Wise scientists have shown that our heart is not strong enough to push the blood through little capillary vessels. Only a much stronger pump would be able to give the necessary high pressure. But after all, somehow we live, and our blood circulate quiet well. The circulation can work because it is supported by the many valves in the veins. For every heart beat, they open and close to let the wave of the blood in and to push it forward.
Water is the blood of the land. There is 500 mm average, 400 mm minimum rainfall on the Hungarian Plain in a year. This modest amount could support just a grassland. However, in the Middle Ages the entire plain was covered with dense forests. These forests were watered by a network of the rivers, creeks, brooks and ponds. Their water come from the Carpathians, but its circulation could work for it was supported by the „fok” system.
Natural river-banks are deposited from the debris of the rivers. When a high flood comes, it falls down from its banks to the deep parts of the floodplain, and the much of its water stays there forming wet areas, where often marches are developed.
The "FOK" systems turned waters of the floods into the source of life. A fok is a break-through, an opening of the bank. It may be natural or artificial. The word fok means a gap, a channel at right angel to the river. By the flood, the fok let the water of the river to enter onto the neighbouring plains, and later by the ebbing the fok leads back the water to the river, as the floowing sketch shows:
1: floodplain, 2: natural bank, 3: belt-cay, 4: fok, 5: pond 6: village.
On the picture below, you can see the the foks at the village Tímár as they led the water through the banks of the river Tisza. A very important feature of the foks is the upward-filling, that is, the main foks lead the water upwards to the floodplain, so it fills the fish ponds and the meadows more slowly and less destroying than an easy downward running flood. (See the wonderful shape of the ponds, how many egdes they have.)
The forms and sizes are varied, but their sill level were
always +4-5 m above the zero level of the river.
We do not know when the first foks were built. There are remnants of water works from the 3rd century. For the 14th century a network of villages were developed with ponds and water ways. This system covered the water-flooded territory of the Hungarian Plain. Look at the picture below ! The light blue parts are the temporary, the darker blue parts are the permanently water covered lands of the plain. Near the two third of the basin was floodplain. The density of the settlements is interesting, and it show, how many people were supported by this wetland.
In the 15th century the Hungarian Plain became a war zone. Burning villages, murder, rake and slave-hunting. Many villages disappeared, people went away to country towns, or hid into the marches. The fok system collapsed, as there were no communities to manage them. Many times the foks were clogged intently to prevent the transportation on them, and to extent the marches as refuges. A downward spiral was developed. As result a large march-land developed.
At the end of the war the population began to rise, but at first the new Habsburg governing did not admit the former common law of free fishing for personal needs. The free fishing and the common maintenance of the waterworks were the economic base of the fok system. Then after Napoleon wars, a great grain-conjuncture came. You can image that age, as grain was the fuel, as the transport was animal powered, and the great river was the highways of the Habsburg Empire. The fertile south part of the Great Plain, the “South Country” was colonized and was utilized for grain production. The product was loaded onto ships, and it was hauled upward on the river Duna to north by horses and cattles. However, the riverbank was cut by the hundreds of foks crossing the moving of the hauling animals.
So the government ordered to bury all the foks of river Duna. The villagers protested as the burring the foks ruined their sustainment but they were not listened neither by the government nor by their landlords. The landlords wanted to profit form the conjuncture, they wanter more land. They could not take away the law protected serf-lands, so they tried to fulfill their needs for ploughland from the common lands of the villages, as the forests and the flood plains. The forest was cut first, and then the marches and flood plains became the next target. The frequent flood were obstacle of the grain production, so in 1840 the great river regulation begun. The greed of landowners met the ignorance of the strange experts. (Have ever you heard some similar stories?) Engineers, who studied at German and Austrian universities, organized the regulation work knowing anything about neither the previous water networks nor the very rhapsodic Hungarian water regime.
Their very first step of regulation of river Tisza was closing its foks too. Later they cut the curve of the rivers, dug new river bed, and place the river between narrow banks. And we could see the effect of all of these efforts pretty soon: in 1879 came the first great flood, and it swept away the town of Szeged (it was the 2nd largest Hungarian town that time; the flood destroyed the 90% of the buildings and killed 200 people).
Our problems are the same since then: Heigh, dangerous floods and severe droughts, often in the same year.
The great flood of Szeged was 850 cm high in 1879. The last record heigh flood wave was 1040 cm at Szeged in 2004. The town was protected, but it makes clear, that it just the question of time when the new destroying flood came. The search for a solution began on several way. The most promising is the renewal of the fok system.