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Occupation of the Hainburger Au to resist unsustainable hydro-power development, Austria

During the 1980s, the Hainburger Au was successfully defended against a proposed hydropower plant. This marked a turning point in Austrian democracy and environmental politics.


The Hainburger Au is a unique riparian ecosystem located along the Danube river, next to the town Hainburg, Lower Austria. More than three decades ago, the area was successfully defended against a proposed hydropower plant, which marked a turning point in Austrian democracy and environmental politics. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Occupation of the Hainburger Au to resist unsustainable hydro-power development, Austria
State or province:Lower Austria
Location of conflict:Hainburg
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Planned investment size was about 930 million Euro [1].

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Project area:680
Level of Investment:930,000,000€
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:28/04/1983
End of the conflict:02/01/1985
Company names or state enterprises:Donaukraft AG from Austria - constructor
Relevant government actors:Fred Sinowatz (former Chancellor)
Günter Haiden (former minister of agriculture)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Aktionsgemeinschaft gegen das Kraftwerk Hainburg
Austrian National Student Union (Österreichische Hochschülerschaft - Alternativreferat)
WWF Austria
Global 2000
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Increase in violence and crime
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
the area was subsequently turned into a protected area
Development of alternatives:Ten years later, the area became part of the 'Donau-Auen National Park'.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The project was stopped.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Gutschik, Reinhold ; Horvath, Patrick ; Weinzierl, Rupert: Konflikte um Infrastrukturprojekte in Österreich : Erkenntnisse für Politik und Gesellschaft. In: SWS-Rundschau 47 (2007), 2, pp. 218-242.
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E. Stenitzer, Der Konflikt um Hainburg, 1994
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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[5] Erster Wiener Protestwanderweg (accessed online: 11.12.2017)
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[6] 'Hainburger-Au-Besetzung (english), AEIOU, in: Austria-Forum, das Wissensnetz. 25. März 2016'. (Accessed online: 11.12.2017)
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[4] Erinnerungsort Wien: "Neue soziale Bewegungen - Besetzung der Hainburger Au". (accessed online on 11.12.2017)
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[2] Wikipedia on the occupation of the Hainburger Au (accessed 11.12.2017)
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[3] ORF online news article (8.12.2014; Gerald Heidegger): „Das wärmende Gefühl des Zusammenstehens“. (accessed online 11.12.2017).
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Austrian TV news video on the violent clashes from 1984
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:A. Scheidel (arnim "dot" scheidel "at" gmail "dot" com)
Last update12/12/2017
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