Large regional differences in heavy metal emissions

23/12/2008 15:00

Viewed nationally, Dutch companies emitted fewer heavy metals into waste and surface water in the period 1995-2005. At the same time, the economy grew in the same period. As a result the environmental performance of companies has improved substantially. 

However, in terms of river catchment areas, the areas that drain into one of the four rivers Rhine, (Rijn), Meuse (Maas), Scheldt (Schelde) and Ems (Eems), there are large differences between economic growth and emissions of heavy metals. In the period 1995-2005 economic growth in the catchment area Rhine Central was 39 percent, while in the Ems catchment area it was only 8 percent. In the Ems area emissions of heavy metal fell only slightly, while emissions in Rhine West dropped considerably.

Economic growth and decrease in emissions of heavy metals by river catchment area, 1995-2005

Economic growth and decrease in emissions of heavy metals by river catchment area, 1995-2005

As a result, the emission intensity dropped by most in the area Rhine West. In spite of high economic growth in this region the emission decreased substantially. One reason for this was the clean-up of the artificial fertiliser industry in the Rijnmond area near Rotterdam. This industry emitted large amounts of heavy metals. The emission intensity fell by least in the Ems catchment area.

Emission intensity of heavy metals, by river catchment area

Emission intensity of heavy metals, by river catchment area

River catchment areas in the Netherlands

River catchment areas in the Netherlands

Maarten van Rossum en Marije van de Grift