The Angling Trust has criticised a press release issued by the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee for failing to represent accurately the contents of its report on last winter’s floods.
The EFRA press release and headlines highlighted the need for more environmentally-damaging dredging of rivers and streams. The EFRA report itself is much more balanced, recognising that dredging has only limited benefit and that it would not have prevented the Somerset Levels flooding.
The report quotes extensively a report by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), which was supported by the Blueprint for Water coalition including the Angling Trust, and cast doubt on the effectiveness of dredging apart from in particular situations.
The EFRA committee conclusion on dredging in the report was that it “can be beneficial in certain circumstances and as part of a portfolio of measures, but it should not be seen as an all-purpose solution.”
However, Anne McIntosh MP, the Chair of the EFRA Committee, is quoted in the press release as saying: “We have repeatedly called on the Government to increase revenue funding so that necessary dredging and watercourse maintenance can be carried out.”
The press release goes on to say: “The Committee calls for fully funded plans to address the current backlog of dredging and watercourse maintenance.”
The report also fails even to mention run-off from agricultural land, which is a major cause of flooding and the source of most of the silt that accumulates in rivers. Modern agriculture, with large machines operating at times of the year when the ground is saturated, causes soils to become compacted.
This reduces their ability to soak up rainfall and water washes off the surface carrying soil, fertiliser, pesticides and other pollutants into watercourses. Agriculture now rivals sewage as the main cause of pollution in rivers.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal, said: “The press release issued by EFRA has muddied the waters in this debate by perpetuating the myth that dredging is the solution to flooding. It may have a role to play in a few particular situations, as part of a suite of measures, but generally it is a pointless waste of money and can actually make flooding worse.”
“If we are to reduce the risk of flooding we need to take urgent and widespread action to change land use practices to stop water washing off compacted fields which causes flooding and pollution on a vast scale. This debate has focussed far too much on how to prevent farmers’ fields flooding when it should be discussing how to prevent farmers’ fields causing flooding,” he added.
Press Release, June 19, 2014