French environment minister Dominique Voynet confirmed her department’s intention to introduce a tax on the use of nitrogen fertilisers by agriculture as part of the country’s environmental taxation policy, known as TGAP.

The tax on nitrogen fertilisers is planned for next year and will also be a component of the expected reformation of the country’s Programme to Control Organic Agricultural Pollution. With France facing European Court action on its failure to implement adequately the EU Nitrates Directive (see related story), the tax on nitrogen fertilisers may be seen as a sign of improvement by the European Commission.

Detergents will also be taxed from 2000, because of the impacts on their phosphate content. Voynet expressed the hope that a tax on detergents, as part of TGAP, would result in reduced consumption.

Certain pesticides will also be included under TGAP taxation. With pesticides detected in 47% of springs, 50% of coastal waters and 20% of France’s groundwater resources, the issue of pesticide impact on water quality is pressing. A quarter of the country’s water that is deemed unfit for human consumption has earned the designation thanks to pesticide levels.

It is estimated that taxation on pesticides will raise 300 million FF in 2000, based on known sales data.

Gravel extraction will also be taxed under TGAP, due to the risk of water pollution and the increased risks of flooding caused by changes in alluvial landscapes. About 200 million FF is the estimated revenue for 2000.

Finally, the Environment Ministry is considering the feasibility of taxing the discharge of radioactive waste into water courses as well as nuclear power stations’ use of water that results in heated water being discharged.

In addition to the enlargement of the TGAP, Voynet has outlined plans for an update of French water law in 2001. The new legislation will update laws passed in 1964 and 1992. Plans exist to rationalise and, in some cases, increase the fees charged by the French Water Agencies. The only group expected to see water charges stabilise will be domestic users. Industry and agricultural will see charges rise.

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