(DF) Residents of Pernik Hold Protest Rally over Water Crisis

December 29 (BTA) – Several hundred residents of Pernik, western Bulgaria, held a protest march over the water crisis in the city and nearby villages on Sunday. The protest was organized by the Save Pernik initiative committee. Protesters urged that those who are responsible for the crisis be held to account and for the appointment of a new manager of the city’s water utility. Severe water rationing has been in place for the 70,000-plus residents of in Pernik and more people in the nearby villages since mid-November, when it emerged that Studena dam which supplies the city with drinking water had reached a critically low level. The march passed through the centre of Pernik where protesters raised their demands. Also, people protested against the increase in the price of drinking water in spite of the poor quality of the service and asked for reduction of their water bills. From January 1, the price of water in Pernik will go up by 3.7 per cent to 2.42 leva per 1 cu m. The hike was approved by the regulator before the Christmas holidays at a closed-door meeting which increased the prices of water nearly throughout the entire country. The increase varies from 0.5 per cent (Plovdiv) to 9.7 per cent (Kurdzhali). The residents of Pernik called for the replacement of the water network in the city and for grant aid from the state in order to overcome the water crisis and mitigate the consequences. Protesters proposed a civil oversight of the raised funds. The protesters stressed that the rally was not linked to any political formations. They threatened to hold a rally in Sofia if no visible measures are taken by January 6. Some of the protesters wore yellow reflective vests. Kornelia Ninova, the leader of the largest opposition party BSP, met with Pernik Mayor Stanislav Vladimirov, mayors, municipal councillors and members of the public in connection with the crisis, said the Bulgarian Socialist Party in a press release. Ninova made a commitment to request a meeting with Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev and later it emerged that the meeting will take place on January 6. Meanwhile, Deputy Regional Minister Nikolai Nankov said that works to construct a new settler for Pernik’s water treatments station will begin on Monday which will improve the quality of water supplied to Pernik and will allow the use of water from the dead storage capacity of the dam. The measure is needed because inflow from precipitation muddies the water in the dam, said Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov. He specified that several water canals have already been cleaned which will increase the inflow to Studena dam. Karanikolov said that for too days teams have been surveying for water resources in the mountains and they have found water. The Minister said that it will take two days to come up with a technology to feed the water into Studena dam without disrupting the natural balance. On Sunday geologists and representatives of the Environment Ministry will agree a plan. LN/PP