Ministers announce steps to combat drought

Miroslav Toman, Richard Brabec, Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt

The Czech Republic has been hit by droughts in recent years, with large swathes of the country particularly badly affected last summer. Now a government task force is working on plans to combat the problem – and there are even suggestions water could be protected under the Czech Constitution.

Miroslav Toman,  Richard Brabec,  Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt
Much of the Czech Republic is currently beneath a blanket of snow that when it melts will help fill the country’s reservoirs.

However, there are deep underlying problems as regards water management and fears that drought may become a grave and recurring problem.

On Wednesday a number of cabinet members took part in the second ever meeting of the National Coalition Against Drought, including Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

“Our government naturally regards the issue of drought as very important. Water is our greatest national asset and is the most important raw material and source of life. We have very specific long-term measures. Perhaps right now it feels like we have a huge amount of snow – but 21 percent of the country is still affected by soil drought.”

One measure currently being tested at two places in the Czech Republic is artificial infiltration.

However, the water retention method could in future be used at hundreds of locations, the minister of the environment, Richard Brabec, told reporters.

“Put very simply, we will capitalise on the fact there is a lot of water in surface streams by pumping it off in a targeted manner and artificially soaking it deep into the ground. There it will be in a kind of piggy bank that we will then be able to draw on when we require.”

The government also plans to expand a grant programme promoting rainwater storage. It is currently targeted at individuals but will in future also be open to municipalities.

Illustrative photo: jodyleigh / Pixabay,  CC0
The minister of agriculture, Miroslav Toman, outlined further concrete steps.

“With the aim of protecting the soil, the Ministry of Agriculture has tightened farming regulations. From next year, it will not be able to cultivate monocultures on erosion-threatened areas exceeding 30 hectares. The Ministry of Agriculture has also tightened compulsory regulations that must be followed if farmers want to claim key grants. This applies to 95 percent of the country’s arable land.”

On Thursday Právo reported that Mr. Toman – urged by agriculture experts from his party, the Social Democrats – will propose that water be granted special protection under the Czech Constitution.

Neighbouring Slovakia has a clause in its constitution banning its export.

Environment Minister Brabec says he would also be in favour of such a move. However, officials at his ministry argue that regular legislation should be sufficient to protect water, Právo reported.