Committee agrees to maintain scrutiny of River Wye pollution
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
The condition of one of Wales’ most important rivers will continue to be reported to the body that oversees the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Members of the protected area’s advisory committee agreed they should continue to be updated on the state of the River Wye, which in May this year was downgraded from ‘unfavourable recovering’ to ‘unfavourable declining’ due to a loss of key wildlife species.
Pollution from phosphates, including from farming and sewage, is behind the pollution of the river.
Committee chair, Monmouthshire St Arvans councillor, Ann Webb said it was agreed the committee, which brings together councillors from Monmouthshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and the Forest of Dean, with local voluntary groups, farmers and landowners, should keep the health of the river on its agenda for the forthcoming year.
At the committee’s July meeting the committee was told of further fish deaths, including two salmon discovered at Monmouth during the recent prolonged period of hot and dry weather through June.
Conservative Cllr Webb said she is “frustrated” by slow progress of attempts to turn around the health of the river, though the committee has agreed to support a landscape recovery programme, funded by the UK Government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
That could provide funding for a project bringing together farmers and landowners from across at least 500 hectares to conserve protected species and wildlife, habitats but will have to be tailored to areas where the river runs through England as stretches of the river in Wales will not be eligible.
Other initiatives will be developed for the wider Wye catchment, including cross-border projects such as as a bid to the Climate Action Fund with Herefordshire and Radnorshire Wildlife Trusts, entitled ‘Wye Adapt to Climate Change’ while Natural Resources Wales has a target for the country to be in ‘nature recovery’ by 2030.
Cllr Webb though acknowledged there are no quick solutions to the river’s problems.
“It really concerns me we don’t seem to come to any consensus on what we can do in the short term,” she said. “I find it very frustrating but we will keep it on the agenda. It has got worse and worse with climate change and the hot weather.”
The Environment Agency has 14 devices to measure the quality of the river throughout the summer and is updating a website which provides information on its efforts.
A PhD student, from the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law at Swansea University, will also be joining the AONB for five weeks over the summer as they research their thesis, ‘Water as a contested space – Improving the quality of our rivers’.
They will be supervised by Associate Professor Dr Victoria Jenkins and funded by a “small bursary” from the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) with the placement focused on river pollution and institutional responses rather than the law.
A Wye July event is also set to take place this Sunday, July 9, at Chippenham Fields in Monmouth which is is described as a celebration of groups aiming to bring the river back to health and an opportunity to meet those involved and take part in ‘citizen science’ water testing.
The event runs from 11am to 3pm and a samba band will march from Monnow Old Bridge at 10.45am with people invited to join the procession.
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