NGOs prepare for battle on EU water law

Environmental groups issue nine-point plan for effective implementation of framework directive

Twenty-four EU environmental groups yesterday issued a nine-point plan of action for effective implementation of the new water framework directive, following a two-day seminar held in Brussels. While welcoming several aspects of the new law, NGOs said it remained vague and complicated in many areas and could result in some environmental standards being lowered. They called for an immediate increase in spending to prepare for the 2003 deadline for EU countries to transpose the directive into national laws.

Coordinated by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the groups' chief concern is that the good intentions expressed in the directive will not yield results without a huge further effort. Member states, their environmental agencies and the European Commission would all have to "substantially increase" their spending, they said. Otherwise the implementation process would be put "at risk".

The groups also called for better implementation of existing EU water laws, such as the directives on groundwater protection and use of dangerous substances by industry, which are to be repealed in 2013 and replaced by new controls under the framework directive. "Full enforcement" of these laws "is a pre-requisite of successful water protection," they said.

Other key action points were securing public and NGO participation in decision-making processes, particularly involving NGOs in developing status criteria for groundwater and surface water assessment, and extending sustainability rules to all water uses while ensuring transparent water management practices.

In addition, more detailed criteria should be adopted for assessing the chemical status of groundwaters. The framework directive's guidelines for economic analysis of water uses - which are to include environmental costs by 2004 - should be "robust and defendable," the EEB said.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090. A press release and the statement are posted on the site.

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