April 19th, 2018
The Government’s River Basin Management Plan has drawn a criticism from a network of environmental NGOs concerned with water issues and the Green Party.
The Plan, launched earlier this week following lengthy delays, falls short of what is needed to protect our waters, according to the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN).
The Plan presents a set of measures aimed at improving the water quality of the groundwater, rivers, lakes estuaries and coastal waters in Ireland to meet European standards.
The legal requirement under the EU Water Framework Directive is to initiate measures to bring Ireland’s rivers, lakes and bays up to a good ecological state by 2021.
According to SWAN’s Coordinator, Sinead O’Brien, however, the plan “lacks ambition” and does not impose any real “significant obligations for change” on the concerned sectors.
The EPA water quality assessment in Ireland 2010-2015 outlines the impact of human activities on the water quality, including wastewater discharges from urban, domestic and agricultural use.
High concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen, mainly coming from the agri-sector, continues to be a wide spread problem affecting water quality in Ireland.
Instead of encouraging intensification programmes, Ms O’Brien said, that the grant-aid must shift to support farming to prevent water pollution and contribute to sustainable flood management.
River Basin Management Plan
The Plan will see the State invest 1.7 billion euros in wastewater infrastructure and projects in 255 urban areas by 2021.
A total of 43 specialist local authority investigative staff will also be deployed to carry out scientific assessments of water bodies.
The Plan should benefit sectors that are water intensive like the agri-food, tourism and hospitality which together employ 400,000 people, according to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, TD.
The implementation of the RBMP will benefit communities by “improved waste water treatment, stronger protection of drinking water sources and cleaner waters for recreation”, he added.
Water quality is set to improve and be protected in 726 of Ireland’s 4,829 water bodies with full recovery status expected in 152 water bodies, according to the Minister.
“This Plan is underpinned by strong implementation structures and a commitment to meaningful community and civic participation.” he added.
However, Green Councillor David Healy said that the current and previous government’s plans failed to put in place the investment needed to end all sewage discharges which resulted in the European Commission initiating legal action against Ireland for failure to collect and treat sewage properly.
The Green Party group stated that raw sewage is discharged onto beaches and rivers throughout Ireland.
The hard engineering proposals focused upon by the government will “destroy” both natural and cultural heritage and the habitat of endangered species, Cllr Healy warned.