USA and Canada sign binational treaty to protect Great Lakes, environmentalists doubt

The Great Lakes are a group of five lakes on the border between the United States and Canada. They are the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world and are considered also as closed seas. They cover a total of 244,160 km ².

Recently, United States and Canada signed an agreement to protect and restore the Great Lakes region, although many environmentalists and NGOs, “the Treaty falls short”.

“While there are plenty of very good proposals, and new issues addressed, many show that those who drafted it the subject is totally unknown,” said Gail Krantzberg, director of the Centre for Engineering and Public Policy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“The current procedures, programs, methods for implementation of the agreement are not really defined.”

According to the “Quality Agreement” for the protection of the Great Lakes, originally signed in 1972, and established commitments that were not fully executed by both parties.

Although advocates support the updated approach issues such as climate change and invasive species, many said they should have been consulted to address other important issues.

“We were looking forward to real objectives such as the elimination of wastewater discharge, habitat restoration, things of that nature,” said John Jackson, interim executive director and program director of Great Lakes United.

The U.S. Federal Agencies and Canada responsible for the renegotiation of the agreement were criticized for their lack of transparency and accountability, said Krantzberg.

Staff members have a history of failing to report the progress of the negotiations, and those negotiations are often made behind closed doors, without the participation of those who would be affected, critics said.
Krantzberg and Jackson state that agencies need to inform the public to ensure that their plans are developed efficiently.

“Our frustration is that these planning processes can take a long time and we must act now,” said Jackson, “more responsibility would meet the voices of industry, farmers, environmental groups and other communities,” added Jackson.

In the past four decades, the earlier agreement had a significant role in the detention of nutrient pollution and wastewater, said Andrew Buchsbaum, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters Coalition, a partnership of environmental organizations.

The amendments made in 1987 were able to reverse the levels of toxic contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.

There was great progress in expanding and upgrading sewage plants and banning of detergents containing phosphorus coming from the original agreement, Buchsbaum said.

The new focus on climate change and invasive species are especially welcome, as they reflect the new realities of the region.

Advanced scientific methods that have improved our understanding of water quality are also reflected in the focus of the agreement, said John Jackson.

The agreement also includes plans to solve problems related to near-shore environments, biodiversity, pollution of groundwater and nutrient pollution, said Gail Krantzberg.

The renegotiated agreement was signed in Washington, DC by the Canadian Minister of the Environment Peter Kent and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa P. Jackson.

Gustavo Carrasquel | ANCA24

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About ANCA24canada

Environmental, Ecologists and Conservationist news from the Americas
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