Thursday April 15, 2021
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Belgium: also judgment against pumping groundwater for irrigation

The Council of State in Belgium has destroyed a permit for pumping groundwater due to possible damage to the surrounding nature. The judgment makes it more difficult to obtain permits to pump up groundwater for agricultural use.

The Council of State recently annulled a permit that the Antwerp region had granted to the agricultural group Quirynen Agri Farming, for the irrigation of maize fields near Turnhout. The Flemish nature organization Natuurpunt had appealed because it feared for the surrounding protected nature, which is susceptible to drought.

The Council of State says that it does not appear that the pumping will not have a negative effect on nature. This approach is in line with the recent nitrogen judgment in which it was also argued that something had not been investigated and proven beforehand. After nitrogen, groundwater is now also a critical factor for Belgian agriculture.

Experts had advised unfavorably in the advisory procedure, but that was wrongly ignored in the procedure, it has now been determined. According to the Flemish newspaper De Tijd, this groundwater arrest could have far-reaching consequences for other water abstractions in the vicinity of protected nature. In that sense, it has already been compared to the much-discussed nitrogen judgment.

'The assessment of new applications will have to be stricter,' predicts the Flemish Minister of Environment and Nature, Zuhal Demir (N-VA). 'We are still looking into the current permits.'

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