Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where the water service has not yet been privatised. That fact largely reflects the strong campaign fought by the trade union movement, in many cases led by members of the Committee for a Workers’ International, that defeated cross-party attempts (including from Sinn Féin Ministers) to roll out water charges in the early 2000s.
Northern Ireland water was established as a government-owned company – owned by the Department for Infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Stormont Executive has repeatedly failed to prioritise investment on this infrastructure – despite growing warnings of both economic and environmental impacts arising.
The impact of untreated wastewater entering water bodies has been catastrophic for the fresh water ecology and fish stocks. Angling has been hugely impacted and water quality in virtually all major water bodies has deteriorated.
Such impacts have largely been ignored by the Stormont parties, as they are largely non-economic.
What is starting to focus minds; however, is the fact that the ability of property developers to build houses is now increasingly constrained by the inability of wastewater treatment works to cope. Northern Ireland Water estimates that 116 cities, towns and villages have had their development constrained.Continue reading “Decades of underfunding by Stormont and Westminster have led to a wastewater pollution crisis”