For many years, the Brussels-Capital Region has been taking action to reduce the negative effects of urban activity on its inhabitants’ health and quality of life. Besides extensive information and prevention campaigns, it has decreed multiple stringent regulations in all domains affecting its inhabitants’ quality of life.
The Environmental Permit
The aim of the environmental permit is to ensure protection against the dangers, pollution or risks an installation or activity is likely to impose, directly or indirectly, on the environment, health or safety of the population. It is required by all companies wishing to modify, move or extend the purpose of their premises or activities, by using a new installation that is noisy or potentially the source of pollution, for instance.
The Environmental Police
Answerable to Brussels Environment, the aim of the environmental police is to prevent or solve any problems that are a danger to public health and the environment. Preventive inspections are scheduled, in certain sectors and certain areas, as well as unscheduled curative inspections, following accidents, incidents or complaints. During these inspections, Brussels Environment encourages dialogue and information rather than repression. Nevertheless, in case of an established breach, they can issue a statement or an administrative fine.
The Brussels-Capital Region has adopted a Regional Plan for the Prevention and Fight against Noise in Urban Environments which includes 44 measures aimed at intensifying the fight against all types of noise pollution, whatever the source. Various actions have been carried out to reduce noise pollution in Brussels, such as standards adapted to each source of noise, a network of sound level meters covering a major part of the Brussels area, managing inhabitants’ complaints or taking into account the noise involved in road development and public transport traffic. Brussels Environment has also developed maps of transport noise in the area, allowing it to monitor the evolution in the exposure of the population of Brussels to various sources of noise.
Some 2 million tons of waste are produced in Brussels every year. Since 1992, the Region has adopted a "waste prevention and management plan" or "waste plan" every five years. It includes all the means and actions it intends to implement to reduce waste production as much as possible and to "sustainably" manage the waste produced. For this purpose, it takes into account the Region’s specificities. Prior to development and recycling policies, the plan aims to encourage prevention at the source, re-use, composting, etc.
The Water Management Plan consists of an integrated and global response to all the challenges associated with water management in Brussels. This plan requires the Region to conduct various actions to minimise the impact of human pressure on aquatic ecosystems and restore the quality of underground and surface water: the sustainable use of drainage water, wastewater treatment, the protection of watercourses and other wet environments, etc.
The Regional Plan against Flooding, or the "Rain Plan" is an integral part of the water management plan and focuses on the causes of flooding encountered in the Brussels Region. It aims to reduce the impact of flooding through various measures aimed at: limiting land sealing and its impact on runoff, improving the Region’s drainage network, reinforcing the "maillage bleu" programme in order to improve runoff absorption capacities, and paying particular attention to the urbanisation of areas liable to flooding in the Region.
Soil Pollution Management
The inventory of soil conditions in Brussels currently includes 17,000 polluted areas, or areas presumed to be polluted, which represents 8% of the region.A new ruling relating to the management and decontamination of polluted soils was adopted on 5thMarch 2009. This inventory of soil conditions provides access to information prior to the sale of a property, thus guaranteeing that the level of pollution of a piece of land is known to the seller and the buyer before signing the deed. The ruling also holds that the owner or developer of the piece of land that is polluted (or likely to be) must carry out a soil analysis before selling the land or beginning, transferring or ending its development. If this person is responsible for the pollution, they will be required to decontaminate the land. On the other hand, if the pollution is historical, and the person responsible is unknown, the current owner (or buyer) may limit themselves to taking risk management measures in case of an impact on health and the environment.
The Region has set up very precise rules regarding the electromagnetic radiation radiating from masts based on the "principle of precaution". It limits the population’s exposure to electromagnetic radiation to a maximum of 3 volts/metre, making Brussels the city with the greatest ambitions in this domain. All the masts are inspected beforehand and issued with an environmental permit guaranteeing that the norm shall not be exceeded by more than 25%; excesses will continue to be inspected.Brussels Environment also provides a map of mobile phone masts in its region as well as an FAQ on electromagnetic radiation.
Air and Climate Plan
The Structural Improvement Plan for Air Quality and the Fight against Global Warming, or the "Air and Climate Plan", sets out major guidelines for action in Brussels to fight atmospheric pollution.
A "peak" in pollution refers to a period when the concentration levels of one or more pollutants are particularly high in the ambient air. The Region has established an emergency plan for such circumstances. These measures mainly concern a reduction in vehicle emissions by restricting speed and even restricting traffic.