Onema

Home - Mission - Protect aquatic environments

A regional initiative to raise awareness of local prosecutors concerning the protection of aquatic environments

Prosecutors in charge of environmental issues in the Picardie region met at the Prosecutor general's offices in Amiens on 25 September with representatives from Onema and State services in charge of the water police. The meeting was an initiative of the deputy prosecutor general at the Court of appeals in Amiens, Jean-Philippe Rivaud, to raise awareness of local prosecutors concerning the protection of water and aquatic environments, and to coordinate penal policies and inspection programmes in the water field.

In efforts to preserve and restore the quality of aquatic environments, enforcement of regulations and other water-police activities in the field are an essential part of public policy. They accompany development work as well as preservation and restoration projects. However, reported damage to water resources and aquatic environments often remains insufficiently punished because prosecutors' offices do not pursue action and because there is little understanding of the issues surrounding each offence. The offices must therefore be informed and mobilised because they represent a major means of dissuasion against new attacks on water status and thus contribute to preserving and restoring good water status.

Building a partnership between prosecutors' offices and the water police
For the first time in the Picardie region, the deputy prosecutor general devoted the regional conference on public action in the environmental field to water. The meeting brought together all the prosecutors from the Picardie region and representatives of State services (central services, regional environmental agency, departmental territorial agencies), Onema, the Gendarmerie, etc. The discussions dealt with current regulations on water, a complex and technical subject, and environmental penal law. A number of concrete examples of policing activities involving the regional environmental agency, the departmental territorial agencies and Onema were presented. Examples included 1) the restoration of a buried section of river in the Oise department, made possible by an out-of-court settlement, 2) updating of the authorisation for an agri-food plant of an industrial company (subject to special environmental regulations) to upgrade the installation following a discharge that resulted the death of fish and 3) work on a levee in a wetland thanks to complementarities between the Environmental and the Urban codes.

Raise awareness concerning economic impacts and the risk of sanctions
"In efforts against offences causing environmental damage, judges and prosecutors must be made aware not only of the issues involved in preserving aquatic environments, but also of the economic impact of damage to the environment and the risk of European sanctions if water and aquatic environments do not achieve good status", noted François Lacroix, deputy general director of Onema, who was on hand to present the agency's role in the water police, but also to inform the participants on water issues that will arise on the global, European, national and local levels in the years to come. "We must build a partnership between the judicial sector and the specialised police forces by signing agreements, developing more in-depth and frequent contacts, innovative projects and shared information, similar to this regional conference on public action". The goal now is to develop and implement a strategy creating the means to respond to all non-complying inspections resulting in a citation and to adapt penalties in a pedagogical manner to the seriousness of each offence in order to achieve better compliance with regulations. An assessment of the economic issues involved and of the possible means of environmental repair could also assist in improving the quality of judicial decisions.

Contact:
pierre.boyer@onema.fr
pascale.boizard@onema.fr

Back to Newsletter