Severe water shortages in the Bulgarian city of Pernik brought protesters out on to the streets on Saturday. Hundreds of residents gathered in front of the government headquarters to demand urgent action be taken to stop what they call a looming humanitarian crisis.

Residents in Pernik have been struggling to meet their basic water needs for months and say that bribery and incompetence are behind the shortages. They also warned that the city’s only water supply, the Studena Dam, will be dry in two weeks.

Just earlier this month, Bulgaria’s environment minister, Neno Dimov, resigned after he was charged with deliberate mismanagement of water supplies. There are concerns he allowed water to go to industrial facilities despite knowing it would affect the drinking water of up to 100 000 people. If convicted, he could spend up to eight years in prison.

Bulgaria’s opposition has filed a motion accusing the government of being responsible for the water crisis. However, the motion will likely fail as the government has a small majority in parliament.

Saturday’s protest is also fuelled by the city mayor’s decision to cancel a big international dance festival there due to the crisis. The festival attracts thousands of visitors. It is a major source of revenue for many locals and it has not been cancelled in 60 years.

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