Time to stand up for Our Rivers

Posted: Tuesday 28th April 2009

Current Government proposals under new EU legislation need to be more ambitious if they are to deliver the positive change needed to protect Britain’s rivers, according to the campaign Our Rivers launched recently by WWF, RSPB, Angling Trust and the Association of Rivers Trusts.

The Environment Agency (EA) will decide the fate of every river in the country through one of eleven regional management plans which are currently in public consultation, ending on 22 June. Final plans will be signed off by the Secretary of State at the end of the year.

The consultation taking place across the country has been criticised for failing to engage many of those who hold vital information about our rivers: anglers who have fished the same stretch for years, community groups who look after their local river and those who rely on the river for their business.

The launch of Our Rivers aims to address this concern by providing a far more straightforward way for people to pass on their unique local knowledge to the EA. The content of the management plans must be informed by those who know and care about their rivers; those who live and work on them.

Tom le Quesne, Freshwater Policy Officer at WWF said: “This consultation is an important step in a process that must deliver a positive improvement to the state of the country’s rivers but the EA have so far failed to effectively involve river users and campaigners in their proposals.

Our Rivers provides the opportunity for people across the country to take an active role in the consultation and tell Government what needs to be done to protect our rivers for years to come.”

We need freshwater to satisfy a basic human need. It is vital for people’s health and happiness, for the environment and wildlife, and vital to our economy. But we do not treat it with the respect it deserves. We remove billions of litres of water from our environment every day to use in homes, industry and agriculture. Our rivers are also being polluted by contaminants from industry, agriculture and homes and are suffering from the impacts of climate change.

Our Rivers is calling on river groups and users across the country to take this opportunity to stand up for their rivers by sharing their knowledge with the EA. The website which has been launched today (www.ourrivers.org.uk) is a key component of the campaign, enabling people to submit their views, to campaign at local level, win support from their MP and take action to increase the profile of Our Rivers. Information gathered through the website will be presented to the EA and Ministers as a formal request for action - to which they now have a legal obligation to respond.

“Anglers are the curtain twitchers of the river bank and are the first to notice when the insect life changes, the water colour changes or the flow is altered. The Angling Trust will be urging all its members to get involved in the Our Rivers campaign, to ensure that rivers get better protection and action now to restore them to their former glory, for the benefit of all wildlife”, said Mark Lloyd of the Angling Trust.

RSPB’s Director of Conservation, Mark Avery said: “The results of a healthy river are clear to see – the darting blue of a kingfisher, the ripple of a fish jumping for flies and carpets of wild flowers covering a floodplain all provide a real sense of wildness that people enjoy. But for many rivers once common wildlife is missing or under threat.

“What is so exciting about this campaign is that it will be using local knowledge from people who care passionately about the rivers on their doorstep. This campaign will help people give Our Rivers a voice as the Environment Agency and Government set about planning for improvements to 2015 and beyond."

The launch of Our Rivers will provide a means to identify the issues facing our rivers and enable comparison with the EA’s assessment of the current situation. Urgent action is needed as proposals will be made by the EA to government Ministers in September and final decisions taken in December.

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