Thursday, 9 October 2008

EPA: Forestry, tourism and transport sectors flouting EU laws

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dossier on Ireland’s environment record criticises the sectors for not incorporating EU Strategic Environmental Assessments, or SEAs, into projects.

The state-of-the-environment report also questions why government plans for roads, transport and building under the National Development Plan were not subject to SEAs. Environmental chiefs say “it is notable that a number of significant sectors, in particular forestry, tourism and transport sectors, have yet to fully engage in the process”.

SEAs were implemented in Ireland four years ago. Currently there are over 200 laws in Ireland, the majority of which come from Brussels.

Launching the report yesterday, Environment Minister John Gormley pledged he would ensure SEAs were part of key infrastructure projects.

“It was remiss of us in the past [that we did not]... that culture will change. That is absolutely vital.” He added: “I hope we can start that practice in my own department and move on into every other department when making key infrastructure decisions, that we can carry out investigations to look at the impact on the person and look at the impact on climate change.”

The report notes there has been considerable success in tackling offences such as large-scale dumping and illegal cross-border movement of waste.

However, the report is also highly critical of pollution and over-fishing. Some 66 lakes and 15 estuaries are in unsatisfactory conditions, it said. Furthermore, three-quarters of commercial fish species in Irish water are being caught beyond safe limits. Cod numbers are plummeting, while whiting and tuna numbers are facing a huge threat from commercial boats.

With fish numbers becoming dangerously low, the EPA report recommends closing off spawning grounds for several years. An Taisce said the report should trigger an end to the era of sidelining the environment.

“Ireland needs to face up to our responsibilities to future generations... there can be no more excuses to address the plethora of problems that we are so aware of,” it said.

Irish Examiner

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