world : Lough Neagh needs significant investment - report

world : Lough Neagh needs significant investment - report
world : Lough Neagh needs significant investment - report

Thursday 13 June 2024 08:45 AM

Nafeza 2 world - A new report says significant investment is needed to tackle the environmental issues facing Lough Neagh, BBC News NI understands.

It was commissioned after blue-green algae bloomed at unprecedented levels last year.

It is understood the Lough Neagh Report will outline more than 30 actions covering education, incentivisation, regulation and enforcement.

The Northern Ireland Executive is due to discuss the recommendations on Thursday.

Pollution in the lough and catchment area is the main cause of the blue-green algae, which is extremely toxic to animals and can cause illness in humans.

Some of the suggested actions have already been funded, including the Farming with Nature scheme and several training programmes for farmers.

But money will need to be found for others, such as an initiative to research potential solutions, additional water quality Inspectors and a centralised resource for science around Lough Neagh.

Most of the report's proposals are thought to fall to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

A smaller number, mostly concerning enforcement and regulation, are expected to involve the infrastructure and justice departments.

Agriculture Minister Andrew Muir told the assembly in April that Lough Neagh is a "priority" and called on assembly members to "get real" about the problems.

He is expected to reverse an instruction from his predecessor Edwin Poots, which placed a cap on fines for repeated negligent failures to comply with environmental, health and animal welfare rules.

Ownership of Lough Neagh is not believed to form part of the report.

Many of its elements are also part of the overdue legally-required Environmental Improvement Plan, which has been awaiting executive approval since March.

The Lough Neagh Report is expected to put in place short, medium and long-term actions to tackle the problems that have developed over years.

It is long-awaited, with broader implications for the overall improvement of water quality right across Northern Ireland.

Those improvements will come at a price, with some recommendations understood to potentially cost millions in an already-constrained Stormont budget.

But ministers will have to put their money where their mouths are, if their professed concern for the condition of the lough is to be taken seriously.

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