The Ombudsman for future generations on the deadlines for approval of wells drilled without a permit
In the interest of maintaining legal certainty, Ombudsman for future generations Gyula Bándi requests the Government and the Parliament to take immediate measures to reasonably extend the deadlines for the penalty-free approval of wells drilled without a permit.
When Gyula Bándi, in order to protect national water resources, raised his voice against the amendment of the water management act, allowing for drilling wells without a permit and without notifying the authorities, he also pointed out that his aim was not to make water usage and irrigation impossible, or impose obligations that are difficult to comply with, but to facilitate the responsible, awareness-driven management of water resources taking into account the interests of future generations as well. That is why the Ombudsman for future generations has welcomed the Constitutional Court’s decision qualifying as being in breach of the Fundamental Law and annulling the already adopted but yet un-promulgated statutory amendment. The decision of the Constitutional Court has, however, an unwanted effect – it preserves the legal situation in which illegally drilled wells may be legalized only until the end of 2018.
An important element of legal certainty is that obligations may be imposed on citizens and business entities only setting reasonable, observable deadlines. Based on the public controversies surrounding legislation, they could reasonably expect even a significant extension of the deadlines for getting approval for keeping their wells. However, as a result of the annulment, they had but a couple of months to get approval; most of this time had already passed.
The Ombudsman has already pointed out that nothing compels the State to pass on the burden of water management to the citizens. The objective is the accurate knowledge and traceability of water resources and water usage; however, users wishing to legalize their wells should not be discouraged – the task is to make the situation clear, to ensure a continuous supply of water of adequate quality, in adequate quantity. Instead of imposing sanctions, the authorities should develop and implement procedures putting bearable administrative and financial burden on ordinary citizens, encouraging their compliance with the law. Only this can make the establishment of a comprehensive well cadastre possible, which is a prerequisite to responsible water management by the State.