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How The Golob Government And NGOs Deliberately Cut Funding For Flood Protection

Slovenia is under water, the situation is catastrophic, the damage is record-breaking, and the rainfall is not over yet. Hydrologists expect more flooding of the Krka, Sava, Drava and Dravinja rivers and a record flow of the Sava River near the border of the country. Sirens are sounding in cities around the country, evacuations are underway, floods have caused deaths, and horrific images and videos of those affected are circulating on social media. The question is, could such a catastrophe have been avoided?

During the term of the previous, Janez Janša government, the Ministry of the Environment, under the leadership of Andrej Vizjak, drafted an amendment to the Water Act, the main purpose of which was “to ensure greater flood safety, to make life easier for all residents living in flood-prone areas, and therefore for all those whose lives and property may be at risk in the event of flooding.” If supported, the bill could provide the much-needed additional funding for the improvement and maintenance of watercourses. This would give many people a sense of relief, and many households would no longer be afraid of rising waters when heavy rains hit.

But left-wing non-governmental organisations, with Nika Kovač of the 8th of March Institute (Inštitut 8. marec) at the helm, opposed the regulation of watercourses, claiming that they were fighting for drinking water; they also collected signatures for a referendum, and the law was thus defeated. Former Prime Minister and current Minister of Defence Marjan Šarec said of the referendum on the Water Act that “if you [voters] do not take part in it, you will be allowing the law to come into force, and the blame will be yours alone.”
So, who is at fault for all that is happening now? Who is to blame for the thousands of flooded homes, for the deaths, for the record damage?

Increased funding for maintenance of watercourses

The law would also ensure greater flood safety by increasing funding for watercourse maintenance. Under the amendment, 17 million euros from the dedicated Water Fund could be used for the maintenance and rehabilitation of watercourses, in addition to funds from the state budget. These funds could be used to ensure flood safety for a large part of the population and their properties. However, the current Prime Minister Robert Golob has promised a meagre 1.1 million euros for the affected municipalities, which means that Golob will spend around 5,700 euros for an entire municipality.

Unfortunately, this government rejected two very important measures

We asked former Minister of the Environment Vizjak whether things would have been different if the water referendum had not been lost. “There would certainly have been more money for the maintenance of watercourses, because the source would have been a dedicated Water Fund, and at the same time, we also foresaw quite a bit of money in the Recovery and Resilience Plan for flood protection measures, namely for embankments – precisely to prevent rivers from flooding. Unfortunately, this government rejected both of these measures.”

Golob will ask the European Union for financial aid, but a month ago, his government renounced 160 million euros of EU money intended for flood risk reduction

Robert Golob returned from his holiday early because of the floods and soon appeared on camera to announce that “the situation is catastrophic, the damage will be record-breaking” and to announce changes to legislation to deal with natural disasters. The government will meet on Saturday to discuss not only the amendment to the law, but also the possibilities of assistance at the European Union level. Both could have been in place already, the legislative change (the Water Act) and the EU aid, but the government has recently refused part of it. Namely, at its meeting on the 10th of July this year, the Golob government cut the funding for flood risk reduction and risk reduction for other climate-related disasters, which was in the Recovery and Resilience Plan (meaning we would get European funding for it), from 280 million euros to 120 million euros. This means the government gave up 160 million euros of European money that could have been used to speed up the regulation of flood risks in different areas of Slovenia, as well as help in other disasters (including hail, etc.).

The 280 million euros in EU funding was secured in the Recovery and Resilience Plan in Brussels by the previous, Janša government. But now, the Golob has changed that. In its explanation for the decision, which was also sent to the European Commission, Golob’s government wrote that “according to additional information gathered, the government assesses that the planned projects to strengthen flood protection, foreseen to be financed from the repayable part of the Mechanism, are also not being implemented according to the planned timetable.” They added that these are complex projects, both in terms of preparation and implementation, and (expectedly) did not explain the fact that nothing has been done in order to implement them successfully in a year’s time.

The Janša government also drew up the plan, based on the Water Act, which the current government also nullified last year by rejecting the law that would, among other things, regulate many watercourses. Today, as Slovenia is once again being flooded by torrential waters, the Voice of the People civil initiative and the people behind it are staying silent on the matter.

Sara Kovač

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