Pollution of Begejac channel, Kula, Serbia

The Begejac channel is heavily polluted due to discharge of untreated communal waste waters and makes life impossible for people of the town of Kula.

Kula is a small town situated on the Begejac channel, which is the part of the Danube-Tisa-Danube (DTD) channels system located in the north of Serbia. DTD is highly polluted due to the several decades of discharge of industrial waste waters and it is known as one of the environmental hot spot of Serbia. Pollution of the Begejac channel was exacerbated in 2006 when the public company JP „Vode Vojvodine“ allowed for discharge of the Crvenka village’s (10,000 citizens upstream from Kula) communal waste waters. Vode Vojvodine estimated it was lesser evil than to discharge it to other parts of DTD system. Since then, non-formal group of citizens of Kula organized petitions, public debates, protests and street marches to pressure the municipal government to influence the JP Vode Vojvodine, the Province of Vojvodina environmental authorities and the Serbian Government to solve the problem. They have been complaining of the smell and point out increase in cancer and respiratory diseases occurrence (no official study). The citizens have been asking for closing the channel into pipes, and even threatened several time they will bury the channel with earth. In response to this, the water management company diluted Begejac by pumping the clean water into it, and cleaned up one part of the accumulated sediment to speed up its flow. In 2008, the communities of Crvenka, Kula and Vrbas signed the contract for the joint project that include expansion of the public sewage system for three communities; construction of the collector of municipal waste waters; and the Central Waste Water Treatment Plant in Vrbas (CWWTP) for both municipal and industrial waste waters. In 2012, the construction of sewage system and remediation of polluted channel was delayed due to the government change and lack of political will. The finalization of the project was planned for the end of 2014, after which it would be necessary to proceed with re-mediation of the Begejac channel including removal and safe disposal of the toxic sediments. So far, the construction of the collector for municipal water from Kula and Vrbas (to be sent to CWWTP whose finalization is uncertain due to operational problems) was completed in Jun 2015, while the work on the sewage network in Kula started in March 2016 and should be finished in one year.  
Basic Data
NamePollution of Begejac channel, Kula, Serbia
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Municipal waste waters of Crvenka with 10,000 citizens are daily emitted into the channel Begejac.
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Level of Investment (in USD)5,500,000 (construction of sewage system)
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population20,000
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesJP Vode Vojvodine from Serbia - DTD channel management
Vodoprivredno preduzece DTD-Krivaja from Serbia - Begejac channel management
Relevant government actorsThe Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia; The Provincial Secretariat for Architecture, Spatial Planning and Environmental Protection; The Municipality of Kula; The Municipality of Crvenka
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU) - Investor in “Waste water treatment and sewage collection project Vrbas/Kula”
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNon-formal group from Kula; Vojvodjanska zelena inicijativa: http://www.vojvodjanskazelenainicijativa.org.rs/; Ekoloski pokret Vrbasa: http://www.ekovrbas.net/
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
OtherRespiratory diseases, cancer.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Negotiated alternative solution
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of AlternativesLocal people demanded resolving the problem of the channel Begejac pollution. They proposed closing down the channel into pipes to prevent the direct contact with the polluted water.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The local water management company has pumped the water from the other channels to dilute the pollution, and has cleaned part of the sediment to speed up the water flow. The constructions of the sewage and the waste water treatment plant are to be finalized in 2017 that together with uncertain finalization of the central waste water treatment plant is expected to resolve the conflict. So far, there is no data on removal of the toxic sediment from the Begejac channel.
Sources and Materials

Kanal muci stanovnike Kule
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Zapretili da ce zatrpati kanal
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Peticija za čišćenje Velikog bačkog kanala
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Stop smradu iz Begejca!
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Pocinje ciscenje Begejca
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Kako ublažiti zagađenje Begejca
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Ispitivanje uticaja otpadnih voda industrijskog basena Crvenka-Kula-Vrbas na Veliki Backi kanal
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Kula: Nove cene komunalija bez najave
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Transport do deponije
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Od Begejca I pacovi pobegli
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Rak kosi svaku drugu kucu
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Project details Veliki Backi Kanala-Waste Water Treatment and Sewage Collection Project Vrbas/Kula
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Kula rešava problem fekalnih otpadnih voda u Begejcu
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Počeli radovi na kanalizaciji u Kuli
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Počeli radovi na kanalizaciji u Kuli
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Završena izgradnja magistralnog kolektora za otpadne vode između Kule i Vrbasa
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Media Links

Documentary movie by NGO Vojvodjanska zelena inicijativa
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Channel ‘Begejac’ picture library
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Begejac smrdljivi
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Other Documents

Stinky Begejac-Smrdljivi Begejac Discharge of waste water into the Begejac channel
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Protest in Kula in 2012 Local community protests against pollution of the Begejac channel
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update23/05/2016