Ministers back EC action on groundwater, coast protection

Additional political backing for the European Commission to prepare action programmes on the protection of groundwater and coastal zones was given by two Resolutions adopted by the EC Council of Ministers at the end of February.1

Moves to develop a Community groundwater protection strategy were initiated at a meeting of EC Environment Ministers in The Hague last November. They agreed a declaration which set out a series of priority measures to be taken at EC and national level to safeguard groundwater from pollution and over-abstraction, and invited the Commission to prepare a Community action programme (ENDS Report 202, p 21).

The new Resolution notes that conservation of groundwater is a "major political, economic and environmental imperative" which can be assured only by implementation of the principle of sustainable development.

It goes on to request the Commission to submit, if possible by mid-1993, a detailed action programme for which the declaration of the November meeting "may" provide guidelines. The Commission has also been asked to prepare a proposal to revise the only existing EC instrument in this area, the 1980 Directive on protection of groundwater against pollution by dangerous substances. The proposal, the Resolution says, should be incorporated into a general freshwater management policy.

The second Resolution adopted in February says there is a "clear need" for a Community strategy to protect coastal zones. This will require the full integration of economic, physical planning and environmental policies. The Commission is invited to propose a strategy which would provide a framework for the conservation and sustainable use of coastal resources, and incorporate it into its fifth Environment Action Programme.

Both Resolutions add that action to protect groundwater and coastal zones should take account of the principle of subsidiarity, meaning that measures should be taken at Community, national or local level as appropriate.

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