Although the Netherlands has implemented a nitrate action plan across the entire country – instead of restricting it to Nitrate Vulnerable Zones as many other member states have done – the EC has identified alleged deficiencies and argues that the action plan does not fulfil the EU Nitrates Directive. The alleged weaknesses of the Dutch nitrate action plan include:

  • amount of livestock manure applied to land is not limited
  • authorised losses of livestock manure into the environment are high and fines for non-compliance “are not dissuasive”
  • no limit on chemical fertilisation for specific crops
  • no legislation controlling the application of fertilisers to steeply sloping ground
  • buffer zones designed to protect watercourses are very narrow
  • nitrate legislation does not account properly for climatic conditions and rainfall
  • measures introduced for grasslands on sandy soil are insufficient

Announcing the court action, the EC also points out that talks between EC and Dutch officials since August last year – when the EC issued a final warning – have been productive and “the Dutch authorities are aware of the scale of the challenge facing them”.

The EC has acknowledged that implementation of the EU Nitrates Directive by member states has not been a success. The majority of EU member states are being taken to court or have received warnings regarding their non-respect of the directive.

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