WWF protests against weak water treaty

Dec. 10, 2002
WWF-Belgium led a protest against the new "Treaty for the International Commission for the protection of the Meuse and Scheldt Rivers," signed on Dec. 6.

Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 10, 2002 -- As delegations from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France signed the new "Treaty for the International Commission for the protection of the Meuse and Scheldt Rivers", WWF-Belgium led a protest against this same treaty.

According to WWF, the treaty is not in line with the spirit of the EU's Water Framework Directive: it is not only weak, but also non-binding and vague, failing to deliver any concrete measures for the protection and management of the Meuse and Scheldt rivers.

The EU Water Framework Directive came into force in December 2000. It aims to offer an integrated framework for EU water policy and to improve the protection of surface and groundwater.

A key feature of the Water Frameworks Directive is the concept of River Basin Management. For each river basin, EU member states must prepare a river basin management plan every six years, including a program of measures, which will be binding on the operational water managers.

Moreover, the proposal requires monitoring, a description of the river basin district, an assessment of the environmental impact of human activities, and an economic analysis of water use in the river basin district.

The failings of the Scheldt-Meuse treaty are even more pronounced when compared to the Treaties governing the International Commissions for the Protection of the Danube and Rhine Rivers, WWF said.

The organization said it was dismayed that although the Scheldt and Meuse rivers run mainly through only three countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, and France), pass mainly through only two different language regions (Dutch and French), and are not affected by major cultural or political differences, the delegations still did not succeed in talking to each other in a constructive way or in opening participation to other stakeholders.

Indeed, the process for the eventual participation of NGOs in the Commission for the Meuse and the Scheldt rivers has not been included in the treaty. This is now left to the internal rules of the commission's procedure.

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