Nature in Flanders scores worst in Europe, EU report shows
Belgium, and particularly Flanders, has serious challenges to tackle in terms of nature and biodiversity. A new report from the European Commission details how water and air quality as well as nature and biodiversity are lacking. However, Belgium receives good scores for its waste policy, reports De Standaard.
The biodiversity issue is particularly challenging, according to the report. 95% of Belgium's protected habitats from the Natura2000 network are not in good condition and are "in an unfavourable conservation status", which is the worst score of the EU, the report underscores.
Over half of Belgium's protected forests are not in good shape, a worrying development according to the Commission's report.
There are several reasons why nature in Belgium has received such poor scores, including too much fragmentation and high environmental pressure due to nitrogen and desiccation.
"We measure and report rigorously, which cannot be said of all member states," Jeroen Vanden Borre of the Flemish Institute for Nature and Forest Research (Inbo) nuances. "But that should not be an excuse," Vanden Borre adds.
The European Commission pointed out that nature management in Flanders is done by the regional government or large NGOs. However, protecting privately owned nature is lagging behind. Management plans for private land will not be implemented until the end of 2023.
The Commission calls the delay "legally problematic", as Flanders has no other measures to combat decline in those areas. By contrast, Wallonia has effective regulations, according to the Commission.
It is unclear how much protected nature is in private hands in Flanders, according to the region's Nature and Forests Agency.
Hikers walking in the Kalmthoutse Heide nature reserve in Kalmthout, Flanders © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS