company stated officially that they suspected a burst pipe of “one of the wells that are officially out of order” and removed it. [2] The closure of the well occurred despite public outcry after similar cases occurred in other locations, in particular in Ózd.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Roma communities had their access to water shut down during heatwave in Gulács and in Nyíregyháza, Hungary
State or province:Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg
Location of conflict:Gulács and Nyíregyháza
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional 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

This situation is not due to any developmental projects or investments but due to the lack of minimum public services, here the access to water. The water service provider in Hungary is entitled by law to close water access to people when the legal requirements are met, such as unpaid bills with the limitation that legal residents shall have access to water within 150 meter radius to their household. Whether the latter requirement was duly addressed is questioned by the parties in both cases.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,500-2,000 (48 households)
Start of the conflict:01/08/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Tisza Regional Waterworks (TRV Zrt.) from Hungary - Closures of public wells
Nyírség Waterworks (Nyírségvíz Zrt.) from Hungary - Water closure
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:In the case of Huszártelep, Nyíregyháza: Hátrányos Helyzetű Családok Országos Egyesülete [Vulnerable Families National Organisation]
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Other Health impacts, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Violations of human rights, Displacement, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Proposal and development of alternatives:No alternative has been proposed for the discriminatory practices of water enclosure towards the Roma.
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 people continue to move out the settlement/town which can be interpreted as indirect racially motivated displacement of the Roma people.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[3] 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.
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References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[4] Kertesi-Kézdi: A cigány népesség Magyarországon [The Roma population of Hungary], 1998
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[5] Nyíregyháza Municipality Development Plan for Huszártelep [Huszártelep területi és társadalmi reintegrációja], 2011
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Kertesi-Kézdi: A cigány népesség Magyarországon [The Roma population of Hungary], 1998
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[1] Lázadás Gulácson - Elzárták a romák egyetlen közkútját” [1] [“Rebellion on Gulacs – The Roma’s only public well was disconnected”-The author translated from Hungarian], Népszava online newspaper
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[6] A kánikulában zárták el a vizet 48 nyíregyházi családnál ["48 families water service were shut down in Nyíregyháza in the middle of the heat wave"] Szabolcsihír online newspaper, 2019.06.28
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[7] What is antigypsyism, ERGO Network, 2019
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What is antigypsyism, ERGO Network, 2019
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Meta information
Contributor:Zsuzsanna Kovacs, [email protected]
Last update29/10/2019
Conflict ID:4374
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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