Project name: Underground Istria
Acronym: Underground Istria

Project is being carried out between 10 October 2007 and 10 October 2008


Short project description

The karst phenomenon, that is, karst landscape, is characteristic of the largest part of the Istrian County as well as Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia and Italy. Almost 70% of  the Istrian peninsula lies on such a limestone base which, despite its seemingly firm and lasting appearance, changes over a long time span under the influence of water that chemically reacts with limestone, thus forming numerous holes and crevices in such rocks through which water freely runs. Another consequence of such processes is also numerous speleological objects caves, caverns, pits and abysses that incessantly change, widen, and deepen under the influence of water. There are about 2.000 such objects in the territory of the Istrian region, a very high number regarding the fact that there are about 155.000 such objects registered in the world. The majority of them is linked directly to underground and surface waters and their protection has wider social implications since they constitute the first sanitary water source protection zone defined by the Water Act (Official Gazette 107/95) and the Rulebook on Sanitary Water Source Protection Zones (Official Gazette 55/02) as well as the Decision on Sanitary Water Source Protection Zones of the Istrian County (official Gazette of the Istrian County 12/05). Speleological objects particularly on Karst, are habitats of numerous endemic, rare, endangered, and protected animal species (Proteus sp., Istriana mirnae, Chiroptera sp. div., etc.).

Karst ecosystems are assessed by the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) as a priority that requires protection action plans and according to Article 35 of the Protection of Nature Act the speleological objects are put under special protection of the Republic of Croatia as objects of exceptional natural value.

Unfortunately, despite prohibition, quite a few speleological objects are used as waste disposal areas. To prevent such practices, they have to be actively protected and controlled in compliance with all measures of protection. Uncontrolled visitation of speleological objects often leads to their devastation and the growing popularity of free climbing and potholing further emphasize the need for adequate management plans.

Project objectives

  • Improving the state of environment and environmental conditions through an active approach to the protection of natural values in the border area;
  • Strengthening capacities, cooperation and coordinated action of all institutions in the field of environmental protection in the region;
  • Protection of underground waters and drinking water sources from pollution;
  • Raising the level of awareness of local population.