UNESCO experts to probe power station project in Tokaj wine region

Budapest, September 10 (MTI) – International experts representing UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) will visit Hungary to consult on plans to build a bio-mass power station near the Tokaj world heritage site in northeast Hungary, the National Office of Cultural Heritage said on Friday.

Architect Susan Denyer, secretary of ICOMOS-UK, and landscape architect Pierre-Marie Tricaud, on behalf of UNESCO, will be in Hungary between September 20 and 24 at the invitation of the Hungarian government.  

    The investor BHD Hoeromu started construction of a 50 MW power plant two years ago which was halted by legal disputes following protests from environmentalists, wine-makers and NGOs, fearing that the area, which is part of the Tokaj Historic Wine Region, would suffer from the move.

    Ombudsman Sandor Fulop said earlier that a plant of such size and technology was unacceptable in terms of keeping the region’s environmental and cultural heritage intact. A court ruling in January this year rejected the ombudsman’s complaint.

    On the other hand, the town’s mayor, Ilona Ronavolgyi, has expressed the view that the Tokaj cultural heritage zone was blocking Szerencs’s road to much-needed industrial and infrastructural development and has suggested giving up the UNESCO cultural heritage title as an answer.

    The purpose of the current official “reactive monitoring” visit is to enable the experts to assess the effects of the construction of the bio-mass station near the world heritage site and make recommendations, the National Office of Cultural Heritage said. After exploring the area, the two experts will hold consultation talks with all affected parties, including representatives of the Hungarian authorities and winemakers, local council leaders, and the project’s investor.

    The experts will submit a detailed report about the visit to the UNESCO World Heritage committee.