A city and its surroundings reach out for help
A military radar base is to be built on the hillside above our city –which is part of the beauty and identity of our city and region.
(Documents available at www.cmm.hu)
The reader of these words may or may not have heard about us at all. Therefore it is advisable to introduce ourselves as citizens of Pécs, a 2000 year old urban settlement (Sopianae/Fünfkirchen) and prospective European Cultural Capital in 2010, now appealing to the world for help. We would not have chosen to do this if we could see the slightest chance that our leaders in Hungary as well as in Pécs had listened to the concerns and fears of the people they are supposed to represent.
Our concern is for the 160,000 inhabitants of the town along with further 100,000 people living, working and studying in its immediate agglomeration who suddenly have to face the prospect of the installation of a long-range 3D NATO military radar within the historical city’s limits on the Tubes hill, at a distance of barely 500 m from residential areas, upon the intent of the Hungarian Defense Ministry, a proposal also endorsed by the national government.
We wish to emphasize: similarly to the rest of this country, we are committed to both defending our land and fulfilling the military obligations made to the NATO. However, considering the basic rights of our children, grandchildren and the rest of the population to live in a safe and healthy environment and for equal chances of a secure future, we can not accept this decision. We cannot recognize this verdict, for choosing the appropriate site for such radar must be based on the sovereign decision of the country, as stated by NATO sources; furthermore, we are also aware of a previous study made for the same government of the same prime minister, stating: ”Due to demographic, geographic and environmental reasons, the Tubes hill as a potential site for placing such an installment is unsuitable” (Láng Committee, 2004).
After recovering from the first shock in the end of 2005 when Prime Minister Gyurcsany declared that the Tubes would be the new site for the radar (after activists from the surrounding areas stopped the construction, and the Supreme Court declared the location of the Zengo Mountain 16km from Pécs illegal), the citizens of Pécs started organizing themselves. Despite the attempts of the present ruling coalition of the city government to hide information or distort facts (mostly by diminishing possible dangers), the citizen‘s movement had succeeded by September 2006 in achieving a call for a referendum on the issue by collecting over 18,000 signatures. Although the voting was considered legally void due to lower than needed turnout (according to local regulations, for a valid result at least 50% plus one need to cast their votes), yet 95% of those voting (1/3 of the total electorate, 38,870 persons) rejected the radar. Had the absentee votes up to 50% and one all been in support of the radar, the results still would have been a resounding „No“. Over 38,000 citizens voted against the radar, this is more than voted for the former and current mayors of Pécs.
That the voting was declared void was largely the consequence of the massive influence of the ruling coalition over the local media through presenting news of the planned construction and the impact of the referendum in a manipulating and misleading fashion, thus preventing the electorate from gaining reliable information. In the meantime the construction (at the site previously considered as completely unsuitable) went full speed ahead, and the Hungarian Defense Ministry, acting both as the commissioner and legal permit issuer for the construction had issued the first-order permit, despite the statement of the NATO representative excluding any harmful consequences of a possible delay due to further investigation of the issue. The Hungarian Defense Ministry is the permit issuer but the money for the investment comes directly from NATO, which is practicing no oversight. For their money they will get a radar station built illegally and by ignoring the wishes of the local people, making its legal and practical future functionality questionable at least.
The permit application was full of inaccuracies (for instance the site of construction on the blueprint was erroneously located 2,3 km further from the town, as one example for the most tendentious mistakes). The citizens, aided by a group of politicians, have repeatedly put forward new proposals with new data supporting the temporary suspension of construction, thus offering the chance for re-evaluation by the town’s leadership. Unmoved by these efforts, the ruling coalition have refused the citizens’ appeal, or avoided considering it for the forth time in a row, in what was perceived by many as an utmost cynical and insulting manner. Practically, they paid no attention to the opinion voiced either by the civilians or their invited experts, including academicians and internationally renowned scientists specializing in research of physiological effects of electromagnetic fields (including low energy), as well as experts in geography and hydrogeology.
Beyond the fact that the whole legal process of commissioning was conducted in a gross disregard for what the law dictates, thereby ruining the trust in the commissioner, the reasons for fear and concern are diverse. What is the source of the fear? Due to the radar‘s position within the city limits, in immediate vicinity of residential buildings, its presence will render the whole town a potential target for violence in the unfortunate case of war. Furthermore, the planned installation would be placed immediately on the top of important natural ground water reserves, thus imperiling the water supply of a city lacking other sources of natural water.
The production of polluting electrosmog generated as a result of previous ill-advised or outdated industrial investments will significantly increase, and it is not a great deal of comfort to know or believe that, according to calculations, the cumulative level will reach the officially sanctioned upper limit only at one location.
We are concerned for our children and grandchildren as well. It is no coincidence that the WHO has established a committee whose task is to investigate the physiological effects of electromagnetic fields, and whose results scientists expect to prompt a significant lowering of permitted values of exposure. Also, it is hardly an accident that the WHO that suggests the principle of utmost caution, even in installing cell phone transmitter towers. In addition, the planned installment will deprive the inhabitants of this town of the enjoyment of these wooded areas and what they are supposed to offer: improving health, fresh air, relaxation, sport, and an opportunity to experience nature near the city.
The area is rich in rare insect and plant communities. They may also become endangered. All these concerns highlight what many citizens feel, that the government‘s unjustifiable and stubborn resolve may be motivated by prestige and financial gains, refusing the repeated pleas of citizens. Turning a deaf ear to the legal and scientific arguments throughout the process and by misleading the population actively and through their silence, the government, by adhering to cynical refusal, insists on making a decision above our heads, which can only lead to prolonged insecurity and health hazards. A typical example was the retort of the Hungarian Defense Minister (Imre Szekeres) directed to the citizens of Pécs concerned for the peace and safety of their home by saying ”I’ll be serving tea for those demonstrators who’ll chain themselves to the trees in the woods.” This remark was published by the internet site of a Hungarian daily newspaper.
The lives of a city and the surrounding communities are filled with apprehension because of the current situation. 38,870 citizens of the town have demonstrated through the referendum that they are already aware of the dangers, with their numbers growing each day. The story of Chernobyl and the memories of the lies surrounding its dangers are alive in everyone’s mind, and we would not like to be in news reports for similar reasons 5-10 years from now. Please, help us, voice your support for us, don’t let our home, a colorful, historically and culturally rich region, become the landscape for an unconscionable human experiment.