Home - Themes - Run checks on resource use - Establishing closer links between all environmental police forces


    -Patrick Lewden \ Saint-Brieuc high court
    "At the high court of the Côtes-d'Armor department, we handle each year about 1 000 criminal offences against the environment..."

    -Philippe Charretton \ Morbihan DDTM
    "In 2010, Onema, ONCFS and the Morbihan DDTM took part in the experiments to establish closer links between the water police and the nature police, though we were already forerunners in this effort..."

Establishing closer links between all environmental police forces

The water police is a central factor in achieving the ambitious goal of 66% of surface water bodies with good ecological status by 2015. One of the essential missions at Onema is to enforce regulations on the preservation of aquatic environments by focusing inspections on WFD issues, reinforcing cooperation between police services and reporting to the EU commission on the work done and the results achieved. In 2010, Onema personnel drafted 5 270 technical opinions for prefects and carried out 22 000 inspections in the field. Experiments were also run throughout the year to establish closer links between the water police and the nature police. Those efforts will be generalised in 2011.

22 000 inspections with a 60% compliance rate

Onema personnel ran 22 144 inspections in the field. The results were in compliance with regulations 60% of the time, on average. This shows that a majority of water users respect the regulations, but there are discrepancies depending on the issue inspected.

In terms of criminal offences, which represent 55% of reports filed by Onema, the number of incidents stabilised in 2010, particularly concerning the use of phytosanitary products.

Only 11% of all inspections resulted in a citation, which shows that the inspection work is above all preventive in nature. This is confirmed by the fact that in situations of non compliance, only 55% were considered criminal offences (31% resulted in citations, 24% in reports), compared to 20% for simple letters stipulating the regulations and 25% for oral or written warnings.


Building closer links between all environmental police forces

In order to improve the organisation and effectiveness of the environmental police forces in meeting goals for the quality of water and aquatic environments and the preservation of biodiversity, experiments were carried out in 13 departments on building closer ties between the water and nature police forces run by the departmental territorial and maritime agencies, ONCFS and Onema.Once the experiments have been evaluated by the national work group set up by the Ecology ministry, the system of closer ties will be expanded to cover all departments in 2011. Deployment will proceed in step with a redefinition of the inspection policy and formulation of a quality programme for the water and nature police. Environmental police work will now be carried out in the framework of strategic interservice inspection programmes set by the prefects. Inspections will focus on water bodies at risk of not reaching good water status in 2015 or at risk of degradation.

Enhance the quality and technical capabilities of the water police

As part of an improvement programme (see page 39) intended to increase the professionalism of the water police, a number of documents have been published:
• 470 data sheets from the aquatic-environment technical database to assist in drafting technical opinions;
• 10 topical guides to assist in devising an inspection strategy and an abridged method on setting inspection targets;
• 13 technical data sheets listing the points that must be inspected;
• a technical guide on measuring legal flow rates (to be published);
• a writing guide on drafting reports on observed offences.

The documents, shared with the Water and biodiversity department in the Ecology ministry, are used by both Onema and the departmental work agencies.

Finally, 12 audits were carried out to assess appropriation by personnel of the resulting methods and documents that were tested in the units experimenting closer ties among the environmental police forces.

Better monitoring of inspections

ICases of non-compliance must be monitored to measure the effectiveness of inspections (administrative or legal consequences) and consolidate the legitimacy of personnel in their inspection missions. This explains the need for regular contacts with the departmental work agencies and the courts. To that end, agreements have been signed with the State prosecutors in 59 departments to set the conditions and goals of the work together.

The six targets of inspections managed by Onema in the framework of the departmental inspection programmes

• Ecological continuity
• Work in rivers
• Pesticide-free zones near sources of water and along rivers
• Draw-offs and legal limitations during dry periods
• Preservation of wetlands
• Efforts against poaching of eels and young salmon


Onema in the South-West region : Protection of aquatic environments along highway A65

Highway A65 from Langon to Pau was inaugurated on 14 December 2010 and is typical of the large linear-transport systems mentioned in the WFD and the Grenelle laws for their environmental impact. Ecological issues are considerable given that the road travels through 60 wetlands and over 70 rivers, with all the corresponding infrastructure. The Onema regional office in Toulouse and the personnel in the local offices for the Landes, Gironde and Pyrénées-Atlantiques departments worked together during the design stage to provide technical opinions on the relevance of the initial status report and of proposed corrective and compensation measures, as well as on the duration of the work and modifications to infrastructure made necessary by unforeseen problems. Similarly, a number of inspections were carried out, occasionally in the company of the departmental territorial agencies and the national CETE engineering offices. The inspections addressed compliance with the interdepartmental regulations and paid particular attention to how water issues were handled. A total of 80 visits in the field, spread over 85 days, were required to protect the aquatic environments along this gigantic project.