Olympics’ green legacy takes root as final countdown begins

Posted: Monday 26th September 2011

With one year to go until the Olympic flame is lit, the environmental improvements in the Olympic Park and surrounding areas have already delivered impressive results, Environment Agency chairman, Lord Smith said recently.

He highlighted five projects as key indicators of the ‘green legacy’ pledge of the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games, and paid tribute to those from the Environment Agency, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and other partners who have worked together to deliver on this promise.

The projects, which help to set a new environmental precedent include:

Key to the creation of this has been the improvement of the river banks and cleaning up the River Lea which flows right through the site. With the help and advice of the Environment Agency, more than one kilometre of concrete walls and metal sheeting have been removed and replaced with natural banks, and 300,000 new wetland plants have been planted by the ODA with the creation of backwaters, reed beds, frog ponds and wildlife refuges.

Upstream of the Olympic Park, a metre-deep layer of sediment has been removed from the River Lea, improving water quality and flow and encouraging breeding habitats for aquatic life. Through the improvements it is hoped the area will attract species including eels, grey heron, kingfisher, sand martin, bats, water voles and otters.

The North and South Parks have posed very different challenges in terms of delivering on the green legacy. With the focus in the North Park on creating a natural environment and habitats for wildlife, and the South Park, which is home to the stadium, needing advice and action on sustainable buildings, waste minimisation and flood risk management.

This work hasn’t been limited to the main Olympic site. The Environment Agency has also carried out work at venues for rowing, canoeing and sailing to manage the water quality, and access for competitors, whilst maintaining the public right of access.

Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of Environment Agency, said: “The Environment Agency has worked with the ODA over the past five years to create an outstanding green legacy for the London 2012 Games.

“With a year to go, we have already made huge improvements to the local environment and are beginning to see wildlife thrive. Once completed, more than five miles of river and hundreds of hectares will have been created or rejuvenated, providing a refuge for wildlife for years to come.”

The Lea River Park, including the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will form a green corridor along the River Lea. It is expected that the park will stretch from Hertfordshire all the way to the River Thames, allowing walkers and cyclists to enjoy 26 miles of open and accessible park land.

Environment Agency Fisheries and Biodiversity staff have helped to achieve the targets of the London 2012 Olympics Biodiversity Action Plan to ensure the objectives of the Water Framework Directive are met, and the wildlife value of the river is enhanced.

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