Controversial French water law faces parliament

MPs queue up to demand further changes with deadline of national elections looming

Members of France's lower parliamentary house returned to work yesterday to debate the government's controversial water reform bill, which was first proposed by former environment minister Dominique Voynet in 1999 and finally approved by the governing coalition over six months ago (EED 28/06/01).

The biggest area of dispute remains a proposal to apply the polluter pays principle to farmers by taxing excessive nitrogen discharges. Ms Voynet originally proposed setting the tax at euros 0.04 per kilogram of nitrogen output exceeding input. This has already been watered down to euros 0.002/kg. Parliament is expected to demand further cuts or even to quash the tax altogether.

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