Environmental Problems of East Central Europe

By F. W. Carter; David Turnock | Go to book overview
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15

Croatia

Peter Jordan

Croatia's environment compared with other post-communist countries: similarities and differences

Croatia never complied with the general image of former communist countries, namely heavily polluted and suffering from environmental disaster. Air pollution was always moderate and confined to larger urban agglomerations and industrial centres like Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka and Šibenik (Figure 15.1). Pollution of the principal rivers such as the Sava, Drava and Mura originated in other countries rather than in Croatia itself. The coastal waters of the long Croatian Adriatic coastline were always less polluted than those of the Italian counterpart, except for the west coast of Istria (Istra). It was only around larger cities and seaports like Rijeka, Šibenik, Split and Ploče that coastal waters displayed some pollution. Soil erosion by wind and water was advanced in larger areas, such as the karstic areas of the Dinaric zone with its thin soils (brown soils, lithosols, rendzinas, luvisols) on limestone exposed to heavy rainfall and winds like the Bora.

This rather specific environmental situation is partly based on Croatia's political and economic history, and partly on the country's physical background. First, Croatia's territory had been industrialised only to a minor extent before the First World War, in contrast to modern Slovenia or even Bosnia, where the availability of mineral deposits, iron and coal-mines encouraged early industrialisation. In 1910, Croatia's industry employed no more than 41,000 workers and was mainly composed of light industrial branches like timber processing, textile manufacture and the production of foodstuffs and beverages (Feletar 1996, p.75). This structure did not change significantly during the inter-war period, when Croatia had 128,000 industrial employees (1931) and industrial plant location became a little more dispersed (Feletar and Stiperski 1996, p.438). Thus Croatia did not have industrial agglomerations; when they arrived they were very much later than in other Central Europe countries but were an essential part of industrialisation during the communist period. Communist industrialisation did change Croatia's economic structure from being predominantly agricultural to industrial, but again in a rather dispersed way without creating larger industrial agglomerations. A more significant spatial effect was just 'litoralisation', i.e. the industrial opening up of the coast, formerly very much on the economic periphery. In 1993, industry

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