THE HAGUE, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Court of The Hague ordered the Dutch State to compose an air quality plan that complies with all European regulations in a ruling on Thursday.
According to the verdict, the Dutch State must take more measures to ensure that all exceedances of the norm will disappear in the shortest possible period. The court also prohibited the State from taking measures that will lead to ongoing or new exceedances of the limits.
European legislation, which is also enshrined in Dutch law, prescribes that the amount of pollutants in the air must be brought and remain under certain limits and the State is responsible for this. These limits for particulates and nitrogen dioxide are still exceeded on several locations in the Netherlands, according to the judgment.
According to law, plans must be made in case of exceedances with measures to meet the limits as soon as possible. The Dutch State already made a plan with measures to improve air quality, the National Air Quality Cooperation Program (NSL), implemented in 2009, but according the judge, this plan does not meet the requirements laid down in European and Dutch regulations.
"The NSL only provides a summary of generic national measures," the judge stated. "But a list of all measures to be taken per problem lacks. Furthermore, the plan does not show that the exceedances will disappear in the shortest possible period. The NSL sets a horizon for 2020, but in the past, the deadline for reaching the limits has been moved several times."
The case was brought to court by the Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the health care organization Adem. According to them, the Dutch State does not do enough to make the air more clean. The plaintiffs also started main proceedings against the State.
"Yes, we won," Anne Knol, campaign leader sustainable mobility of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, reacted in a statement. "The government obviously puts our health at stake. It is imperative that action be taken as soon as possible to make the air healthier. Waiting any longer is irresponsible."
According to the EU Environmental Implementation Review by the European Commission in February this year, the Netherlands is a forerunner in environmental policy for a long time, both in terms of tackling environmental pressures and in organizing effective environmental governance.
"However, there are still several main challenges to be addressed and opportunities to be exploited," the report stated.
The Netherlands has difficulties in implementing some of the European Union environmental standards and the air quality is one of the main concerns, "in particular the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and ozone to prevent premature deaths," the report stated.
In addition, peak hour congestion is a big problem in the Netherlands, according to the European Commission. The three largest cities Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague are among the 12 worst performing urban areas in the EU. Overall the Netherlands is the second worst in the EU regarding the economic costs caused by traffic congestion, which causes high levels of air pollution.
It is not the first time in recent years that the Dutch is ordered to take environmental actions.
In June 2015, the Hague court ruled that the State must reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands by at least 25 percent in the year 2020, compared to those in 1990.