According to the nitrates directive, action programmes are to be set up within one year of NVZ designation and implemented within four. In addition, the environment ministry has introduced several of its own measures. A national code of practice for farmers to prevent nitrates pollution of groundwaters in NVZs, which is voluntary under the directive, is to become mandatory, while moves to reduce phosphorus use are to be extended to nitrogen.
"Much more remains to be done," an environment ministry spokesperson said. "Significant deficiencies persist in the waste storage capacity on farms...[and] the use of nitrogen fertilisers continues to rise," he added.
* In a related development, the Irish Times newspaper has claimed that the government has failed to implement 65 EU directives by their legal deadlines. Environmental laws were second worst implemented after single market rules, with measures overdue on 17 directives, the paper reported in its Saturday edition.
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