Bulgaria names new environment minister amid water crisis

FILE PHOTO: Woman walks over deep cracks on the bottom of Studena dam near Pernik

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's parliament approved Emil Dimitrov as environment minister on Wednesday after prosecutors charged his predecessor with deliberate mismanagement of a water crisis affecting a western region of the Balkan country.

Nearly 100,000 people in the Pernik region have faced severe water restrictions for two months. The crisis has triggered a series of protests and prompted the opposition Socialists to press a no-confidence vote in the government.

Parliament's approval of Pernik-born Dimitrov, by 111 votes to 96 against, suggests Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's centre-right government will also survive the no-confidence vote, expected to take place next week.

Dimitrov, proposed by Borissov's junior coalition partner, pledged to carry out a full audit at the environment ministry, but green activists expressed concern that he may lobby for businesses at the expense of green policies.

Bulgaria, a member of the European Union, faces serious environmental challenges, including air pollution from industrial emissions, river pollution and deforestation.

Prosecutors accuse the previous minister, Neno Dimov, of failing to take proper measures to avoid a critical draining of a dam that provides drinking water to Pernik and nearby villages despite many warnings and reports of its decreasing levels.

Dimov, who faces up to eight years in jail if convicted, has previously denied any wrongdoing and blamed the water crisis on dry weather and poor management of the local water facility.


(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Gareth Jones)