The Water Framework Directive, despite being a strong piece of legislation, has faced hurdles till now
The European Union (EU)’s strong water legislation — the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) — will not be changed, the European Commission announced June 23, 2020.
The EU’s Commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius confirmed the need to focus on supporting implementation and enforcement “without changing the directive” in a statement.
The decision comes six months after the law was concluded to be “fit-for-purpose,” following a thorough two-year evaluation.
More than 375,000 citizens, including from central and eastern Europe, demanded that the law be kept in its current form and better implemented by their governments during the process.
Eighty per cent of the Danube river’s floodplains and those of its main tributaries have been lost, but many could be restored under an efficiently implemented WFD, a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) statement, said.
Many hydropower, navigation and flood protection infrastructure plans under preparation in central and eastern Europe would require proper biodiversity safeguards or be dropped altogether under the WFD in order to ensure that no harm will be done, WWF said.
The WFD is one of the EU’s most ambitious and holistic pieces of environmental legislation, setting the target of having 100 per cent of the EU’s freshwater ecosystems in good health by 2027 at the very latest, up from just 40 per cent currently.
However, implementation and political will to make the law work in practice by member states has been low. There has also been much pressure to weaken the legislation, including from industry lobby groups.
The critical role of the WFD in halting the decline in freshwater biodiversity was highlighted in a letter from close to 6,000 scientists, which was sent to the Commission at the end of last year.
The WFD also has the public support of a group of businesses, who have urged the Commission and EU member states to preserve this ground-breaking law in its current form.
With this announcement, the European Commission must now work with all relevant stakeholders, including central and eastern European countries, to fast-track implementation and ensure that the WFD’s objectives are reached by 2027 at the very latest.
Member states will need to pull out all the stops in the next cycle of River Basin Management Plans, that will be issued next year.
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