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Industry groups attempt to sink water law

A crunch meeting of environment ministers will see the EU’s flagship water protection legislation thrust into the spotlight.

It emerged this week that industry groups have been lobbying for the Water Framework Directive to be revised – despite a three-year long European Commission evaluation concluding that the law is fit for purpose but that improvements are needed in its implementation.

A group of French energy and mining companies have called for the law to be changed to pave the way for more hydropower in France.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and many of its members are among 130 NGOs urging environment ministers to support upholding the Water Framework Directive in its current form.

In a letter, the group of NGOs highlight the Commission own evaluation showing that slow progress in achieving the law’s objectives is down to poor implementation and funding gaps and “not due to a deficiency in the legislation” itself.

The Water Framework Directive requires all countries to ensure their waterways are in good ecological shape by 2027 but only two-fifths of the EU’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are currently in a healthy state.

Water-tight legislation

The Commission has yet to publish a final decision on the future of the EU’s water law.

Sergiy Moroz from the European Environmental Bureau said: “If the Commission is serious about stopping environmental breakdown and achieving the ambitions set in the European Green Deal, it should act on the strong evidence in its own evaluation that the EU’s water law is fit for purpose.”

Moroz added: “The Commission now needs to take the next step and firmly announce that the law will not be amended, rather we need all hands on deck to deliver on its objectives. This will properly answer the call from over 375,000 citizens and more than 6,0000 scientists who have asked for their water law to be left unchanged as it is sufficient to protect and restore our precious rivers, lakes, and wetlands.”

Last year 375,000 people from across Europe took part in a consultation to defend the EU’s water law from being watered down, and over 6000 scientists backed upholding the law.

The European Commission will also soon publish its much-anticipated Biodiversity Strategy — one of the flagship strategies under the European Green Deal that must include a strong restoration agenda including restoration of the free-flowing rivers.

Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF’s European Policy Office, said that the fact the Commission has “still not committed to not opening the law” was “extremely worrying given the aggressive lobbying from BusinessEurope and other corporate vested interests to weaken it”.