Slovenia votes in ‘water’ referendum

Photo: AP

Slovenia holds a referendum today on legislative changes which according to ecologists open the way to construction projects by the sea, lakes and rivers that would threaten the environment, news wires reported. The legally-binding nationwide vote was forced through after parliament approved amendments to Slovenia's water law in March.

PM Janez Jansa's conservative government says the amendments are intended to secure more funds for protecting lakes and rivers, strengthen flood defences and tighten construction regulations. "The other aim is to ensure that only buildings for public use will be built near water and under strict conditions," Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak has told Reuters, adding that only about 20% of buildings on Slovenia's Adriatic coast were for public use.

Civil society groups that formed the "Movement for Drinkable Water", and collected more than 50,000 signatures to make a referendum obligatory, say the legal changes will in fact loosen rules on construction in coastal and lakeside areas. They fear restaurants, other tourist accommodation, shops and parking lots will be built and thus will limit public access to lakes, rivers and the sea, will increase the risk of water pollution and will hreaten the quality of drinking water.

In 2016, Slovenia amended its constitution to make access to water a fundamental right for all citizens and halt its commercialisation. For the referendum to succeed, a majority of those who vote and at least 20% of the about 1.7 million eligible voters must reject the water law amendments.

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