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
NameOccupation of the Hainburger Au to resist unsustainable hydro-power development, Austria
ProvinceLower Austria
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 CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsPlanned investment size was about 930 million Euro [1].

The company stated that about 680 ha of riparian forests would be affected [1].
Project Area (in hectares)680
Level of Investment (in USD)930,000,000€
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date28/04/1983
End Date02/01/1985
Company Names or State EnterprisesDonaukraft AG from Austria - constructor
Relevant government actorsFred Sinowatz (former Chancellor)

Günter Haiden (former minister of agriculture)

Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAktionsgemeinschaft gegen das Kraftwerk Hainburg

Austrian National Student Union (Österreichische Hochschülerschaft - Alternativreferat)

WWF Austria


Global 2000
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic 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-economic ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Increase in violence and crime
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject cancelled
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Project temporarily suspended
Strengthening of participation
Institutional changes
Withdrawal of company/investment
the area was subsequently turned into a protected area
Application of existing regulations
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesTen years later, the area became part of the 'Donau-Auen National Park'.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The project was stopped.
Sources and Materials

E. Stenitzer, Der Konflikt um Hainburg, 1994
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[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.
[click to view]


[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)
[click to view]

[2] Wikipedia on the occupation of the Hainburger Au (accessed 11.12.2017)
[click to view]

[4] Erinnerungsort Wien: "Neue soziale Bewegungen - Besetzung der Hainburger Au". (accessed online on 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).
[click to view]

Media Links

Austrian TV news video on the violent clashes from 1984
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Other Documents

The Hainburger Au Foto credit: Friedrich Kromberg; see https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1807627
[click to view]

'Press conference of the animals' Source: http://www.protestwanderweg.at/au/
[click to view]

Massdemonstrations at the Hainburger Au Source: http://www.protestwanderweg.at/au/
[click to view]

Blockades to stop forest clearance Source: http://www.protestwanderweg.at/au/
[click to view]

Clashes with the police Source: http://orf.at/stories/2256539/2256533/
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (arnim "dot" scheidel "at" gmail "dot" com)
Last update12/12/2017