Conservationists and angling organisations have joined together in a legal challenge, accusing the government of failing to protect some of England’s “most precious rivers” from agricultural pollution.
WWF UK, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal say they have been granted permission by the high court to pursue their challenge to protect rivers, lakes and coastal areas from further damage. They are seeking a judicial review, arguing that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency are failing in their legal duty to take the necessary action to tackle the problem.
Their case focuses on habitats known as Natura 2000 sites, including “national treasures” such as Poole harbour, in Dorset, and the rivers Avon, Wye and Eden where pollution is having a harmful impact. Poor land management is blamed for causing soil carrying nutrients and pesticides to wash into waterways.
The campaigners say the UK government is required by law to take all necessary steps to ensure rivers are in good health by December 2015, and they maintain that that will not happen.
David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF UK (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) said: “The health of our rivers and lakes is one of the most critical concerns for WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal.” Government action was vital to protect animals such as Atlantic salmon, bullhead fish, bitterns and kingfishers, he said. Recreational activities such as walking and birdwatching, which provided an income for rural communities, could also be under threat.
Nussbaum added: “We are calling on the government to use the tools at its disposal to tackle the issue.” Possibilities included creating water protection zones, identified by the Environment Agency in 2009 as its preferred option for reducing pollution if voluntary measures were not successful.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive for the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, said: “Poor land management is causing soils carrying nutrients and pesticides to wash into our precious rivers, seriously harming some of our most important fish species, such as Atlantic salmon, stocks of which have plummeted in recent years. This pollution is not only bad for fish and wildlife, but also anglers who contribute billions to the economy every year. We must ensure the necessary measures are in place to stop this pollution, and give our rivers and lakes a chance to recover and thrive.”
Source: The Guardian 27th August 2015