Hungarian American Coalition Issues Study on the Implementation of the Red Sludge Disaster Fund

On October 4, 2010, the retaining wall of a sludge repository collapsed, at the alumina factory of Ajka, in Veszprém County, western Hungary. As a result, 600,000 cubic meters of highly alkaline, corrosive industrial waste inundated the surrounding towns and villages. Three towns were affected most directly: Devecser, Kolontár and Somlóvásárhely. But the surrounding region of over 40 square kilometers was also affected, and suffered from the ecological, economic and social disaster.

Following the disaster, Hungary’s Prime Minister called upon the Hungarian-American community for assistance. In response, the Coalition and Governor George Pataki established the Red Sludge Disaster Fund, for which we are raising funds for a concrete purpose: the fund is to be invested in education.

As a first step, the Coalition commissioned a study to determine the specific areas of education that would best profit from the fund, taking into account the social and economic circumstances and the new situation presented by the ecological disaster. The study was prepared by the European Business Polytechnic.

Sources for this survey were twofold: one, it reviewed the development strategies and priorities that have been proposed in this region over the past years. Two, it synthesized the views of the local decision-makers based on interviews with regional leaders, including mayors, regional development agencies, the head of the employment center, and school principals.

The survey provides an up-to-date evaluation of the economic and social environment of the affected areas reviewing the labor market as well as the area’s educational system.

A concrete plan, which enjoys the support of all the local leaders, is emerging for the Coalition’s fund: the renovation of the 200 square-meter former local court building of Devecser, owned by the local government, as a technical high school.

The former Devecser court building, to be renovated as a technical high school (Proposed)

All of the local leaders emphasize that the educational institutions and programs must be accompanied by investments in job creation. In the interest of job creation and to ensure that the educational programs meet the needs of regional investors, a continuous consultation process with the larger firms must be in place. In addition, cooperation must be ensured with other organizations which, in conjunction with the Hungarian American Coalition’s education initiative, can draw investment to the region – for example, with the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary and the Rotary Club, Hungary. With their cooperation, the proposed industrial park and an agricultural processing plant could locate in Devecser, or in another of the region’s towns.

Executive Summary (PDF, in English)

Full Study (PDF, in Hungarian)

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