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Irish environment becoming cleaner but only because of recession - report

IRELAND's environment is becoming cleaner and less polluted but only because of the recession, a major report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says.

The economic downturn has resulted in greenhouse gas emissions falling, but "major challenges" must be overcome to restore the damage caused by pollution, agriculture and transport sources.

The last State of the Environment report in 2008 described the environment as an "asset under threat", and the latest data shows that while the situation is improving, much work needs to be done.

It shows:

- We have better than average water quality, but one in three rivers and almost half of all lakes are still polluted.

- Air quality is among the best in Europe, but problems exist in Dublin and Cork because of high traffic volumes.

- The amount of waste produced is falling, but we are running out of landfill space.

- Even in a "best case" scenario, we will miss EU targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming.

"It is about making the right choices; it's about recognising the imperative for each one of us in our homes, in our businesses and at a policy level, to take every action we can to be more sustainable," EPA Director General Laura Burke said.

"One of the most significant factors affecting our environment has been economic recession. ‘Ireland's Environment, An Assessment, 2012’ shows that in some areas, such as waste management and air quality, we are generally doing well but it also shows that in other areas, such as nature protection, water quality and climate change we have major challenges.”

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the government would not be “complacent” on the challenges ahead.

“We must use this time to prepare for the challenges to the environment that a recovery in the economy will inevitably bring,” he said.