This investigation reveals how enormous quantities of household garbage wash down the River Tisza each year from Ukraine to Hungary and parts of Romania, threatening public health and harming the environment.
Led by Hungarian news site Telex.hu, the cross-border team examines what has turned the Tisza into the waste disposal channel of Transcarpathia as it meanders along the Ukraine-Romanian border before plunging into Hungary and back again into Romania.
The journalists from Hungary, Ukraine and Austria also probe what can be done to prevent this from happening year after year.
Fieldwork in Transcarpathia exposes poor infrastructure and utilities and a lack of services for separating and collecting waste — all of which make dumping rubbish in the river the easy option.
Connecting Ukraine, Hungary and Romania, the River Tisza is awash with waste. Why?
— IPI – The Global Network for Press Freedom (@globalfreemedia) April 12, 2021
The team comprised Gergely Nyilas from Telex.hu along with his colleagues Péter Lengyel-Szabó and János Bődey, freelancer cameraman Dániel Simor, Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Tuzhanski and Austrian radio reporter Markus Müller-Schinwald.
Interviewing sources including state and municipal bodies, local activists and the waste management company responsible for the region, they found little agreement on who should be held responsible for solving the problem.
And as they probed the relationships between local authorities and companies amid lax regulation, they discovered competing ideas of what waste management should be: a business opportunity versus a public service.
While the investigation is focused on a tight geographical area, it feeds into a global debate on waste management and environmental protection. The team has committed to continue working on the topic in 2021 and to follow up on leads discovered during the collaboration.
Photos by János Bődey of Telex.hu