From: Editor, World Wildlife Fund
Published April 8, 2011 10:56 AM

Little action apparent on toxic tailings six months after Hungary red mud disaster

Kolontár, Hungary: Six months after being deluged by a tide of toxic red sludge, towns downstream of the failed alumina tailings dam near Ajka, Hungary remain ruined and largely deserted, with residents and former residents still waiting for authorities to deliver on much of the promised assistance.


Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, residents of other towns threatened by tailings dams are noting that little has been done to reduce the risks hanging over their communities.

More than one million cubic metres of the toxic sludge burst from the Ajka tailings dam on 4 October 2010, inundating the towns of Kolontár, Devecser and Somlóvásárhely. Ten died and more than 100 were injured, with the mud covering hectares of farmland and forest and spilling into Danube tributaries, the Marcal and Torna rivers.

On a six month review, WWF-Hungary noted that around 300 buildings have been demolished and the impact on lives and livelihoods in the area remains severe. Streets are empty, and the red stain of the mud remains often all too visible.

"Many people came here and promised a lot of things, but we've seen nothing. The sludge destroyed our best fields, now we can't make a living", one local man told WWF Hungary.

Clean up efforts continue in some areas, but seem to be themselves tailing off.

According to the mayor of Devecser, Tamas Toldi, the sludge and toxic soil are in the process of being cleared with about 5000 cubic metres are being transported back to one of the tailing pools each day. But as there are no funds left, there will be only partial replacement of the soil.

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