Tuesday 10 December 2019

New anti-nitrogen measures greeted with mixed reactions

Pigs on a factory farm. Photo: Depositphotos.com

The measures the government announced on Wednesday to reduce nitrogen-based pollution and cope with the impact of PFAS contamination in soil and sludge have met with mixed reactions, public broadcaster NOS reports.

The most contentious of the measures is the reduction of the national speed limit to 100 kph, a ‘rotten rule’, prime minster Rutte said, but one that was necessary for the greater good.

Motoring organisation ANWB said it understands and supports the rule, which it hoped would be temporary, although the prime minister did not commit to this.

‘We don’t like it but we understand it had to be done to get the construction industry building homes again,’ a spokesman for the organisation said. ‘We polled our members and 51% were positive about the measure. Only 34% weres negative or very negative about it.’

The ANWB also urged the cabinet to continue putting financial incentives in place to promote the sale of more electric cars.

The government has also agreed to allocate €250m extra to help regenerate natural areas which have been damaged by the impact of too much nitrogen, and will introduce emergency legislation to ensure coastal protection schemes and essential road and waterway works can go ahead.

The composition of animal feed may also be altered to reduce the amount of ammonia in manure. The government earlier set aside €60m to compensate pig farmers who shut down their businesses. The livestock industry is a major producer of nitrogen-based pollution.

Farmers lobby LTO said it regretted that the measures had been announced while a plan that can count on the full support of the agricultural sector was still being worked on. The rules around the use of manure were not specified, chairman Marc Calon said.

‘The cabinet is looking at the short term but will have to cast a critical long-term look at the management of the Natura-2000 areas,’ he added. ‘LTO doesn’t want less nature but supports policies which mean N2000 areas won’t keep the country hostage.’

A start

Environmental groups said the measures were ’a good start’ but that the cabinet ‘had learned nothing’ from the nitrogen crisis.

Milieudefensie criticised the decision to use asphalt on the Utrecht ring road near nature reserve Amelisweerd. ‘It is bad for the environment and won’t make traffic more sustainable, healthier or cheaper,’ Milieudefensie spokesman Bram van Liere said.

He also said the plan to change the composition of animal feed to reduce ammonia by adding enzymes was flawed. ‘That is good for [chemical company] DSM but not for farmers moving towards cyclical agriculture.’

Greenpeace said the measures did not do enough to tackle the root causes of the nitrogen crisis. ‘That would mean promoting ecological agriculture with fewer animals. The cabinet could begin the process immediately if it imposed compulsory pasturing and limited the import of soy for cattle feed,’ a spokesman said.

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