environmental destruction

A forest was cut down to allow the Samsung factory to expand; locals protest the decision

The battery factory owned by Samsung is expanding in Göd, a suburb of Budapest North of the Hungarian capital. The municipality of Göd offered an 80-hectare industrial area for development last year, and the winner has just been announced: Samsung will use the area to expand the current battery factory. Locals are furious and worried because they feel that they had not been properly informed about the project.

Atlatszo asked the town clerk about the planned development project. He told us that he cannot provide any details about the planned development project ’because the winner has just been announced’ but added that the town was informed that Samsung plans to extend the current car battery production in the new are they are about to buy.

According to the tender, the winner will have to create 100 jobs within 5 years.

In order to make space for the new industrial area, an entire forest was cut down and 150 privately owned plots of land were bought from locals. Some of the lands were appropriated.

Locals feel that they were not properly informed about the development project and the plans of Samsung. When they turn to the municipality to complain, the mayor and his colleagues blame the government of Hungary for the decision and say that the municipality had no say in the matter.

However, Atlatszo obtained a letter where the municipality of Göd is requesting the government of Hungary to create the new industrial area, claiming that it will create jobs. According to the request, only a huge, 80-hectare area can ’fulfil the needs of big investors.’ The letter also mentions that landowners in the area are supporting the project thus they are willing to sell their land.

They also explain how a 25-hectar forest will have to be cut down and how that land can also be sold. In the letter, the municipality of Göd is asking the government to change zoning, environmental and agricultural regulations in the area to make the project possible.

The Göd council discussed the above-mentioned request on July 5, 2018. According to the minutes of the meeting, the mayor argued that the request needed to be filed because Samsung wanted to expand its factory.

At another local council meeting, on July 24, 2018, it was also discussed that the new industrial area needs to be created to accommodate the needs of Samsung.

However, the government decree announced on July 27, 2018 does not mention Samsung. It only creates new industrial-innovation area.

The minutes of the above-mentioned council meetings are not very detailed, thus we filed a freedom of information request to obtain the voice recording of the meetings. The town clerk denied our request citing business secrets.

We complained about this decision at the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information. The authority urged the town of Göd to share the voice recording with us. However, the town is still refusing to do so.

There is only a little information about the project on the town’s website, saying that Göd got 150 million HUF in subsidies from the government to help the project and a loan of 1.6 million HUF. The town got 500 million HUF to plant a new forest.

In the meantime, some locals are worried and angry. They claim that they have not been properly informed about the latest expansion of the factory.

The Samsung battery plant has been controversial for some time already: locals have complained about unbearable noise, pollution and the lack of a comprehensive safety plan.

One of the locals complained about the factory at the deputy ombudsman responsible for the ‘interests of future generations.’ According to our sources, the deputy ombudsman started an inquiry into the matter in March this year, which worries the municipality.

Written by Zsuzsa Bodnár

English summary by Anita Kőműves. You can read the original, Hungarian-language story here.

Cover image: the Samsung factory in Göd. Photo by Zsuzsa Bodnár