GNF - Balaton Adaptation Project

Lake Balaton Integrated Vulnerability Assessment, Early Warning and Adaptation Strategies

The “Lake Balaton Integrated Vulnerability Assessment, Early Warning and Adaptation Strategies” project was launched following many years of water quality problems and a negative water balance induced by water shortage starting in 2000 and lasting for four years. This raised a serious sustainability concerns in the Lake Balaton area, Hungary and the region. Due to the Lake Balaton sensitivity to climate change and its impacts the problem came to the fore both for policy and science.

Lake Balaton’s internationally unique vulnerability situation is the combined result mainly of its very shallow profile and the fact that through heavy reliance on tourism as a primary source of livelihoods, the socio-economic consequences of ecological deterioration can be severe and immediate. This is particularly the case as society has not fully dealt with the legacy of transition from centrally planned to a market economy. If the frequency of years with negative water balance indeed increased in the future, as indicated by applicable climate change scenarios, Lake Balaton and the coupled socio-economic system is expected to emerge as a highly sensitive and internationally unique indicator of vulnerability to global change. On a more positive side, it could also serve as a high profile example of adaptation measures consistent with sustainable development. In recognition of this potential UNEP’s Division of Early Warning and Assessment confirmed its interest in designating through this project Lake Balaton as a pilot under its Early Warning Strategy.

The project was complementing ongoing policy initiatives and scientific research, and had a clear niche by focusing on better understanding the vulnerability of the lake and its watershed from an integrated perspective. Climate change was seen as one of the emerging important determinants of vulnerability, but its impacts were considered in the broader context of sustainable development.

Dry stones and alga at the shore in summer 2003

Water level in summer 2003

Project Obejective

The overall objective of the project was to contribute to a better understanding of the Lake Balaton ecological and socio/economic system’s vulnerability and resilience arising from multiple forces of global and local change, including land use, demographic, economic and climate change and build capacity for more effective policy making and adaptation measures in response.

Main Project Outcomes and Results

Development of an Indicator System for the Lake Balaton Region

In order to study the dynamics of environment-economy-society interactions, an integrated assessment model was developed. The model is supported by a suite of indicators covering ecological, social and economic aspects of vulnerability; while including an integrated assessment of historic and current problems. The model also contributed to plan for potential change in the future. For example, water (quality and quantity) and natural habitat can be analysed as a function of climate, land use and demographic change.

Internet Map Server

The successful implementation of the project required the collection of significant amount of data. These geo-datasets were organised into a database, which could then be easily translated into an Internet Map Server (ArcIMS) that allows the end users - through some customization - to visualize the geo-data as well as its metadata, and also to download them. A specific web interface has also been developed to edit metadata. This work represented the base element of the project to assess Lake Balaton integrated vulnerability, early warning and adaptation strategies.

Model Scenarios and Associated Procedures

In order to explore the future of the Lake Balaton area model scenarios and associated procedures was developed for medium- and long-term time frames. The regional scenarios (namely BalaHot, BalaPol, BalaLone, BalaCool) explore possible adaptation and mitigation options and provide mechanisms for early warning and development of alternative planning schemes. The elaborated scenarios were inspired from existing global and European scenarios, in particular the scenarios developed in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP 2007) and scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

Model scenario

Climate Change Adaption Measures

Adapting to climate change is becoming increasingly recognized as a priority by the public and private sectors due to a rising number of weather and climate–related disasters. In order to harness the potential for emerging adaptation options in the region, capacity and understanding around adaptability, resilience, and vulnerability was increased by organising training programs and workshops. The goal of this process was to enable local stakeholders to formulate, and successfully implement, adaptive strategies that are compatible with the tenets of sustainable development. As a result, a bunch of adaptation measures were determined, which are thought to provide significant development opportunities to improve quality of life, better quality services to tourists and enhanced quality of the local environment.

Adaptation Pilot Projects

One of the most important outcomes of the project is to facilitate adaptation to the impacts of climate change through direct action in the form of pilot initiatives. Adaptation Pilot Projects enhance local level adaptation with the participation of communities, local governments and NGOs.

Policy and extension

And last, but not least the project has also contributed to strengthen decision-making to achieve better alignment between national policies and local adaptation needs. This included identifying policy barriers, analysing vulnerability and adaptation, facilitating dialogue between stakeholders, identifying key policy and planning tools, and finally communicating the results through local and international channels.


The project was developed in partnership between the Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (LBDCA), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the United Nations Environment Programme / GRID Geneva (UNEP/GRID-Geneva). The project is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme.


Expected outcomes include improved understanding of critical emerging vulnerabilities as a combined effect of global and local forces of change. Through its training component the project has lead to measurable improvements in vulnerability assessments and adaption capacity, and on-the-ground results were achieved through initiatives financed by small grants program.  Longer term impact of the project will be ensured by integrating criteria related to adaptation to global change into the regular grant-making activities of the Lake Balaton Development Council. Due to Lake Balaton’s high profile and a focused engagement and influencing strategy, the project will significantly increase awareness of climate change impact, vulnerability and adaption issues locally, nationally and internationally.

For further information; please visit the Balaton Adaptation Project’s website at: