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Crop protection industry should fund the cost of cleaning up waterways and restoring habitats

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Pesticide companies told to fund clean up of waterways

Tom Levitt

10th November, 2010

Coalition of environmental groups including RSPB and the National Trust urge government to introduce a levy on chemical industry and enforce bigger fines for polluters

The pesticide industry should pay towards reducing pollution of waterways as well as creating clean water habitats to offset some of the damage caused by the use of its chemicals by farmers, argue conservation groups.

Government figures show that more than two thirds of rivers in England and Wales are failing European targets for water quality and that agricultural is the main source of pollution.

In a 'Blueprint for Water', the groups say it is wrong for taxpayers to continue paying for cleaning up polluted water through their water bills and through government mitigation schemes like Catchment Sensitive Farming, which costs around £25 million a year.

It says the crop protection and fertiliser industry should be the ones funding measures to reduce agricultural run-off pollution and creating new clean water habitats to mitigate ecological damage.

'If government is serious about big society then it should be the fertiliser and pesticide producers who should pay to deal with the problem of agricultural pollution, not the taxpayer,' said RSPB head of water policy Rob Cunningham.

The Crop Protection Association said any tax on the chemical industry would be a 'step backwards' and would not be dealing with the problem. It urged the government to continue working with the sector on voluntary initiatives to reduce impact of farming use of pesticides.

The blueprint, which was first launched in 2006 and has been updated this week to target the new government, says it is time to lift the limit on fines that could be imposed on polluters. Both the Wildfowl & Wetlands and Angling Trusts said that as well as being too infrequent the current fines were 'nominal' and did not reflect the long-term damage caused to the ecosystem by the pollution incidents.

The blueprint also calls for household water bills to be metered so that higher users pay more and for the restoration of wetlands and floodplains.

Useful links
Blueprint for Water: see the 10 prorities


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