Consequences of failing to act to protect our environment are evident, says Blair

Alliance’s Environment spokesperson John Blair MLA was speaking after the Northern Ireland Audit Office published its report on Water Quality in Northern Ireland’s Rivers and Lakes.

Environment John Blair

According to the report, in 2021 less than one-third of rivers and only 14% of lakes in Northern Ireland had good ecological status, representing no improvement in river quality and a diminished improvement in lake quality since 2015. This ultimately means that the European targets for improving water quality in Northern Ireland’s rivers and lakes by 2027 will not be met.


The South Antrim MLA has said: “This new report echoes many of the facts the Rivers Trust report outlined just a few weeks ago. How many more reports do we need to understand the severity of the issue?


“It perfectly highlights our failures by contrasting Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Approximately twice as many rivers and lakes in the Republic of Ireland achieved good or, in some cases, better ecological status than in Northern Ireland.


I recently questioned the new Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister on these issues and was glad to hear that he intends to bring a new Environmental Improvement Plan to the Executive for consideration in the coming weeks. Such a plan should be a significant step forward in restoring our natural environment, including our water quality in particular, to reduce the chances of experiencing yet another blue-green algal bloom crisis within Lough Neagh and across the entire catchment area.


There is no doubt, however, that cross-departmental efforts are required if we are to address these issues seriously. Every policy and practice must be on the table for review, as we clearly cannot continue with the status quo any longer. The consequences of failing to act on these issues in the past number of years are clearly evident as our natural environment continues to decline before our eyes.


Further inaction is simply not an option, and we all have a role to play in fixing our rivers and lakes. The proposals put forth by our new DAERA minister are an encouraging step in the right direction for our future.”