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Wallonia ‘dragging heels’ in pollution crackdown

17 May 2005

BRUSSELS – Belgian Greens have slammed Wallonia’s government for failing to take action on protecting the region’s environment, French-language Daily La Derniere Heure reported at the weekend.

The regional government led by Minister-President Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe, of the Socialist party, has failed to combat pollution and protect nature reserves, the opposition Ecolo party claimed in a recent ‘environmental bulletin’ to the government.

The Ecolo party has been in opposition for the past ten months, and finally decided to vent its frustration via the bulletin.

“We decided to give the benefit of the doubt to the newcomers,” wrote Green deputies Bernard Wesphael and Monika Dethier-Neumann. “(But) there has been no miracle.”

“At times it has been inertia which crept back into place, at times it has been the restoration of old policies,” they added.

Thirteen percent of Wallonia’s territory has been designated as protected under the EU’s Natura 2000 network of nature reservations across Europe, and it should take Wallonia five years to implement all measures related to the sites, the Green deputies noted.

But a team of 26 experts that were supposed to start work on the Natura 2000 sites last January from a research centre in Gembloux has not even been called into being yet, they lamented.

At the same time, government plans to ‘de-pollute’ the soils of some 6,000 sites in Wallonia also appear to have been put on the back burner, the Greens claimed.

The Wallonian government also desperately needs to put into place a more effective transport policy to curb emissions from heavy road traffic criss-crossing the region, which is key to combating global warming and meeting Belgium’s Kyoto protocol pledge.

The Greens also pointed out the need to develop more eco-industries in Wallonia, including renewable energy, ‘green chemistry’ and energy-friendly housing.

But Benoit Lutgen, the conservative Wallonian environment minister, said the environmental balance sheet is “primary” to all of the governments’ dossiers.

“In connection with Natura 2000, I recall that the previous government did not create a budget for its implementation,” he said.

“The personnel for Gembloux have just been hired and the nature conservations commissions designated,” he added.

“The scientific work is quite committed. But the protection exceeds Natura 2000. This is why I am considering a wider plan at the Walloon level.”

Lutgen also announced that a regional recycling plan would be overhauled in September.

“Here too, the previous government had envisaged investments worth EUR 400 million without designating one euro,” Lutgen said.

“It was a political – not an environmental – plan. My plan will have as a priority the implementation of very strong environmental criteria and recycling.”

Meanwhile Lutgen also said on Sunday that he had launched a study into pollutants coming from 180 Wallonian companies.

Some 240 enterprises could be considered dangerous to the environment in Wallonia.

Among the region’s key industries are chemicals, pulp and paper products, lime production, cement production, steel and coke plants, the production of metals and metal powders, the incineration of hospital and medical waste and animal husbandry.

[Copyright Expatica]

Subject : Belgian News