Petition calls for better protection of Slovak waters | WWF
Petition calls for better protection of Slovak waters

Posted on 17 February 2016

It is backed by experts and canoe, fishing and conservation organizations
Bratislava -- A petition entitled "For living rivers and clean water" in Slovakia demands substantial legislative changes in the protection of groundwater and surface water from the Slovak Ministry of Environment, the government and the parliament. The petition is backed by a wide range of experts and several canoe, fishing and conservation organizations, WWF among them. It aims to promote more efficient water conservation and the implementation of the so-called green measures in water management, as well as a reassessment of existing plans to build small hydropower plants in Slovakia.

On 13 January 2016 the government approved the Slovak Water Plan despite the strong reservations of experts. This strategic document outlines how groundwater and surface water will be managed in Slovakia until 2021. The approved water plan also opens up possibilities to implement hundreds of new controversial dam and small hydropower projects that would create barriers in Slovak rivers. 
"Paradoxically, although the Water Plan is more than 10,500 pages, it contains no clear and transparent measures to improve the water status. The result is a huge risk that groundwater and surface waters will deteriorate. So we decided to open a public debate and launch a petition with concrete proposals for more effective water protection”, said Martina Paulíková, a member of the petitions committee.
"Even the Water Plan for the previous period -- 2009-2015 -- was evaluated as unambitious. This means that it did not provide adequate measures to protect waters and achieve a good water status. WWF therefore proposes to supplement the existing water plan with systematic measures to protect and restore river ecosystems and create no-go zones as in other countries, like Romania”, said Miroslava Plassmann, Country Coordinator of WWF’s Danube-Carpathian Programme, highlighting the results of a January report by the European Court of Auditors.
The negative impact of the current water policy is already observed by fishermen who are drawing attention to the disappearance of species that used to be common and the deterioration of water quality as a result of unauthorized and improper interventions in ​​waterways. Water manager and hydrologist Vladimir Mosný points out that, currently, virtually no water protection is being exercised because the water sector management is in disarray.
"Decisions on water extraction and discharge need to be based on reliable monitoring. Systematic water monitoring data from different water bodies are not taken into consideration during decision-making and integrated river basin management is not being applied. There is no official register of valid permissions. Moreover, decisions are not freely available to the public and therefore there is no control of state water management activities", Mosny said.
Achieving good water status is one of the goals of the European Water Framework Directive. This means that states should strive to reduce the pollution of groundwater and surface water, remove existing barriers for migratory animals and revitalize flood zones important in flood protection.
In September, Slovaks protested against the construction of 42 planned hydropower plants in the country.
A little boy protesting Slovakia’s water plan wrote this message to the minister of environment: “Dear Mr. Minister, I would like to ask you to protect our rivers. If not, small fish will die and I wish to paddle in the river Hron. You would save lots of fish lives.”
© "Za živé rieky" NGO