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The Farmers’ Protest Also Included A Group Of Tractors

“These protests will now be repeated every Friday, because the rule of law in our country is no longer working,” announced Brane Grad, owner of several plots of land in the area of the controversial C0 sewage canal, who said that they have been illegally deprived of access to their property and occupied land, with an additional 50 hectares being taken over today. Grad reiterated that the construction is still continuing without the required environmental permit and the environmental impact assessment – and even a representative of the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning recently told the National Assembly that construction should not be going on without these consents.

On Friday, the farmers’ protest against the construction of the controversial C0 sewage canal took place on the route next to the Ljubljana Ring Road, and in addition to the crowds, the farmers also drove 70 tractors to the scene, in order to express their dissatisfaction by honking their horns loudly. “I think that this is a plain crime, where is the President of the country, where is the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly – no one is saying anything, and Janković can do whatever he wants,” said Nežka, a Ljubljana resident, who also asked where the 8th of March Institute (Inštitut 8. marec) was now. The protester, who wants to preserve clean drinking water, will also take part in a rally in front of the City Hall on Monday.

“I am here today in support of farmers and for clean drinking water, on which Ljubljana and its surroundings depend,” said a protester who lives in the Ljubljana area. Janez Bučar from Trnovo wrote on a poster what they are demanding: the removal of the dirty canal from the area of collection of drinking water! “We will continue our protests,” he announced, stressing the importance of solidarity with the landowners as well. “We have come to support them and demand punishment for the brutal attacks on landowners by the police and the security services,” Bučar recalled past incidents, which he described as shameful.

“If there is even a slight chance that something could happen to our drinking water, all the citizens of Ljubljana who did not take part in the protest should feel bad for it,” said one Ljubljana resident, outraged that people are not sufficiently aware of the seriousness of the matter. “I am here for clean drinking water, which the children of those who are ensuring us today that the construction of this canal continues will also drink,” stressed protester Franc. “We have come to defend water because Janković is threatening it,” was Sever’s clear message. “We came here because we want clean water, not the manure from Medvode and Vodice – we already have enough shit in Ljubljana,” said Stane.

“The rule of law doesn’t work – in Slovenia, we apparently have first- and second-class citizens, that’s all,” was Tomaž’s short and concise reply, while many angry citizens of Ljubljana also had some rather bold words for Mayor Zoran Janković. “Finally, people have woken up and realised the danger we are facing here in Ljubljana, which is that we could lose our drinking water,” said Mojca Škrinjar, looking at the crowd and adding that the C0 canal could mean that we will have to be supplied with bottled water, which would undoubtedly make someone a lot of money. “This is some of the best water we have,” stressed the former city councillor, who has been fighting against the construction of the C0 canal all along. “This is a crime, but Janković can apparently do anything,” she said, outraged that Janković’s actions have no limits. “It’s not right that this is happening, we don’t know how to value our groundwater, which is actually clean, drinking water, and that is not right,” warned one farmer, who reiterated that the construction must be stopped immediately.

Some threats were also reportedly made during the protest, some distance away from the main action. According to a post on Twitter, Blaž Babič was approached by a security guard from the company Alfa Security, who said something to the effect that he knew the image was from his monitor. Whatever that is supposed to mean. We were not able to find out whether these were indeed threats, as the head of the security service in question did not want to talk to us. In isolated cases, there were also some scuffles between security guards and landowners who wanted to move the fence – but the police quickly put a stop to it. One of the protesters later told us that the first person in the motorcade had been fined 160 euros for honking his horn and obstructing traffic.

The protesters also had some problems with access to the protest site, as the city security personnel blocked the road.

After the protest ended, the tractor drivers headed towards the National Assembly, but then changed their minds and turned onto Tivolska Street before the centre of Ljubljana. One of the tractor drivers told us that they had come to point out that the matter was critical and that the nation should decide what moves should be made.

The landowners’ lawyer had already informed the competent institutions in advance that his clients, the owners of individual plots of land in the area of Ježica, whose land had been usurped by the Municipality of Ljubljana, would protect their private property, as the state (inspection) authorities, which should have taken action, had failed. The construction of the C0 canal is currently taking place without the relevant administrative and other permits: about 300 metres of the sewage canal have been built this year on land for which no permit has been issued. The encroachment on the environment and private property is being carried out without environmental permits and without a full environmental impact assessment, despite the fact that the Ministry has stated that the developer can only carry out the encroachment on the basis of a final environmental consent, which in this case has not even been issued yet. The Ministry’s representative has publicly confirmed that the construction of the C0 sewer between Brod and Ježica is not permissible without a final environmental permit and that the legal proceedings to regulate the boundary between the plots of land of certain landowners and certain plots of land of the Municipality are pending in the District Court, but have not yet been definitively concluded. “Which means that at the moment it is not at all clear and known which and whose land the C0 sewer is being built on,” attorney Klemen Golob warned.

Ljubljana is one of the few European capitals where water for cooking, washing and cleaning ourselves is still taken directly from nature and sent to around 100,000 households without treatment due to the composition of the soil and the abundant groundwater reserves, the newspaper Delo reported a few years ago. Unfortunately, the people of Ljubljana are not sufficiently aware of this fact – but today’s farmers’ protest showed that awareness of the need to preserve clean drinking water and protect it from harmful interventions is growing every day.

Sara Bertoncelj

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