Tiszatarján green economy project


Tiszatarján is a village on the Tisza River in north-eastern Hungary. A project run by WWF aims to restore the area’s natural floodplains and produce renewable energy locally, while at the same time increasing and diversifying local income streams.

As a first step, Tiszatarján municipality paid local people to cut down the highly invasive Amorpha bushes. Amorpha fructicosa is a plant which has colonised large areas of floodplain alongside the river Tisza in Hungary. Amorpha is bad news for biodiversity, while also reducing flood capacity. Currently, large areas of land formerly covered by the Amorpha, together with less productive arable lands, are being given back to nature, to restore the floodplain.

The uprooted Amorpha was burnt at a nearby energy plant to produce “green energy”. Some of the area is now also being replanted with willow trees, which will serve as a long-term, sustainable supply of “biomass”.

Additional project “mechanisms” include the introduction of grazing animals such as grey cattle and water buffalo to prevent the return of invasive species, and to assist with grassland management.

Key for WWF was what would happen to the cleared land. A contract was developed which included stipulations concerning natural areas and which specified that a certain proportion of cleared land had to be set aside for nature, whilst a certain proportion could be planted with indigenous tree species for future burning, to ensure the mechanism was sustainable.

The result was two-fold. Cutting and burning the Amorpha in the floodplain led to the restoration of grasslands and wetlands, while the planting of fast-growing willow trees meant that in 3 years time there would be biomass available.

At the moment Tiszatarján municipality together with WWF is working on a new, small-scale heating system which should supply energy to the public buildings of the village. Biomass from a 10 km radius of the village comes at a cheaper price than natural gas, and the Tisza floodplains around Tiszatarján have hundreds of hectares of Amorpha which could be cleared.

In terms of conservation results, 50 hectares of wetlands and grasslands have been restored. Beavers have been re-introduced to act as wetland managers, and water buffalos have been re-introduced to play the same role for the species rich grasslands. The landscape – and the economy – of this area have been completely transformed.

These changes have made eco-tourism an attractive option, bringing in additional revenues to diversify the economy and better sustain this rural community.

Opportunities exist for multiplication of this model project all along the Tisza. Already other municipalities have expressed interest to start work. Eventually much of the entire river length could be transformed. This would mean more green energy, more income, more profit, more jobs, and more nature for the Tisza.


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Location: Bulgaria


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Tiszatarján | The Tisza River | floodplain | wetland restoration | green economy | Hungary