Vital AD polluting Vrbas, Serbia

Since 2004, Vital AD - factory for edible oil and vegetable fats - is in the focus of NGO Ekoloski pokret Vrbas due to the negative effects of its activities on the environment of the town of Vrbas.


Description
Vital AD established in 1855 is edible oil and vegetable fats factory located in the town Vrbas on the Great Bačka Canal (Veliki Bački kanal). The Great Bačka Canal flows into the Danube River and is part the old regional water management system for flood protection and irrigation. The factory was privatized by the company Invej AD in 2005 and its production increased as well as the amount of pollution due to the lack of investments in clean technology. In 2007, Vital AD got restricted to use of only natural gas as the process fuel. However, instead of natural gas the factory continued using other energy sources such as production waste, sunflower meal and shells, at the same time reducing the costs of proper waste disposal. In 2010, Vital AD wastewater treatment capacity was closed and the wastewater was directly emitted into already highly polluted the Great Bačka Canal. Since 2004, local environmental NGO Ekoloski pokret Vrbasa has organized multiple activities to indicate the severe air and water pollution caused by Vital AD. Together with the neighboring community they organized protests and protest walks, a petition, and have reported the case to the water authority “Vojvodina Vode” as well as to the Environmental Inspection at Province and Republic level and the Municipality of Vrbas. Finally, NGO and supporters have sent open letters to the Serbian Ministry of Environment, called the general public to boycott Vital AD products and have criticized the media at the republic level for not covering the case. The national environmental inspection argued that the factory cannot be closed due to its importance for the feasibility of the future central wastewater treatment plant project. A central wastewater treatment plant should encompass the municipal wastewaters of three communities (Vrbas, Crvenka, Kula) and factories that are located on the Great Bačka Canal. Vital AD's wastewaters represent a significant part of necessary volume for proper functioning of the treatment plant. Instead, the national environmental inspection ordered the local environmental inspection to measure the air pollution in town Vrbas, in order to provide evidence based on which the citizens could demand from the Ministry of Health the elaboration of an assessment study of pollution influence on the citizens health in town Vrbas. Even though the inspections have responded to NGO and citizens calls, impacted groups are not satisfied with the results, and consider the case being fixed in an agreement between the authorities and the owner of the factory. The discontent of citizens and NGOs have resulted in a lawsuit against the company. The company has repeatedly rejected to admit pollution from the production, claiming it has been packing the finished products. In August 2013, an NGO reported the case to the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Anti-Corruption Agency demanding the cancellation of the Vital AD privatization. Also the NGO and communities request the factory to implement pollution abatement technology. In 2013 Vital AD production was reduced due to its bad economic situation; however the company continued polluting by burning the waste from its production. At the beginning of 2014, factory production was re-established thanks to the funds from new partners, however without any investments in environmental technology. In October 2015, NGO Ekoloski pokret Vrbas filled another criminal charge against factory Vital. The authorities suggested that the factory cannot be penalized because of the regulation that gave it time to 2030 to build waste water treatment system. In April 2016, for the first time since start of the conflict, the management of the factory met the representatives of the NGO. However the activists are not convinced in the factory authorities’ intentions to invest in environmental improvements due to its bad economic situation.
Basic Data
NameVital AD polluting Vrbas, Serbia
CountrySerbia
SiteVrbas
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Manufacturing activities
Incinerators
Specific CommoditiesManufactured Products
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Vital AD is producing edible sunflower oil, vegetable fats, ketchup, margarine, mayonnaise, and mustard.
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Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population43,000
Start Date2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesVital AD from Serbia - Owner of the factory
Invej AD from Serbia - New owner of the factory
Relevant government actorsThe Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia; The Provincial Secretariat for Architecture, Spatial Planning and Environmental Protection; Province and Rebublic Inspectorate of Environmental Protection; Water Authority Vojvodina Vode; Anti-Corruption Agency Serbia; Municipality of Vrbas
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEkoloski pokret Vrbasa http://www.ekovrbas.net/; Primary schools “20th of October” and “Bratstvo i jedinstvo” Vrbas; Association “Beljanska bara” Turija; Ecological Movement of Srbobran; Sports association “Vinogradi”; Sports association “Mladost”; Group of citizens from Kula; and Local television station “Bačka”.
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
Social movements
Recreational users
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Boycotts of companies-products
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
OtherRespiratory diseases.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
There was no response.
Development of AlternativesThe activists are requesting implementation of the pollution abatement technology, as well as cancellation of Vital AD privatization contract.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Vital AD continues working without any changes in the production processes. In addition, the factory cannot be penalized because of the bad regulation. As of today, no decisions on the juridical case or the request for privatization repealing have been issued.
Sources and Materials
Links

Prijava protiv Vitala I zahtev za ponistenje privatizacije
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Garez gusi Vrbasane
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Prijava protiv Vitala
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Zagadjivanje kanala-treci dan
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Ekoloski teror Vitala
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Stetocine u akciji
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Protesti protiv Vitala
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Vrbas: Peticija i protesti zbog zagađenja
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"Vital zagađuje grad Vrbas"
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Protesti ispred Vitala na danu voda 2012.
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Састанак ЕПВ са руководством Витал-а из Врбаса
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Krivična prijava protiv fabrike Vital
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Ekolozi okrivili "Vital"
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Media Links

Vital pollutes again
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Slamcica u kanalu
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Vital zagadjuje
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Protest u Vrbasu 20.06.20130.
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Protesti ispred Vitala
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Protesti na danu voda- NGO Performance on Danube Day
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Air pollution
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Vital pollutes the channel
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Vital pollutes
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Environmental Activism
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Protesti ispred Vitala na danu voda
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Protesti ispred Vitala
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Other Documents

Stop polluting Vrbas The protests from June 2013 after a two week of severe air pollution caused by Vital factory.
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Air pollution Air pollution from AD Vital
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Water pollution The factory emits its wastewater directly to the Great Bačka Canal
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update23/05/2016
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