This week I’m handing my blog over to Martin Salter who this week we sent back to parliament to brief MPs about why dredging the hell out of our rivers is rarely a good idea! Read on for his rant on the subject…
As Britain recovers from the wettest January since 1766, with parts of the country experiencing more than 200% of average rainfall for six weeks in a row, communities are coming to terms with the aftermath of the floods that devastated large tracts of Southern England. Inevitably there has been a big debate as to why the damage was so severe this time and, incredibly, whether or not someone or something was to blame other than the weather. Listening to some of these characters you would think that there was absolutely no link between what falls out of the sky and why our rivers might overtop onto their floodplains – like they are supposed to do and like they have always done.
I know I wasn’t the only angler this winter raging at some of the stupid comments made by politicians and the media about the ‘magic dredging cure-all’ that could prevent flooding and restore order to our troubled land. Of course someone had to be blamed so they picked on the Government’s Environment Agency for not dredging enough rivers, never mind that all the evidence showed that in many cases dredging either has no impact on reducing flood risk or can make matters worse by moving water more quickly down the catchment and causing problems for areas downstream.
As anglers we know that rivers are supposed to flood their floodplains – the clue is in the name. If politicians want something other than the weather to blame for the floods perhaps they should look at their own policies which have allowed ever more building on the floodplains and taxpayer subsidies for intensive farming practices that channel more and more water down the catchment at a faster rate?
The good news is there are some encouraging signs that sanity is beginning to reassert itself. A lot of hard work by the Angling Trust, working in partnership with other environmental groups and supportive MPs, has seen a growing realisation that Britain can’t dredge its way out of trouble but that we can do something about the way we manage the land. The self scouring power of our rivers was illustrated by a dramatic aerial photograph of the UK, taken on February 16, which shows a massive plume of sediment pumping out into the Irish Sea beyond the Welsh coastline. More than anything else, this loss of millions of tonnes of valuable topsoil demonstrated the need to adopt far more sustainable farming practices including ‘no plough zones’ and the planting of upland trees and buffer strips to stabilise the land and encourage greater water penetration, rather than the flash flooding that has become the norm in many river valleys.