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Cardiff protest underway to save River Wye from pollution

07 Feb 2024 3 minute read
River Action, Feargal Sharkey and Save the Wye outside Cardiff Civil Justice Centre River campaigner Feargal Sharkey holding the ‘Universal Declaration of River Rights’ Founder and Chair of River Action Charles Watson holding the ‘Universal Declaration of River Rights’

Protesters angry about pollution in the River Wye have gathered outside Cardiff’s Civil Justice Centre to support a landmark legal case against the Environment Agency and DEFRA.

The core of the Judicial Review is River Action’s belief that by failing to enforce critically important environmental regulations, the Environment Agency has acted unlawfully; and in doing so has failed to protect the Special Area of Conservation of the River Wye from the huge levels of diffuse agricultural pollution that has caused much of the recent ecological collapse of the river.

“Assault”

Outside Cardiff’s Civil Justice Centre, Chair and Founder of River Action Charles Watson was flanked by a 10ft tall giant puppet called the Goddess of the Wye, a steel drumming band, River Action’s legal team Leigh Day, lead barrister David Wolfe KC, Feargal Sharkey, Friends of the River Wye and many more concerned community groups.

Charles said: “The agonising death of the River Wye has unfolded in recent years like a car crash in slow motion.

“This magnificent watercourse, so often voted our country’s most loved river, has in recent years been assaulted by a deluge of pollution from intensive agriculture, causing prolonged algal blooms.”

Much of the phosphate pollution in the river Wye is thought to arise from chicken farms in Wales

He added: “A major cause for this is the recent exponential growth of intensive poultry production within the catchment of the River Wye, which supplies millions of chickens a week to the nation’s leading supermarket retailer Tesco.

“At any one time there are as many as 24 million birds reared in the Wye valley – approximately a quarter of the country’s total poultry production.

“The thousands of tons of excrement from these birds is then shovelled out of the sheds and dumped across the fields of the Wye Valley and elsewhere.”

Manure dumping

“This industrial-scale manure dumping has caused the land of the river catchment to become overdosed by several times the level of phosphorous that can ever be absorbed naturally by what grows in the valley. And each year more gets added.

“If the law to prevent nutrient oversaturation had been properly enforced, then we argue that the horrendous pollution of the Wye catchment could have largely been prevented.

“However, we believe effective lobbying by the National Farmers Union led to DEFRA instructing the Environment Agency to ignore enforcing this critical protection – effectively giving the intensive poultry industry carte blanche to dump the manure they produce across the WyeValley, thus causing untold environmental damage to the River Wye.

“Endangered species like the Atlantic Salmon are on the cusp of localised extinction. We are asking for something very simple of the Government: please enforce the law.”

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Aled Rees
Aled Rees
18 days ago

just hold on a minute.Not saying that farms dont contribute to pollution but arent you forgetting the huge ammount of sewage dumped in our rivers by NRW.

hdavies15
hdavies15
18 days ago
Reply to  Aled Rees

Add to that the amount of surface water run off from towns and villages and the intermittent concentrations of light and not so light industry in towns along the river’s course. Recent report highlighted the concentrations of tyretread dust and other road surface crap that gets washed down gullies and into bigger water courses. It’s all there yet very little of it is quantified. But hey who gives a damn, farmers are an easy target for townies who prefer to have their foods imported from far flung sources regardless of food miles. Same townies who rack up air miles jetting… Read more »

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