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
NameMassive sediment extraction from the River Drava, Croatia
Province Virovitica–Podravina County, Osijek-Baranja County, Varaždin County
SitePitomača, Petrijevci, Varaždin
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state 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 CommoditiesSand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAt 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 Date2003
Company Names or State EnterprisesHrvatske 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 actorsThe Croatian Government
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Commission (EC)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersWWF (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.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationArtistic 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-economic 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
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesThe 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 as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

Ministerial Declaration Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-boundary Biosphere Reserve
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EU Habitats directive
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EU convention on Biological Diversity
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The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)
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Zakon o vodama Republike Hrvatske
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The Birds Directive (79/409/EEC)
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A plan for Conserving and Restoring the Drava
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Dravawatch - NGO report of an observation tour between Murska Središće and Repaš (3 - 4 October 2004)
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The Drava River – a flowing controversy
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''Hrvatske vode štite i pomažu nelegalno iskopavanje šljunka!''
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Campaign on River Drava against its destruction
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Vlasnik tvrtke za iskopavanje šljunka iz Drave fizički napao ekološkog aktivistu
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Iskopavanje šljunka na rijeci Dravi
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Regulacija Drave i iskopavanje šljunka nije u skladu s EU zakonodavstvom
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Gravel extraction and river regulation violates EU law
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Šljunčarenje na rijekama opet postaje legalan biznis u Hrvatskoj
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Media Links

Illegal ravel excavation – VIDEO
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Other Documents

Save Drava protest in 2005 by Green action The slogan reads "Gravel excavation, will kill Drava"
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Sand and Gravel excavation at Petrijevci At Petrijevci, 30 km from the mouth of the Danube, Croatian water management and construction firms excavated more than 3,000,000 m³ of sand – without licences, legal documents, or EIA.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update05/03/2016