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Hungarians take to streets to protect forests, German river see a rapid drop in water level

Hungarians take to streets to protect forests, German river see a rapid drop in water level

Thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest to fight the Hungarian government's move to suspend nature conservation laws, especially the ones protecting forests. Protestors held up signs saying 'keep your hands off trees' and 'trees save lives' and 'we need trees to live'.

The government of Hungary on August 4 decided to suspend the rules to speed up logging to meet energy requirements. Gergely Gulyas, head of the Prime Minister's office, said the move is being made to ensure that no Hungarian household deals with a lack of energy.

Hungary is expecting cold months and gas prices are putting heating in jeopardy. The cost of gas is expected to rise sharply in the winter due to high inflation and budgetary constraints. The government has cut subsidies for households consuming gas over the national average so that consumption over the threshold will have to be paid at market prices which are currently seven times higher.

Most Hungarian homes use gas for heating and the country is largely dependent on Russian gas. After the Ukraine war started, the country has declared a "state of danger". Only a quarter of the households use wood for heating.

WWF Hungary criticised the changes in the laws, which came into effect on August 5, saying that the move is worrying in terms of nature conservation and sustainability of forest management. "If we set aside all limitations and indiscriminately enjoy the best of our forests in a short period of time, the foundations of forest management will be lost for future generations," said the organisation.

Europe has recorded extreme heat events and significant water availability in recent years due to the climate crisis. Yesterday, water levels of the Rhine river in Germany dropped about 6 cm in 24 hours. Freight and passenger ships have been struggling with low water levels in the Rhine for several weeks.

According to the GDWS, a body responsible for waterways and shipping, the water level at Kaub in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, is now at 36 cm. Authorities think the water level can fall to 30 cm by August 15.

A GDWS official told the FAZ newspaper that persistent extreme dryness could "theoretically" affect navigability. He added: "I don't think it is likely." Due to the crisis, ships will have to carry considerably less cargo. This will make it difficult to transport coal and oil on the Rhine. These will have to be transported by road and rail.

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TAGS:Budapest Hungary forest conservation Budapest protests Germany River Rhine drought climate change 
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