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Ombudsman Svetina: "Rash solutions could threaten the right to clean drinking water!"

Water is essential for our survival, and therefore the way we define and ensure access to it is of vital importance. As it is clear that the quantity of drinking water is limited in every part of the world, water has become an important economic good. In addition, the idea of water becoming a tradable good instead of a public one is increasingly gaining momentum.

Water is all the more important in that clean drinking water is a human right. The key foundation for the development of this right was provided by the Resolution of the UN General Assembly on the human right to water and sanitation adopted in 2010. However, merely adopting a resolution does not guarantee access to water for all. This requires the further adoption and active implementation of appropriate legislation by individual countries.

Slovenia enshrined the right to drinking water in its constitution in 2016 by introducing Article 70a, thus expressly recognising the human right to drinking water. Prior to that, the aforementioned right could be derived from the constitutional rights to life, dignity and healthy living environment and from certain international treaties which directly apply in Slovenia, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

"We expected that amending the constitution would only provide the foundation for the more consistent implementation of the human right to clean drinking water and encourage the competent authorities to introduce the necessary legislative changes. Unfortunately, the declaratory entry in the constitution as the highest legal act has not achieved the desired effect in raising awareness about the importance of drinking water and the necessary amendments to legislation and implementing regulations. We cannot be satisfied with the mere inclusion of the right to drinking water in the constitution, as it is urgent to immediately adopt all the necessary legislation with the aim of protecting this right, although the deadline for such adoption already expired in May 2018 and the Ombudsman has warned the competent authorities of this many times," reiterates Ombudsman Svetina.

Slovenia is among the richest countries in Europe in terms of the abundance of water sources, which requires particularly sound water management. We are all committed to preserving clean and safe drinking water; however, the ultimate responsibility to conserve water sources rests with policy and decision makers. "Amendments to the Waters Act and other environmental legislation must be adopted deliberately, in a sustainably oriented manner, taking into account expert opinions and in dialog with all stakeholders. Any rash solutions could quickly lead us in the opposite direction and threaten our drinking water supply, thus causing us to move away from the recognised human right to clean drinking water," Ombudsman Peter Svetina warns the competent authorities.

Ultimately, we are also bound to cautious treatment of water by the Agenda 2030 (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), which is binding for all 193 UN member states. Member states unanimously adopted the Agenda 2030 and expressed their commitment to taking action against water shortage and pollution and to improving water quality by 2030 through the reduction of pollution.

"This is about people, their rights and their lives. The constitution and international Acts require decision makers to act responsibly. Let today's World Water Day be a reminder to all competent authorities that water is our most valuable good, which requires us to adopt the most responsible solutions possible to protect water sources and contribute to the quality of drinking water. Water is not to be taken for granted, as it is not available in unlimited quantities, and the human right to clean drinking water could very quickly come under threat," Ombudsman Peter Svetina recalls on the occasion of World Water Day.

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