“I am a mother, not political opposition” – protest march against the battery gigafactory in Debrecen
Átlátszó has accompanied the protesters from Mikepércs to Debrecen, who were protesting against the battery factory under construction. The mothers from Mikepércs, who organised the civil demonstration, said they were worried about the health and peace of their families and children. The dangerous plants being built in the Déli Industrial Park in Debrecen will be the closest to their homes.
On Saturday morning 28 January, hundreds of people marched from the main square of Mikepércs to the city centre of Debrecen to protest against the construction of a battery factory in Debrecen.
Although the demonstrators want to stop the planned Chinese mega-investment on the outskirts of Mikepércs, one of the organisers, Enikő Gyöngy-Tóth, repeatedly stressed that they are not trying to cause “trouble”. As she said, they want to draw attention to the fact that no one asked them if they wanted to live near an industrial park of several hundred hectares, including highly dangerous chemical plants.
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Ivancsa, population 3,000, can be found by the Danube near the M6 highway in Fejér County. Local government describes it succinctly on their website: “high-quality soil, picturesque Danube banks, clean air, comprehensive infrastructure”.
The Chinese CATL mega-investment has been the subject of controversy in Debrecen and the municipalities concerned since August. However, the first time residents were publicly informed about the project was at a public hearing organised by the mayor of Mikepércs, where neither representatives of the Chinese company nor government officials attended. Mayor Zoltán Tímár (Fidesz) promised to send the questions raised to the authorities and the investor, and said that if they did not receive reassuring answers, they were prepared to go to court to protect the health of residents.
At the public hearing held in Debrecen on 9 January, where the Chinese investor and the environmental and disaster prevention authorities were present, the mayor of Mikepércs and László Papp (Fidesz) also promised to set up a monitoring system in the settlements before the start of construction of the battery factory. However, the promises proved insufficient for the thousand-strong crowd at the public hearing.
At the public hearing on the environment on 20 January, the anti-factory protests intensified. However, the 12-kilometre journey from Mikepércs to Debrecen was covered in a disciplined manner. By the time they reached Kossuth Square in Debrecen, the number of demonstrators had grown to about a thousand.
“You have to understand, we don’t want a battery factory!” – was repeatedly heard in the speeches at Kossuth Square, and the crowd gave the protest an ovation.
Among the marchers and speakers, some people had lived in Mikepércs for decades, protesting against the disappearance of the village and suburb way of life. Others said that they had just moved out of the city because they wanted to live in a quieter, more natural environment and were outraged that a battery factory and other dangerous plants were being built near them.
It was also announced that the environmental authority will decide on 13 February whether to allow the factory to be built in Debrecen. Many residents have already written comments on the impact assessment, drawing attention to the negative effects of the battery factory’s operation. The demonstrators have called on the people of Debrecen to continue to stand together in protest.
Translated by Zita Szopkó. The original Hungarian version of this story was written by Zsuzsa Bodnár and can be found here. Video by Dénes Balogh.