Farming Talk: Rosemary Allen

I started this in January, and since then reports have kept 'flooding' in!

 Shropshire Star Columnist Rosemary Allen
Shropshire Star Columnist Rosemary Allen

I've written about it before, and nothing's changed, not that I expected it to.

Businesses and householders keep barricaded in, waiting for the next expensive event to undo all their hard work and destroy precious family items.

My house is full of 'stuff' which I struggle to get rid of because of their importance to my family and me.

Yet every year floods ruin lives, and what are those responsible doing about it? Nothing. Well, nothing new anyway!

More barriers; flood plains; trees and expert advice. No advice on how to sell an un-saleable house.

The costs of maintaining barriers, which don't always work; erecting them, when they're not always needed; repairing structural damage and employing people to 'advise' residents, are sky high. But we don't hear about them, and looking on websites is a complicated and fruitless exercise.

"When you're in a hole", they say "stop digging"! May I suggest digging or dredging might be part of the answer, as they've pretty much exhausted all other options.

The Environment Agency argues that dredging disturbs wildlife and damages river banks, but there doesn't seem to be anything wrong when floods do exactly that, and in an uncontrolled way. But that's nature, so it's probably okay. Whereas, human intervention isn't?

And, "We use dredging to remove a range of materials or for making the channel larger by removing the bed and channel sides". But, "It's undertaken less frequently and is a bigger exercise". Bigger that 100s of people having to rebuild their lives every year and the damage to the river?

"Dredging 'can' have serious and long lasting negative impacts on the environment, and sometimes comes with unintended consequences including increased flooding downstream" they say.

"It 'can' damage or destroy fish spawning grounds; make river banks unstable, and silt 'can' become suspended in the water, lowering oxygen levels, potentially releasing harmful chemicals, impacting on wildlife and water quality downstream".

Lots of 'cans' here to justify continuing doing what they prefer. So just leave it where it is, don't find another way of dealing with it.

And again, uncontrolled flooding doesn't do this? Yet I've read that if you start by clearing at the coast, this makes space for the extra water, unlike when floods rush down. No mention of ruined crops and lost livestock, and long term loss of farm land which, in these critical times, is an issue that nobody seems to be addressing.

I just think dredging should be part of an ongoing strategy not a last resort.

If trees do hold back rainwater and delay flooding then, as a long-term strategy, there could be advantages.

But, to deal with the present problems, they aren't a quick enough solution, where as dredging is.

Natural Resources Wales says lack of maintenance has resulted in flooded farmland. Farmers Union of Wales said farmers and officials discussed the 'clear need' to dredge rivers and it was 'abundantly clear' that the capacity of rivers had been significantly reduced due to not being dredged regularly causing silt to build up and substantial damage to habitat and biodiversity with continuous flooding,

The emphasis has switched to the environment and housing, in the last months, but where is all the food going to come from when everywhere is covered with houses and trees? I know this is an exaggeration but it's frightening how nobody seems to be putting all our needs together and finding a balance.

The Government has just saved our bacon by joining CPTPP, the global version of the EU, as though this is going to solve the food crisis and our carbon footprint! And I hear we are going to sell water to London. Will this solve our flooding problem, or will they only want it in the summer when we also need it? Not clear at all, especially when farmers are restricted with irrigation for their crops – the ones we need in our supermarkets for our food security?

Some say we could change the course of straight parts of rivers to meander, and where acres of land become floodplains dig smallish reservoirs to contain the water for use later.

In Shrewsbury, perhaps Frankwell car park could become a multi-storey with a meander. The choice of permanent barriers is a desperate move, which surely can't be realistic or popular? Who wants to walk along the lovely Severn when you can't even see it? But what do I know? I don't understand why the people living beside the river aren't up in arms and demanding other solutions, instead of putting up with the same old activities which aren't solving the problems. The EA and DEFRA need to justify their decisions to us, and not just continue to pour money into unsuccessful schemes – I think!

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