The Government of Serbia has withdrawn controversial changes to the Water Law, which passed parliament earlier this month, but were not signed into law by President Aleksandar Vučić. The changes, criticized by non-governmental organizations, would have introduced no-bid agreements for the lease of public waterside land for construction projects as well as for floating nightclubs in Belgrade.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management Branislav Nedimović has confirmed that the government has withdrawn the changes. The ministry has announced a public consultation on the law, while Nedimović believes there will be a broad debate, where everyone will be able to voice their objections or remarks.
The ministry announces a public consultation on the Water Law
He also said he is convinced the public consultation will help fix the shortcomings and produce better solutions.
The date of the beginning of the public consultation, and its duration, will be announced in a timely manner, Blic was told at the ministry.
Following the passage of the changes on July 14, the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI) and WWF Adria, a branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), have started collecting signatures for a petition to hold a referendum on waters in Serbia.
Jovan Rajić, chairman of the board of RERI, said earlier that the changes would legalize corruption as they would make it possible to lease waterside land, including drinking water sources, “without clear criteria“ and “without procedure,“ breaching “the basic rules of competition and the market.“
RERI also warned at time that the public had not been informed about the planned changes to the Water Law and that it was prevented from taking part in the process of their adoption.
Protest against changes to Water Law held despite withdrawal
Even though the changes were withdrawn, a protest that was announced last week was held in front of the parliament building in Belgrade. According to the organizers, some 200 people gathered at the protest, holding a banner that read “We want the law to be in the interest of citizens.”
According to a report by Nova.rs, activists believe that withdrawing the proposal is not enough, because it is not clear what will happen with it next.