The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 7, Number 2, 2008

ISSN 1602-2297

Th e Dutch Approach to the Implementation f the Nitrate Directive: Explaining the Inevitability of its Failure

Stuart Wright
Copenhagen University, Faculty of Life Sciences, Department of Environment and Regional Development, Rolighedsvej 25, 1958 Frederiksberg C, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Christina Mallia
Malta Environment and Planning Authority, St. Francis Ravelin, Floriana, Malta.

Abstract: Th e article provides an analysis of the Dutch approach to the implementation of the European Union’s Nitrate Directive (91/676/EC). According to the Nitrate Directive, member states were obliged to implement certain mandatory measures with the aim of achieving the environmental target of the Directive, the reduction of nitrates in groundwater to 50mgN/litre in line with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines for safe drinking water. Th e article seeks to explain why the Dutch government chose not to implement one of these mandatory measures, a manure application standard, preferring instead to use an alternative system, known as Minas, which combined a tax on nutrient losses with nutrient accounting. Th e reason for the selection of the Minas system was that it promised to reduce the costs of achieving the environmental goal of the Nitrate Directive. However, despite the perceived advantages, Minas failed and was replaced in 2006. Th e article explains the reasons for this failure and points to two errors of judgment which made failure inevitable from the outset. Th is article is based on a study carried out on Minas in 2003/2004, which included empirical research and the conclusions presented here are derived from interviews with researchers, policy makers and representatives from the agricultural industry in Th e Netherlands.

Keywords: Minas, cost-eff ective, Nitrate Directive, environmental tax, nutrient accounting, policy failure

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