Reduce flood risk through long-term investment

Monday 10th February 2014

Roadside flooding in Kent

With new warnings across the south of the country today, and more rain forecast, the Government must invest more in long-term flood management, and less in knee-jerk responses.

The Wildlife Trusts believe that the country cannot simply react to each latest disaster, addressing symptoms rather than underlying causes.  The impacts of current floods are serious and personally devastating.  The Wildlife Trusts understand and sympathise with the plight of everyone affected. 

We need to respect the environment and work with it, rather than against it

This winter’s extreme floods prove how vital it is for a strategic approach to be taken by the Government.  Cuts to the Environment Agency merely risk reducing it from a flood management body to an emergency response service and making future floods even more damaging.

The places hit hardest – including the south west’s main rail link and the Somerset Levels – have been known to be vulnerable for decades, and in need of sustainable long-term plans to reduce flood risk.  The contrast with the east coast, where despite some significant damage careful planning prevented a repeat in December of 1953’s horrific coastal flooding, is telling.

Stephen Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director, England, said:

“The Environment Agency has come under mounting pressure but the criticism aimed at its staff is grossly unfair and misplaced.  It is frustrating and wrong to witness politicians criticising the Agency, which has the vital role of working alongside local communities to find solutions to these huge challenges.  Many may want someone to blame and demand immediate action for someone to do something.  But, unfortunately, it just isn’t that easy or simple.  

"The Environment Agency has been doing a good job in the face of extreme and extraordinary weather conditions and the strict financial limits placed upon it.  It is important that their staff professionalism is respected – they have been working hard to find long-term and sustainable solutions based on the science and an evidence-based approach.

We need a long-term strategy and real leadership to find sensible solutions which provide for the needs of people and help restore the natural environment

“Ultimately it is the Government that sets the policies that have hindered flood planning in some vulnerable areas: allowing homes to be built and vulnerable crops such as maize to be grown on floodplains, and failing to make both homes and farmland more resilient to water using natural processes.

“The Government’s climate change committee last week spelled out that we need to start planning seriously for higher seas and heavier rainfall.  The longer we leave it, the harder the choices will be.  We need to respect the environment and work with it, rather than against it.  A changing climate throws up huge problems and challenges for society and we need a long-term strategy and real leadership to find sensible solutions which provide for the needs of people and help restore the natural environment.

“It’s important that strategic bodies like the Environment Agency are strengthened rather than cut.  Politicians must respect their expertise and avoid dragging flooding issues into party politics.  It’s vital for the Government to invest more in long-term flood management, and less in knee-jerk responses.  It is time to stop reducing these issues to simplistic slogans about ‘people versus the environment’ and to demonstrate active leadership about how society values and lives within the natural world.”

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Flooding, Floods