Water Act: the important thing is to believe it ...
"Water is life. This bill aims we have in ten years total quality water (sic) in nature. "Minister of Ecology presented yesterday its water law in Cabinet. And he's so happy he paints a rosy picture of its effects: "This will allow us to have rivers that are both environmentally and alive, rich in fish, a less expensive drinking water. And we can find leisure activities such as swimming in our rivers. "No article of this law is seriously addressing the problem of diffuse pollution, such as nitrates. For Serge Lepeltier, the reform of the CAP (common agricultural policy) will do. The consumer association UFC-Que Choisir believes that the law enshrines the principle of "polluted pays".
The water bill household farmers and irritated environmentalists
by Hervé Kempf
Bill on water presented by the Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development, Serge Lepeltier, the Council of Ministers of 9 March angry environmentalists and farmers happy.
The challenge: how to ensure a just penalty for water pollution? Farmers are responsible, by their discharges of fertilizers and pesticides, most of the pollution of rivers and aquifers French, but pay only a small share of royalties to the water agencies.
However, water quality is not improving: according to the French Environment Institute (IFEN), pesticides are present in 80% of surface water stations and 57% of those water underground, while nearly half the territory the concentration of nitrates in water exceeds 40 milligrams per liter - the health limit of 50 milligrams. This has earned the France five convictions by the European Court of Justice for non-compliance with Community legislation.
The bill proposes to reorganize the water management system and modify the royalty regime. As it stands, the text operates a grooming than a radical change. Enumerating many technical provisions, it is to not rush the agricultural world, confirming the choice made in the summer 2004.
In July, Hervé Gaymard, then Minister of Agriculture, told West-France that "the Prime Minister, confirming the position of the President of the Republic, has rendered his arbitration: there will be no new tax levied on Farmers ".
It is because the preliminary project of the time still envisaged to extend to intensive crops a "livestock royalty", paid for by the biggest breeders (the nitrates of the water are due to the excrement of the animals, but also to the widespread fertilizers on crops).
"The polluter-pays principle will remain largely unapplied, deplores the association Eaux et Rivières de Bretagne. Consumers will continue to provide 85% of the budget of water agencies, agriculture, which consumes chemical fertilizers and produces slurry, supporting only 4%. "
For its part, the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir "is indignant that after years of consultation the government choose the path of immobilism. The UFC-Que Choisir demands a complete overhaul of the water agencies' fee system, which must oblige the polluter to finance the pollution of which he is the author ".
The landscape maintenance
On the agricultural side, the perception is different. "This project is balanced, says Pascal Ferey, for the FNSEA (National Federation of Farmers' Unions). It does not penalize anyone but makes everyone responsible. According to Mr. Ferey, "we must recognize that beside the polluter-pays principle, there is the farmer-protector principle," the cultivation of land for the maintenance of landscapes.
A view confirmed by the MP (UMP) Jean-Claude Flory, author of a report on water royalties: "It all depends on the places. For example, in Ardèche, farmers do not pollute, but rather play a very positive role against floods, stopping erosion and runoff. "
Another point of the project meets the farmers by promoting, hint, creating small dams to facilitate irrigation. This practice is synonymous with waste for environmentalists. The Senate will begin debating the text in April.