Hydroelectric barrages along the Mur River, Styria, Austria

No more barrages! Hydroelectric power plants along the Mur River in Graz, Austria, provoke strong mobilizations by local citizens groups


Description

The Mur River passing through the city of Graz, Austria, has turned into a contested area characterized by ongoing conflicts between local citizens group and the renewable energy industry. Already in the past, plenty of hydroelectric barrages were constructed along the river. The currently planned construction of another series of 5 middle-sized hydroelectric barrages would further drastically reduce - over a distance of 130km - the remaining free flowing sections to distances of no more than 5km, while negatively affecting local ecosystems, citizens as well as recreational areas [1].

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Basic Data
NameHydroelectric barrages along the Mur River, Styria, Austria
CountryAustria
ProvinceStyria
SiteGraz
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsA series of 5 new hydroelectric barrages are planned along the Mur River in Styria, located between the cities Leoben and Spielfeld [1]. Two of them are already constructed; “Kraftwerk (KW) Gössendorf -18,75MW and KW Kalsdorf - 18,5MW (near to completion). The involved companies Verbund AG and Energie Steiermark AG started project planning at least in August 2005 or before [2].

Investment size for KW Gössendorf and KW Kalsdorf was reported to amount to over 160 million € [1]. During 2013, investment value was lost by at least 18 million € [7], if not up to 36 million euro [1]. Responsible for the loss in economic value was probably the too optimistic expectations regarding production and the currently large electricity supply in the EU [1].

Before construction, KW Gössendorf was expected to produce electricity amounting to 155 million KWh/year [2]. After construction, production was reported to amount to 90 million KWh/year [5].

With a coverage of 1,414ha, the riparian forests surrounding KW Gössendorf and KW Kalsdorf were among the largest of its ecological type (“Hartauwald”) within Austria [1]. The barrages irreversibly changed their ecological characteristics. 80ha were completed cleared [1]. Up to 20,000 large and medium trees were felled [6], many of them protected [see pictures].
Level of Investment (in USD)178,000,000 $ (two barrages: KW Gössendorf and KW Kalsdorf)
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date01/08/2005
Company Names or State EnterprisesVerbund AG Österreich from Austria - energy
Energy Steiermark AG (EStAG) from Austria - energy
Andritz Group from Austria
Electricité de France International (EDF) from France
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLocal NGOs: Plattform "Rettet die Mur"; Verein Lebensraum Graz Süd.

NGOs involved in the information campaign: OEAV; WWF; Fluesse-voller-leben.at; kajak.at; Verband der österreichischen Arbeiter-Fischerei-Vereine; Naturschutzbund Steiermark; lebendige Flüsse; Fisch & Wasser Verband; LFV Steiermark; Umwelt Dachverband; ÖKF
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesThe central proposal of the local citizen group "Rettet die Mur" is to oppose and stop the further construction of the hydroelectric barrages.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Two barrages are already constructed and changed significantly local ecosystems.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Regulatory Framework for Water Bodies in Austria (Wasserrahmenrichline) (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

Environmental Protection Law of Styria, Austria (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

References

[2] Lemmerer K., Scheidel, A., Spreitzer, M.L., 2006. Die Murauen bei Thondorf - eine historische zeitgenössische und entwicklungsorientierte Betrachtung. Bachelor thesis. Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Austria.

Links

[1] Webpage of the local citizen group "Rettet die Mur" (save the Mur river). (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

[3] ORF news online article (26/04/2013) "Mur-Kraftwerk-Studie: Bau sorgt für Feinstaub" (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

[4] Kleine Zeitung article online (07/09/13): "Murkraftwerk Graz geht der Saft aus" (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

[5] ORF news online article (28/09/12) "Wasserkraftwerk Gössendorf offiziell eröffnet" (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

[6] ORF news online article (30/04/2013) "Neue UVP-Runde zu Murkraftwerk ohne Ergebnis" (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

[7] Kleine Zeitung online article (09/05/2014) "Gegner der Mur-Staustufe fordern endgültiges "Aus"" (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

Andritz group publication
[click to view]

EIB funding
[click to view]

Media Links

Video showing the demonstrations against the barrages (accessed 03/03/2015)
[click to view]

"Rettet die Mur"'s Video channel
[click to view]

Other Documents

Demonstrations against the construction of further barrages Source: www.rettetdiemur.at
[click to view]

Public actions against the hydroelectric barrages Source: www.rettetdiemur.at
[click to view]

Cutting protected trees Source: Author
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at" gmail.com
Last update04/03/2015
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