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  • About the National
    water committee...

    •   The National water committee (CNE) was created by the 1964 Water law and is essentially the "Water parliament" in France. It brings together and creates synergies between all the various stakeholders in the water field, including elected officials, the State, local governments, consumers, associations, etc. Serving as the place for the initial, guiding debates on future water policy, the committee also advises on subsequent State plans and documents.


Questions for André Flajolet, president of the National water committee and key promoter
of the Water law

Last December, you were elected president of the National water committee. What is the role of the CNE concerning the Grenelle agreement?

The Grenelle agreement is an extraordinary opportunity. It is based on the desire to change the manner in which humans relate to nature. Such a revolutionary change in behaviour will have a considerable impact on how we produce and consume, as well as on how we view nature. As a driving force in this process, CNE must be capable of anticipating future issues and provoking change in cultural habits. It must facilitate open discussion and debate on the major environmental issues to enhance policy making and provide all water stakeholders with the necessary information. We must also provide the general population with our knowledge and make people aware of our questions and intentions, in order to change behaviour and practices. Today, too many people are still unaware of the fundamental issues in the fields of water and the environment.

What are the priorities, the major guidelines for the work at CNE?

I will mention four. First, we must learn to reconcile the new economic practices with environmental protection. Take for example hydroelectrical generation. It is absolutely necessary to find the right balance between future development of this type of renewable energy and the protection of aquatic environments. The second priority is to revise the RBMPs (river-basin management plans) in overseas territories. Each RBMP defines the fundamental guidelines for balanced and sustainable management of water resources and must become a means to encourage citizen-based democracy and the sharing of knowledge. Their acceptance by the population is a critical factor given the urgent need to preserve water resources and biodiversity, and to increase access to drinking water and sanitation in the overseas territories. The third is to acquire scientific knowledge on the risks for the environment and human health caused by phytosanitary products or medicinal residues in aquatic environments. Finally, the last priority is the decision by the Ecology ministry to launch a Grenelle agreement for the oceans. We must deal with the issues at hand, particularly the relations between sea and fresh water.

Two years after the vote of the new Water law that you promoted, has France created the sufficient and necessary means to meet the goals of the European water framework directive?

The goal of the WFD to reach the good ecological status of water requires good governance of water stakeholders. The WFD and the Water law confirmed the system of management according to river basins implemented in France since 1964. The basin committees and Water agencies, the operational and technical arms of water policy, play a fundamental role in each basin. Similarly, on the local level, the effective countrywide creation of SBMPs (sub-basin management plans) facilitates collaboration between local players in the local water commissions and makes it possible to launch effective action and induce change in behaviour and practices. The WFD goals required improvements in and coordination of water governance on the national level. Hence the creation of Onema, to assist in decision-making and in public action, serving as the interface between the national and local levels. Thanks to its overall vision and scientific and technical know-how, Onema will contribute a coordinated, effective and uniform water policy for the entire country. The success of our ambitious goals will now depend on the responsible attitude of stakeholders. In my opinion, if the locomotive is not followed by all the wagons, we will not reach the station. And reaching the station is necessary, first of all given the European requirements and the corresponding penalties, and secondly, because it is a political decision.