Sunday, 21 March 2010

Government's water plans criticised

Environmental campaigners today attacked the Government’s plans for protecting the country’s waters.

On the eve of World Water Day activists said new management proposals were wholly inadequate in preventing pollution of rivers, lakes and bays.

The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) claimed raw or insufficiently treated sewage was flowing into more than 100 locations nationwide because of poor handling of waste water.

The Government is required to produce water management plans under the European Union’s Water Framework Directive.

But SWAN - which is made up of 24 different campaign groups - urged Minister for the Environment John Gormley not to sign off on the proposals.

“Despite the fact that under law they must set out a management plan for all our waters, our coastal waters are being completely ignored,” spokeswoman Sineád O’Brien said.

“This is a disgrace, given that we are an island nation and rely on clean coasts for fishing, business, recreation and tourism,” she added. “I find it hard to believe that a Green Minister, and one from a coastal constituency at that, is overseeing plans with such major failings.”

Ms O’Brien said the plans also did little or nothing to prevent the destruction of freshwater habitats from agriculture, forestry and sewage pollution.

“In Ireland we are lucky to still have a few of the most pristine lakes and river stretches in Europe,” she said. “These should be treasured as the jewels in the crown of our landscape. Instead, even these last gems are being ruined because the Government continues to allow pollution to flow into them.”

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said Mr Gormley had not yet seen the plans, which are being drafted up by local authorities before being submitted to him.

“He’s anxious to have plans of the highest quality possible so when he sees them he will look at them in detail and see if anything needs to be addressed.”

The spokesman defended the department’s handling of water management. “More money than ever before is being invested in water infrastructure in Ireland - €510 million this year, which is more than ever - and more resources than ever before are going into water enforcement.”

Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s environment spokesman Phil Hogan called for a radical reform of the entire water system.

At the party’s national conference in Killarney Mr Hogan said the current water delivery infrastructure was a “shambles” and called for a single national utility company to take over from local authorities.

“This is a not a quango but a commercial company seeking a return on its investment and operations, similar to the ESB or Bord Gáis,” he said. “You can’t build a smart economy with dirty water.”

Irish Times

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