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Massive sediment extraction from the River Drava, Croatia

Due to an old-fashioned water management system, the River Drava had been used for massive gravel and sand sediment excavation. Controversial extraction still persists but people oppose and demand respect of EU regulation on rivers


The River Drava flows through five different countries (Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary). It is one of the five largest tributaries of the Danube River, while Drava’s main tributary is the Mura River. The upper part of the river flow is heavily regulated and its ecological status has deteriorated, while the lower part of the river flow hosts some of the last free-flowing river sections in Europe, thanks ironically to the former political situation of the Iron Curtain.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Massive sediment extraction from the River Drava, Croatia
State or province: Virovitica–Podravina County, Osijek-Baranja County, Varaždin County
Location of conflict:Pitomača, Petrijevci, Varaždin
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project details

At Petrijevci, more than 3,000,000 m3 of sand was excavated, while it is excavation of 2 million m3 of sediments from Varaždin was planned.

Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:Hrvatske vode from Croatia - In charge of gravel and sand excavation
Dravski put d.o.o from Croatia - In charge of gravel and sand excavation
Vodogradnja Varaždin from Croatia - Management of the River Drava flow
Relevant government actors:The Croatian Government
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Commission (EC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature); The Drava League; Euronatur; The Drava Federation from Hungary; Green Action; NGO - Udruga za istraživanje i popularizaciju znanosti Baobab iz Koprivnice.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
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
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:The NGOs demand the Croatian Government to enact the moratorium on sediment extraction from the river Drava; the identification of alternative solutions for gravel excavation and river regulation in a parliamentary session with experts and stakeholders; and fulfillment of international conventions and compliance with the EU environmental law. They also pointed out that the ecological and touristic potential of Drava river free flow should be explored instead.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The changes in law are against the request of NGOs to stop any further excavation, as it will legally allow for gravel and sand exploitation in special cases (in order to regulate the river and where excavation activities do not disturb the river's natural processes).
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)
[click to view]

EU Habitats directive
[click to view]

Zakon o vodama Republike Hrvatske
[click to view]

The Birds Directive (79/409/EEC)
[click to view]

[click to view]

EU convention on Biological Diversity
[click to view]

Ministerial Declaration Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-boundary Biosphere Reserve
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

A plan for Conserving and Restoring the Drava
[click to view]

Dravawatch - NGO report of an observation tour between Murska Središće and Repaš (3 - 4 October 2004)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[click to view]

[click to view]

''Hrvatske vode štite i pomažu nelegalno iskopavanje šljunka!''
[click to view]

Campaign on River Drava against its destruction
[click to view]

Iskopavanje šljunka na rijeci Dravi
[click to view]

Gravel extraction and river regulation violates EU law
[click to view]

The Drava River – a flowing controversy
[click to view]

Šljunčarenje na rijekama opet postaje legalan biznis u Hrvatskoj
[click to view]

Vlasnik tvrtke za iskopavanje šljunka iz Drave fizički napao ekološkog aktivistu
[click to view]

Regulacija Drave i iskopavanje šljunka nije u skladu s EU zakonodavstvom
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Illegal ravel excavation – VIDEO
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update05/03/2016
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