Dredging up Trouble: Government urged to resist 'playing politics' over flood prevention
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) must turn its focus away from dredging towards other proven flood-prevention measures if it wants to avoid another catastrophic winter.
That's the overwhelming argument put forward in a new report, released today (21 October) by Blueprint for Water partners - a coalition of organisations representing over two million members.
The report - entitled Dredging up Trouble - identifies 10 'priority areas' which would inevitably lose out if the coalition Government decides to ring-fence funding around the potentially environmentally-damaging process of dredging in its upcoming Autumn Statement.
"We must be prepared for these events and ensure that funding and appropriate flood risk management approaches are put in place," explained Alastair Moseley, honorary vice president of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) - one of the report's authors.
"The government must understand that this extends way beyond dredging and needs to encompass resilience, sustainable land use and other measures which are tried, tested and supported by evidence."
Recent studies have shown that dredging can, in some cases, make downstream flooding worse by moving water too quickly down river catchments. But back in June, the Environment Agency informed stakeholders of a new instruction from the then-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson; appearing to prioritise dredging over other flood risk management options.
The Blueprint for Water coalition, which also includes Friends of the Earth and The Wildlife Trusts, believes that this represents a clear shift in policy, cutting across Defra's own funding rules which ensure the Environment Agency targets its limited budget where the benefit to communities is greatest.
Chief executive of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Martin Spray said: "It's understandable that politicians want to be seen to do 'something', but it's vital that this does not stop us looking at the evidence and doing the 'right thing'.
"Dredging is only one small part of the solution and other options are often more cost-effective in delivering the best outcome for people and wildlife. If the Government wants to properly address flooding, it must consider all the areas we set out in this report."
Dredging up Trouble: Ten priority areas
- Protecting life and public health
- Natural Flood Management
- New Flood Defences
- Flood Recovery
- Sustainable Drainage
- Coping with Climate Change
- Defending Transport & Utilities
- Enough staff for emergencies
- Enforcing the rules
- A duty of care to communities
The coalition has submitted a formal response to the Treasury consultation on the Autumn Statement, which takes place on 3 December.