Hungarian NHRI protects the Water Act for Future Generations

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The National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in Hungary has proactively opposed amendments to the Water Act in order to protect natural resources for future generations. The connection between conservation and preservation and the achievement of SDG 6.1 and 6.2 (access to safe and sustainable water and sanitation) are inextricably linked.

Amendments were proposed to the Water Act that would remove the need to apply for permits and notifications for drilling wells down to 80 metres. Many environmentalists and human rights experts were concerned by this legislative change as it reduced the protection of groundwater resources.

The NHRI contributed to the annulment of these amendments by publishing a General Opinion that detailed why the legislation would violate constitutional provisions and endanger groundwater resources and public health. These arguments were subsequently raised in Parliamentary Committees, contributing to an initial refusal of the amendment.

Nonetheless, after the parliamentary elections of 2018, the draft amendment was submitted again, and it was enacted. The President of Hungary therefore initiated an ex ante constitutional review of the amendment before the Constitutional Court to evaluate the legality of this law. The Hungarian NHRI, committed to stopping this legislative change, provided arguments to the Constitutional Court that highlighted the anti-constitutional nature of the amendment.

The Constitutional Court finally decided to annul the proposed amendment, stressing that the termination of granting permits would negatively affect access to healthy drinking water, and the right to physical and mental health.

Human Right 2 Water will be sharing a series of stories such as this in the revised 2nd edition of the NHRI Good Practices Guide, to be released in the coming months.