Sunday, November 20, 2022

Mapping the New Manure Action Plan

Belgium newspaper De Tijd has carried out an awesome geographical analysis of the Flemish government's Seventh Manure Action Plan (MAP7). Under European Union directives Belgium must reduce the amount of nitrates and phosphates which are being washed into Belgium waterways from agricultural fertilizers. 

By 2027 all bodies of water must achieve a 'good' status. The new Manure Action Plan proposes introducing a set of measures to reduce over-fertilization and its polluting impact on Belgium's inland water. One of these proposed measures is extending the width of the buffer zone which must exist between watercourses and agricultural crop-land. 

In Where are the thousands of hectares of endangered agricultural land? De Tijd has mapped out the impact of extending the current 1 meter buffer zone to 3 meters or to 6 meters. By mapping out Belgium's crop-land and its watercourses De Tijd is able to show how much crop-land is lost under different sized buffer zones. 

Buffer zones between crop-land and watercourses are essential to reduce the washoff of fertilizer into rivers and streams, therefore reducing the amount of nitrates and phosphates that end up in Belgium's inland waterways. However increasing the size of these buffer zones obviously decreases the amount of land which can then be used for growing crops. 

De Tijd's analysis shows that the current 1 meter buffer means that just over 4,700 hectares are removed from agricultural land in Flanders. Increase the buffer zone to 3 meters and almost 14,000 hectares are removed from possible crop-land. Increase the buffer zone to 6 meters and almost 30,000 hectares are removed from possible agricultural land. That is around 4.4% of all Flemish agricultural land.

Using De Tijd's interactive map you can explore where in Flanders the increases to buffer zones will have the biggest impact on available crop-land. De Tijd also goes on to show which specific crops would be most affected by the MAP7 proposals. 

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