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Current State of the Environment in Ireland

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 1842 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Critical Evaluation of the Current State of the Environment in Ireland in Light of the Current Legislation


There is a growing concern to reconcile the proper development of business with environmental issues in order to promote basic environmental conditions that do not harm the community and the place where such industry will be installed. Thus, efforts to improve pollution levels, whether in terms of air, water, soil, noise, etc. Become fundamental. Entrepreneurs, more and more, must be aware of local needs and respond to their priorities and concerns.

Moreover, Environmental Licensing and permitting is a fundamental tool, since it allows the entrepreneur to identify the environmental effects of his business, and how these effects can be managed. This instrument seeks to ensure that the preventive and control measures adopted in the projects are compatible with sustainable development.

Regarding this, Ireland follows the European Union (EU) legislation to protect the environment, the main bodies responsible to ensure that the environment legislation is being follow is the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), the local authorities and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The aim of this work is to do a critical evaluation on the current legislation of air and water quality on the current state of the environment in Ireland.


The Air Quality Framework was established in 1996 by the European Commission, in the aim to improve the air quality, succeeding this the four “daughter” directives were implemented in order to established limits for different pollutants. Although, this air quality framework and his first 3 “daughters” directives were replaced in 2008 by the Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe (CAFÉ) Directive.

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Following this, in 2009, the fourth ‘daughter’ directive was transposed into the Irish legislation, were it specifies limit values and requirements to monitor arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic hydrocarbons. In 2011, the CAFÉ Directive was transposed to the Air Quality Standards in the Irish legislation. Comparing with other countries in the European Union (EU), Ireland have a good air quality but the biggest challenge is to keep the levels below the limit, especially because is growing the particulate matter on the air and this grow is more concern on the winter months because of the domestic solid fuel burning.

From the air pollutants the most concern, considered by the European Environment Agency (EEA) are nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (PM), ozone and PAHs. Those air pollutants are the most dangerous for the human health, vegetation and ecosystems and in the figure bellow it can be noticed the impacts. For this reason, the levels of air pollutants have to be monitor closely and its classified as “very good”, “good”, “fair”, “poor” and “very poor”. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) co-ordinate and manages this monitoring through 31 stations spread in Ireland and the data is available for the public.

Figure 1- Impacts of Air Pollution (Source: EPA,2014)

Figure 2.2

In order to improve the air quality, the EPA is implementing new measures by increasing the monitoring network with a program call new National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme where the public have a real-time information about the air quality and the pollutants. In the case of domestic fuel burning, will be implemented the nationwide ban on smoky coal and it is due in 2018 by encouraging the change from solid fuel to cleaner fuel alternatives and increasing the awareness about how the house heating can affect the quality of air.

Moreover, as part of the EU Clean Air Policy Package Directive, the government of Ireland is going to implement the National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) to decrease the pollutant levels such as NOx and ammonia. Levels of ammonia is starting to rise concerns because of the agriculture sector growth that leads to a secondary formation of particulate matter. Another measure that can be adopt to help the air quality, water quality and climate change associated energy recovery with the anaerobic digestion of animal wastes.


In 2000, The EU Directive implemented The Water Framework Directive (WFD), 2000/60/EC was established. This legislation it is a framework for the management of sustainable water which includes the protection of surface water, estuaries – transitional waters; groundwater and coastal waters. In addition, WFD also involves the protection of the entire ecosystem such as the animals and plants that lives there. According to the EPA website, this water framework directive it is important for maintain the “good status” of the waters use in different activities like bathing, recreating and drinking.

With this legislation the water bodies are classified in five different levels: high status, good status, moderate status, poor status and bad status. In order to get at least a “good status”, the WFD created some programmes for the water bodies. The aim of these programmes is to specify the ‘nature, extent and frequency” that is analysed on the water bodies

To monitoring the water bodies in Ireland, the country was divided in eight River Basin District (RBD) and it is not based on political borders. Was necessary to identify and classify each RBD for create a River Basin District Plan in order to achieve the necessary target status.


The Water Framework looks a good way to ensure the quality of water and to protect the environmental, but appears to be few weaknesses points in the River Basin Management Plans, especially because these Plans do not specify any action that have to be made to prevent the deterioration of the water bodies and a way to recovery the water that is not classify as a “good status” by the WFD. (SWAN, 2014).

Moreover, the major problem in Ireland is that there is not a single agency that manages the quality of water but multiple organizations that regulates and supervises, leaving difficult to actually act effective. The idea of the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) is that the current water management structure needs a restructuration.

In order to fix the problem with the fragmentation of agencies that manages the quality of water, the government of Ireland with managers from EPA and City and County Managers Association (CCMA) are proposing a type of three-tier governance system, as shown in figure 2 below.  It is a new system that delegate each tier for different agencies to lead and also specify what are they aims within the new system. The tier one is led by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG), tier two is led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the tier three is led by the local authorities.


Figure 2: The three-tier governance structure for the Second Cycle River Basin Management Plans.

Another problem that was identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) related with the Water Framework Directive is that in order to classified the water status, they do not consider microbiological elements. According to an analysis made by the EPA in 2012 “40% of all samples taken from the 285 wells and springs in the EPA national groundwater monitoring network were polluted by microbial pathogens, which can pose a threat to private water supplies in particular.”


It is important to increase the awareness of the pollution of air and water, since that they are related with public health and also economic aspects. The quality of water and air has to be good in order to preserve the environment to future generation. The existence of government regulations and legislations it is essential to keep a sustainable and preserve environment. In addition, more research has to done in order to create a link between the air and water quality with public health, this understanding is essential to identify the main issue and help all organizations to implement necessary improvements in the system.

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In conclusion, the agencies in charge for the environmental legislation acknowledges many of the problems that was cited in this paper and it is doing something about it to change the scenario. Legislation is always changing by implementing something new that it is discover, especially when it is about the environmental that is constantly changing and new technologies are coming.


Sustainable Water Network, 2013.The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): Interactions with the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and implications for the status of Ireland’s waters. [pdf] Dublin 2: Sustainable Water Network (SWAN). Available at: [Accessed 23th February].

Dublin Regional Air Quality Management Plan, 2009-2012. [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 23th February].

Citizen Information, 2016. European environmental law. [online] Available at:   [Accessed 23th February].

Environmental Policy Agency, 2012.Ireland’s Environment an Assessment. [pdf] Wexford: Environmental Policy Agency (EPA). Available at: < https://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/indicators/00061_EPA_SoE_2012.pdf> [Accessed 23th February].

Environmental Policy Agency, 2015. WFD Governance. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23th February].

European Commission, 2015.Introduction to the new EU Water Framework Directive. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23th February].

Environmental Policy Agency, 2017. Ireland´s Environmental Air. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23th February].


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