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The bad status of the surface water bodies
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The bad status of the surface water bodies

Publié le lundi 5 septembre 2016 à 04:00

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You know about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that werevalid until end of 2015. From now on a new agenda establishes seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 2030 as a deadline, that seek to build on the MDGs. Those SDG areusable for all countries of the world, industrialised or not, with a high GDP or a low one. In this new agenda water and sanitation have been given their own dedicated goal (SGD 6 - pic. source UN-DSD).That is fantastic, as a stand-alone goal on water and sanitation is fundamental to have a holistic approach in tackling global water problems and challenges.

SGD 6 includes six technical targets. In my view, Luxemburg is far from brilliant for any of the six targets – there were too many implementation, monitoring and human resources deficiencies in the past and even nowadays (read in french https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/wou-duelzecht-durech-dwisen-z%C3%A9it-partie-12-waasser-consulting?trk=mp-author-card and https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/partie-22-wou-duelzecht-durech-dwisen-z%C3%A9it-waasser-consulting?trk=mp-author-card). The third target specifically deals with the improvement of water bodies quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials. This target hits Luxemburg really hard ! If you read the brand new integrated river basin management plan (about 300 pages) for Luxemburg (the writing of this plan is imposed by the European Commission by article 5 of the water framework directive. See http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/index_en.html) you will probably share my view : regarding the environmental sins and the half-assed political and regular activism we live in a developing country comparable to Nigeria or South Africa - states that pollute its natural resources without regret without shame. You wonder why I am so negative ? Well, how do you explain that Luxemburg is still not compliant with "urban waste water treatment directive", providing for secondary (biological) waste water treatment, and even more stringent treatment where necessary ? This directive was adopted in 1991, so 25 years ago ! And the directive was transposed in national legislation in 1994.

The environmental objective of "water framework directive" requires "good ecological status" and "good chemical status" for all surface water by 2015 or at the latest by 2027. Good ecological status is defined in terms of the quality of the biological community, the hydrological characteristics and the physical-chemical characteristics. Luxemburg is classified in 102 natural or not heavily modified surface water bodies. Only three (3 !) of them are for the moment in a good ecological status. The hydrological insufficiencies are top rated, followed by the biological deficiencies and the chemical overloads, especially nitrates and phosphates. Good chemical status is defined in terms of compliance with all the quality standards established for chemical substances at European level. Unfortunately not a single (0 !) surface water body can be labelled as good. Pollution caused by pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds are the driven forces for the catastrophic rating.

This is a quite bad reference letter, isn’t it ? But it can even be toped ! How ? Well, the punching part lies still ahead of us. Now that the range of the bad status (volume and quality) is known measures must be taken to reverse the degradation either by applying rigorously existing legislation and if such legislation tools are absent, Luxemburg must identify and design whatever additional measures are needed to satisfy all the objectives established. These might include stricter controls on polluting emissions from industry and agriculture, or urban waste water sources. But how can you control neglected deposits when you do not know the source and its location ? So further investigation is absolutely needed. The integrated river basin management plan however schedule that one third of the surface water bodies will reach the good ecological status by 2021, the rest will be compliant to the objectives by 2027. The good chemical status of all the surface water bodies will be obtained by 2027. Is this prognostic really realistic or is it more about a symbolic message to calm critics ?

In January 2016 astudy on assessing the environmental fiscal reform potential fortheEU28 wasreleased. Herein you read that in 2013, environmental taxes amounted to 2.15% of Luxembourg’s GDP.This proportion is low compared to historical values and is the lowest since 2000.Energy taxes make up the largest proportion of environmental taxes by far,amounting to 1.99% of GDP in 2013 or 92.6% of total environmental tax revenues inLuxembourg.Pollution and resource tax revenues amounted to around €8 million or 0.02%of GDP in 2012 and 2013. This is significantlylower than the EU-28 average of0.12% with Luxembourg ranking 24th compared to other Member States.

To strengthen the prevention of water pollution it is strongly suggested that a waste water tax will be introduced with tax rates adjusted in-line with ‘good practice’. For Luxembourg, this would imply, for BOD (biological oxygen demande), a rate of €2.75 per kg of the pollutant. For fresh-water discharges, it would be preferable to also tax phosphorus discharges. A recent review of the state of waters in Luxembourg concluded that the main threat to water quality is diffuse pollution from nitrates and pesticides, these being widely present in groundwater. 70% of below ground monitoring points detected pesticides in the period 2008-2012, with the herbicide metalochlor being the most commonly detected (13% of cases). But Luxembourg still does not have a tax on pesticides and the country does not currently have a tax on nitrogen (or other) fertilisers.

Next time you navigate at http://www.luxembourgforbusiness.lu/en and watch promotional videos about Luxemburg, you should keep in mind that Luxemburg isn’t a model state for practicing water sustainability unless you are used to fly to Austria to breath fresh air, to Canada to swim in glass clear lakes, to London for shopping and to Luxemburg to make business regardless your environmental footprint.

Article de Christophe Wantz – Waasser Consulting – http://www.wantzconsulting.lu/

Publié le lundi 5 septembre 2016

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