Soils in Europe should have a clean bill of health by 2050. That is what the European Directive on Soil Monitoring and Resilience, published at the beginning of July, prescribes. The document is part of a European movement towards greater and stricter protection of our natural environment including healthier soils, cleaner water and more organic farming. It is an important directive for anyone involved in soil. As the European Commission put it: “Soil is a vital, limited, non-renewable and irreplaceable resource.”
The directive will have an impact on civil works in cities, infrastructure and rural areas. It describes what healthy soils are, how to measure and monitor them and what needs to be done to combat contamination and clean up our soils.
The directive is not yet in force and that is expected to take some time yet. Member states will first negotiate on the contents before the directive can ultimately be adopted and incorporated in national legislation.
I sincerely hope that the Directive will be an effective ‘medicine’ to help consolidate sustainable soil management in practical terms, in particular because we will be able to carry out the Water and Soil policy memorandum at the same time.
Any medicinal product requires a good information leaflet, so I have written one for you:
Healthy soil is a vital system, providing ecosystem services and is the essential foundation for our economy, community and environment. Healthy soils are able to store carbon, are used to produce healthy foods and help counter the negative impact of climate change and extreme weather conditions. The harsh reality is that over 60% of European soils are unhealthy.
Before each intended use of the soil, its chemical, physical and biological qualities need to be taken into consideration. As a rule of thumb, the soil quality should remain the same or improve. Disruption of the soil should be prevented as much as possible and any procedures with negative impact must be taken with compensatory measures.
If everyone in the world lived like we currently do in the Netherlands, we would use up 3 earths per year. Don’t use more ecosystem services than available on earth.
Misuse or excessive use of the soil leads to reduced crop yields, health damage, drought, erosion and diminished resilience against climate change.
Soil is a limited resource and the generations after us also need healthy soils. The above prescription will certainly make that possible. I am in favour of a rapid introduction of the directive. How about you?