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European Commission Blueprint recognises the importance of wetlands for safeguarding Europe’s waters

15-Nov-2012

Brussels, Belgium – Wetlands International welcomes the European Commission’s Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources. The Communication to the Parliament and European Council recognises the benefits of river restoration and green infrastructure to improve the ecological status of Europe’s waters. However, bolder steps are needed to address the increasing threats to Europe’s waters.

Jane Madgwick, chief executive officer of Wetlands International stated, “Europe’s waters face many daunting challenges. Better implementation of the Water Framework Directive is urgently needed. The Blueprint rightly highlights the benefits of river restoration and green infrastructure as solutions. Proposals on Natural Water Retention Measures, ecological flows, water accounting and funding for green infrastructure measures under Cohesion and Rural Development are a step in the right direction.”

“The Blueprint recognizes that the ultimate success of these proposals will depend on implementation by Member States. Awareness and know-how of green infrastructure are still lacking at the Member State level and need additional incentives and guidance are to ensure uptake.”

“To ensure that the goal of improved ecological status is achieved, bolder steps are definitely needed. Modification of water bodies due to hydropower, navigation, agriculture and flood protection is impairing water quality, biodiversity, and the overall ecological status of these waters. The Blueprint needs the ambition to tackle the multiple impacts of these different sectors head on, in a manner that is consistent with the threats.”

More knowledge sharing with Member States needed

The Blueprint only encourages green infrastructure measures in the River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) submitted by Member States. More needs to be done to turn this encouragement into tangible action and ensure uptake by river basin managers, landscape architects and local government agencies. Additional knowledge brokering, dissemination of best practices and support for formal and informal river restoration networks as exemplified by RESTORE, REFORM and ECRR is needed to enable effective implementation.

Support for river restoration and green infrastructure

River restoration as part of ensuring green infrastructure is a key means to help reduce and counter the impacts of land and water use, and provides the basis for resilient and sustainable water resource management. Green infrastructure and river restoration are already encouraged in the Water Framework Directive, but guidance to date has not been enough to stimulate action, and there has been no obligation to look at the value of green infrastructure and specifically river restoration.

Proposals on Natural Water Retention Measures, ecological flows and water accounts are steps in the right direction. Making activities such as the restoration of floodplains and wetlands a priority for funding under the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion and Structural Funds is an opportunity to expand the use of green infrastructure. Though significant, these proposals did not originate in the Blueprint and their adoption is in no way certain.

Underlying pressures on good ecological status demand greater attention

Modification of water bodies due to hydropower, navigation, agriculture and flood protection is impairing water quality, biodiversity, and the overall ecological status of Europe’s waters. Around 30% of rivers are now considered to be heavily modified and only a small fraction are in a natural condition. In some European countries up to 70% of rivers are heavily modified. To address these drivers the Blueprint needs to consider sectors outside of the environment, including transport, energy and spatial planning. A bolder, multi-sectoral and more clearly integrated approach is needed if measures to improve ecological status, including green infrastructure, are to be put in place.

View Blueprint submission by Wetlands International and partners.

For more information:

Paul Brotherton
Wetlands International
E-mail: Paul.brotherton @ wetlands.org
Tel. +31 (0) 318 660 910

Press contact

Press can contact:

Ms. Ytha Kempkes
Communications and Advocacy Manager
Tel. +31 (0)318 660933
Email: ytha.kempkes@wetlands.org

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