A Campaign to Protect Waters

a campaign to protect waters Efforts are being made at national level to implement a European Directive in the field of water protection

Most bodies of water in the EU are in poor ecological condition, according to the latest study run by the European Environmental Agency between 2010 and 2015. 130,000 water bodies were analyzed, leading to the conclusion that deterioration is the rule, rather than the exception, in the EU, where bodies of water have been getting worse at an alarming rate. It was also shown that in East European countries rivers and lakes are cleaner than in West European countries, where population density and agriculture are the worst chemical polluters. The situation is no better at world level. Experts warn that the planet is headed towards a drinking water crisis, if urgent measures are not taken. The UN reckons that by 2050 around five billion people will be exposed to water shortages. A report of the World Bank shows that around 70 major rivers around the world have run dry, due to irrigation and excessive consumption.

The countries of the European Union observe the framework directive aimed at protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems. Pollution is still a reality for many rivers, coastal areas, and underground pockets. Mercury and cadmium are among the main elements responsible for chemical pollution. Here is Camelia Ionescu, national coordinator for the Romanian branch of the World Wildlife Fund:

"Only 40% of European bodies of water are in a good or very good state. The evaluation criteria for rivers are a part of existing legislation, the framework directive relevant to water, and additional legislation associated with the directive. The study took into account physical and chemical criteria, the way in which rivers are stifled by human activity, of concrete interventions such as dam building and diverting, etc. All these criteria were examined by each country when evaluating their rivers. One conclusion was that many things were not taken into account when the directive was applied starting the early 2000s. The directive draws clear targets for the well-being of bodies of water, but it was not observed. Many countries relied on postponing the deadline for reaching these objectives, and took advantage of many exceptions to the rules. These countries lacked ambition, and also lacked vision in terms of investing in various measures, in order to have the rivers get better. It is true, at the same time, that exceptions are available until 2027, but by that time we were supposed to have better rivers in Europe, ecologically speaking."

The report by the European Environmental Agency shows that bodies of water in Romania are largely clean, with major investments being made in this sector of late. 287 towns and villages received funds for restoring and expanding infrastructure for water supply and treatment. 2.7 billion Euro have been allocated to this sector for the 2014-2020 period, with 4 new projects being approved, one major investment project being allocated 200 million Euro in European funds, aimed at the capital Bucharest. Here is Camelia Ionescu:

"Romania has a higher quality of water than the European average. Basically, we still have rivers that are in a good state, but we also have a lot of threats in terms of pollution sources, farming, for instance. I believe that the entire territory has been declared an area sensitive to nitrites from farming sources, with underground sources being contaminated with these substances. There are many cases where tapping into wells for drinking water is impossible. The farming system has to be reorganized to protect water sources."

The European water directive is right now in a so-called fitness check. This is a procedure to analyze the relevance, effectiveness and coherence, as well as the added value of the directive at EU level, a process that also includes a public consultation launched in September 2018. Around 100 NGOs are taking part in the protection and consolidation of this directive, launching a campaign calling on the European Commission to defend the framework directive in its present state, even if member states want the provisions relaxed. Here is Camelia Ionescu:

"In this process of evaluation there is a component by means of which all citizens can express their position and ideas, and can express their opinions on the way water is managed. This is the moment when citizens can talk to the European Commission, as well as national and European authorities, about the way in which they see the implementation of directives and the protection of rivers. What we know is that this directive has been giving headaches to a lot of users and certain authorities in various countries. The intention is to adjust and modify the directive. Our fear is that these changes would lead to reduced targets, and a relaxation in terms of water management."

Public consultations are scheduled to be held until March 4, 2019.

(Translated by C. Cotoiu)

Publicat: 2018-10-26 12:10:00
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