I propose to take Questions Nos. 503 to 507, inclusive and 524 to 528, inclusive, together.
The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requires Member States to establish the outer (seaward) limits of estuaries for the purposes of the Directive. In a February 1995 report to my Department, Identification of the Outer Limits of Estuaries in Ireland, the EPA, in consultation with the authorities in Northern Ireland, established the outer limit of the estuary of the Foyle river in that context. The objective criteria used in the establishment of these limits were geomorphic and chemical (i.e. salinity) factors. I understand that alternative criteria were used by the UK authorities in establishing the limits in the Severn and Humber estuaries.
The outer limit of Lough Foyle was subsequently used in the identification of the estuary as a transitional water under the Water Framework Directive and the remaining waters of the Lough outside this boundary as a coastal water, in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 7 of the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations, 2003. All surface water and groundwater bodies have been classified in accordance with these Regulations which give effect to the Water Framework Directive.
The Water Framework Directive is an overarching Directive that establishes a framework for the management of water resources in the European Union. It requires, inter alia, the achievement of good ecological status in all surface waters, the definition of which includes both transitional and coastal waters. As regards environmental objectives, the Water Framework Directive draws no distinction between transitional waters and coastal waters; there is no question of a looser environmental protection associated with the classification of water bodies as either transitional or coastal waters. The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is one of the basic measures of the Water Framework Directive.
Discussions regarding the question of jurisdiction over the Foyle and Carlingford Estuaries are a matter for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I understand these discussions are ongoing. While resolution of the jurisdictional issues should further assist in the implementation of environmental law, including relevant EU Directives, there is already excellent ongoing cooperation between the authorities in both jurisdictions on matters relating to the environment, many of which are mandated to the North South Ministerial Council established under the British Irish Agreement.
The designation of sites under the Ramsar Convention is a matter for my colleague the nister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I understand that Ireland currently has 45 designated sites (almost 67,000 hectares) under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. I also understand that Ireland’s priorities and resources in relation to site designations are currently focused on fully implementing the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Birds Directive (EU Nature Directives).