Plans to cut rural pollution are “unrealistic”, scientists say


National and provincial government plans to meet targets on dealing with nitrogen-based pollution, water pollution and nature restoration will not achieve their goals within the next decade and would be unrealistic to think they can be achieved, according to a report by environment scientists.

Experts from the environmental assessment agency PBL, Wageningen University, water research group Deltares and the public health institute RIVM studied a wide range of proposals worked out by the provinces and national government financing plans.

They conclude that farming targets, for example, would require farmers to take more expensive and far-reaching measures and that there needs to be a more cohesive approach nationwide, steered by central government.

The current system, involving separate studies on a provincial basis, could lead to an unequal playing field, the report said.

The provinces were asked to submit their plans to national government last summer. While these contain some good ideas such as reducing the amount of intensive farming and expanding the amount of countryside which cannot be farmed, some of the measures still need to be worked out in detail. This is particularly the case when it comes to finance, the report said.

The researchers also estimate the cost of the plans will be double the €24.3 billion which central government has allocated up to 2035. They recommend establishing priorities to deal with the most pressing problems.

Nature protection minister Christianne van der Wal told news agency ANP “It is very clear that more is needed and the tough choices will have to be made” to reach the targets.

The institutes are right to point out that the government should not wait for “the perfect plan” and instead should focus on step by step solutions, she said.

Much depends on what sort of government the Netherlands will eventually get. Three of the parties which have been involved in coalition negotiations to date – PVV, NSC and BBB – have all questioned the caretaker government’s strategy and have called for major changes.

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