Bulgaria environment minister quits amid water crisis

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarian Environment Minister Neno Dimov resigned on Friday after he spent a night in detention following questioning over severe water restrictions in the western city of Pernik and waste imports, the government said.

Pernik, a town of more than 70,000, has been subject to severe water restrictions for about two months, a matter that has been under investigation by several institutions.

Many have blamed Dimov for failing to take measures to avoid a critical draining of the dam that provides drinking water to Pernik. The government has sacked the head of the local water facility over poor management and water waste of over 70% of its outdated water pipes.

Prosecutors have also seized documents connected to permits for waste imports, mainly from Italy, as part of an operation against illegal storage and treatment of waste.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has accepted Dimov’s resignation, a government statement said. Prosecutors were expected later to make a statement about their investigations into the environment ministry and the water crisis.

Dimov was kept in custody for 24 hours on Thursday, following raids by police and prosecutor on the environmental ministry as well as in the regional administration of city of Pernik and its water facility.

Opposition Socialists plan to file a no-confidence motion against the government on Jan 20, accusing it of failing to prevent the water crisis in Pernik and poor management of waste imports, whose burning it says pollutes air in many Bulgarian cities.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Jon Boyle, William Maclean

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