Pollution of Veliki Backi kanal, Serbia

Veliki backi kanal continues being an environmental black spot in Serbia given that the waste water treatment plant still has not started operating.


Description
The channel Veliki Backi kanal is located in the northern part of Serbia and it is part of the channel system Danube-Tisa-Danube (DTD). DTD was constructed in the second half of the 18th century for transportation of goods, flood protection and irrigation. The problems with industrial pollution of the DTD started in the 20th when numerous mainly food producing factory started discharging their untreated waste waters. Additionally, the channel is a collector for untreated waste waters from nearby municipalities Crvenka, Kula and Vrbas. Due to the accumulation of toxic sediment, over the years, the channel depth decreased from approximately 3 meters to only 30 centimeters at certain locations. In 2004, the Norwegian Institute for Water Research identify the channel Veliki Backi kanal as the most polluted water body in Europe and one of the environmental hot spots in Serbia. The most polluted part of the channel passes through the town of Vrbas, where 400,000m3 of polluted sediment have been found, including presence of heavy metals, poly-aromatic carbohydrates, and coliform bacteria. The NGO 'Ekoloski pokret Vrbasa' from town of Vrbas organized multiple street protest and petitions, submitted lawsuits against the polluters, and appealed to the Serbian Government. Many of the juridical cases against the companies’ have been rejected due to the lack of evidence. According to the NGO, the factories used to discharge clean water to dilute the channel pollution just before the measurements. In 2008 an old proposal on solving the pollution of the channel was accepted. The project included construction of a central waste water treatment plant (CWWTP), expansion of the municipal sewage and inclusion of municipal waste waters and industrial waste waters on the new system, and finally, removal of the polluted sediments and revival of the channel Veliki Backi kanal.  After the change of the government in 2012 the project was delayed. Its finalization was announced for the end of 2014. However, the construction of the CWWTP is still ongoing. According to the original plans from 2007, the CWWTP was design to receive water from 120,000 PE (population equivalent), however over the years this number has decrease importantly to only 40,000 PE that is not enough water to enable normal functioning of the plant. In addition, only water treatment line was competed in 2015, while mud treatment line was to be built in first half of 2016. The plant could start with a trial operation to respect the deadlines, otherwise the municipalities will have to pay back the money. However, putting in operation unfinished plant would cause the discharge of semi-cleaned water that was criticized by the local people who called for accountability of EU as main investor. Remediation of the polluted section of the DTD channel started in August 2014 when 3 km of the channel was cleaned (Vrbas-Bezdan close to Kula). According of the authorities 50,000 m3 of mud was removed and disposed in the safety measure. The work on the sewage system expansion, including several kilometers of tubes that would connect it to the CWWTP, and removal and safe disposal of the toxic sediments is still to be completed.
Basic Data
NamePollution of Veliki Backi kanal, Serbia
CountrySerbia
SiteVrbas, Kula, Crvenka
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Manufacturing activities
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific CommoditiesManufactured Products
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Length of the DTD channel 112km.
See more...
Level of Investment (in USD)30,000,000 (investment in Waste Water Treatment and Sewage Collection Project Vrbas/Kula)
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population71,500
Start Date1990
Company Names or State EnterprisesVital AD from Serbia - Polluter
Carnex from Serbia - Polluter
Jaffa AD from Serbia - Polluter
JP Vode Vojvodine from Serbia - The DTD channel system management
Crvenka AD from Serbia - Polluter
Relevant government actorsThe Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia; The Provincial Secretariat for Architecture, Spatial Planning and Environmental Protection; Municipal Government of Vrbas; Municipal Government of Kula; Municipal Government of Crvenka
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU) - Investor in “Waste water treatment and sewage collection project Vrbas/Kula”
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEkoloski pokret Vrbasa: http://www.ekovrbas.net/; Non-formal group from Kula
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
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Boycotts of companies-products
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Potential: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
OtherFish kills
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
OtherAccording to the studies elaborated by doctors of Vrbas hospital there is increase of occurrence of different types of cancer and respiratory diseases in the population neighboring the channel.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of AlternativesThe NGO demands finalization of the construction of CWWTP and sewage systems, remediation of the Veliki Backi kanal, as well as to penalize the polluting industries and oblige them to treat the waste waters.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The construction of the CWWTP was delayed due to the change of government in 2012 and most currently due to difference in the planned and real amount of waste water flow to be treated in the plant. This makes uncertain the plant opening. Many law suits against the polluting companies stay unresolved due to lack of evidence or bad regulations, while the factories continue discharging the waste waters in the channel. So far, only small part of the channel was cleaned of toxic sediment.
Sources and Materials
Links

Repairing of Veliki backi kanal continued
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Construction of drainage system in settlements of Vrbas municipalities
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Istrazivanje o crnim ekoloskim tackama: Veliki Backi kanal
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Monitoring Velikog Backog kanala
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Desetlijeca idu, kanal I dalje zagadjen
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EU čuva Veliki bački kanal
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Project details Veliki Backi Kanala-Waste Water Treatment and Sewage Collection Project Vrbas/Kula
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KULA: Očišćen deo kanala DTD, izvađeno 50.000 kubika mulja
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Sanacija Velikog Backog kanala
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Project fact sheet Vrbas/Kula
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Report about water and sediment quality monitoring in the Veliki Backi kanal
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Due to pollution, revitalization of Veliki backi kanal at issue, Norwegians mull dropping out
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Prikaz projekta: Revitalizacija Velikog Backog kanala
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Ekološka katastrofa pred vratima Srbije (3): Najotrovnija vojvođanska voda
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Prijava protiv Vitala
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Potpisan ugovor za izgradnju CPPOV Vrbasa i Kule
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Kanal u Vrbasu pastorče države
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Otvoreno pismo Aleksandru Vucicu
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Okrugli sto u gimnaziji I zahtev resornim institucijama
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Vrbas: Izvlače otrovni mulj
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Opasan život pokraj Velikog bačkog kanala
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Vrbas/Kula: Prečistač ili Skadar na Bojani?
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Raste broj obolelih od raka pluća u Vrbasu
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Krivična prijava protiv fabrike Vital
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VRBAS: ZAGAĐENJEM DO EVROPSKIH NOVACA
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Pomor ribe u Krivaji i Velikom bačkom kanalu
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Media Links

TV Backa Industrial pollution video (Serbian) 2
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Veliki bački kanal kao septička jama
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Okrugli sto o kanalu
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Vital zagadjuje Veliki Backi kanal
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Protesti ispred Vitala na danu voda
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Slamcica u kanalu
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TV Backa Industrial pollution video (Serbian)
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Veliki Backi kanal – Veciti problem?
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Okrugli sto o kanalu
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Desetlijeca idu, kanal I dalje zagadjen
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Protesti na danu voda
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NGO Performance on Danube Day
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Industrial pollution photo album
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S05E06 Veliki bački kanal - Ovo je zločin narode
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S05E06 Veliki bački kanal - Ovo je zločin narode
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Other Documents

Veliki Backi kanal- Serbia’s environmental hotspot One of the Veliki Backi kanal polluting factories Vital AD
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update29/05/2016
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