The High Administrative Court ruled in favour of environmental organizations in the case of sediment excavation on the Drava River
The High Administrative Court ruled in favour of environmental organizations and annulled the decision of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development which allowed the excavation of 460,000 m3 of sediment from the Drava River without the obligation to conduct an environmental and ecological network impact assessment
After more than a year since environmental organizations – WWF Adria, Friends of the Earth Croatia, Association BIOM, and Croatian Society for Birds and Nature Protection – filed an appeal with the High Administrative Court over a case of sediment excavation from Drava, the court ruled to annul the Ministry’s permit and the ruling of the Administrative Court in Osijek.
As we previously wrote, environmental organizations filed a lawsuit in May 2020 against the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (former Ministry of Environment and Energy) for issuing a permit to Croatian Waters for the excavation of 460,000 m3 of sediment from the Drava River without an environmental impact assessment study. At the first and only hearing on October 7, 2020, the Administrative Court in Osijek completely rejected all evidence provided by the environmental organizations.
The High Administrative Court stated in the verdict that “the decision of the first instance court, with the given explanation, cannot be assessed as lawful”. The court stated further that the Environmental Protection Study, on the basis of which the permit of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development was issued, did not take into account the project’s impact on birds. The verdict points out that the mentioned omissions were not rectified in the administrative procedure, nor in the procedure before the first instance court. Therefore, the court orders the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development to issue a new decision about the necessity of carrying out an environmental and ecological network impact study, in line with relevant environmental regulations.
“The High Administrative Court ruling confirms our claims of inconsistency and violation of procedures, a flawed study on the basis of which the project was approved, and which we warned about from the very beginning. However, this is a ‘Pyrrhic victory’ for the Drava River, given that the verdict came more than a year and a half after the beginning of the sand excavation on the Drava River and that the excavation went on uninterrupted. Therefore, it remains to be seen how much damage was done”, said Branka Španiček from WWF Adria on behalf of the environmental organizations.
Španiček adds that this illegal excavation also caused great material damage because it is still unknown exactly how much sand was extracted during this period and whether the sand has already been sold.
“The Government of the Republic of Croatia approved in September the sale of sand to Croatian Waters at a price of 49.51 HRK/m3. In this case, a project worth 23 million HRK was approved illegally. We emphasise once again that natural resources must be managed responsibly and that laws and procedures must be consistently implemented since interventions like sand excavation have dire consequences on nature and people”, concluded Španiček.
Environmental organizations expect that the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development will comply with the court’s ruling as soon as possible and explain what will happen with the sediment that was extracted so far.