Pernik, which is in a state of emergency, has been facing water restrictions since November 18. While the state of emergency might be lifted in a month, the restrictions will likely stand at least until spring. The reason for the crisis is the water reservoir Studena, which is the main water supply for the region is close to drying out. When the water restrictions began, Studena was filled no more than a sixth of its full capacity.
The low levels, however, are not due to drought. Instead, they are the result of mismanagement and reportedly illegal rerouting of water for industrial needs.
Over the past couple of days, the Prosecutor General announced he will personally oversee the proceedings against local officials related to the crisis. Meanwhile, citizens of Pernik took to the streets to protest on Sunday. They demanded the resignations of Ecology Minister Neno Dimov and Regional Minister Petya Avramova and for charges to be brought against the former mayor of Pernik, Vyara Tserovska from GERB. All three have denied responsibility. PM Boyko Borissov visited Pernik to meet with the people and while he could not say when Pernik could expect to have normal running water again, he expressed his view that the water shortages are part of a conspiracy against his government. This theory was echoed by the chairman of GERB’s parliamentary group Krassimir Velchev.
Now the mayor of Botevgrad, Ivan Gavalyugov, told the Bulgarian National Radio on Monday that Botevgrad might face the same sort of crisis as Pernik. According to him the main water reservoir supplying the region, Bebresh, has enough water to meet the needs of the population for the next six weeks.
“We have enough good water supply to last us for six weeks. […] We all hope for favorable weather conditions […] but we cannot rely on that. […] We cannot afford to underestimate the situation,” which he described as “potentially critical.”
Gavalyugov said there are two reasons for the falling water levels. One is the old and damaged water supply infrastructure. The second is the private hydropower plant Bebresh. In his words, the plant operates beyond its permitted parameters regularly. Just this year, the mayor explained, the plant has extracted 1,2 million cubic meters more water from the reservoir than what the plant had approval for.
The company that owns the private hydropower plant, the mayor said, is managed by Vassil Zlatev. He is the former mayor of the town of Pravets and former LUKoil Bulgaria chief Valentin Zlatev.
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