Call for river stakeholders to ‘up their game’ to make rivers climate resilient

London Rivers Week is organised for the Catchment Partnerships in London Group (CPiL) by its London Rivers Restoration Group (LRRG) arm and runs from 11-17 July 2022

All river stakeholders in London need to improve their actions on tackling pollution that ends up in the city’s rivers and work together to promote climate-resilient river ‘rewilding’ projects, the organisers of London Rivers Week have urged.

The principal organisations running London Rivers Week are: the Environment Agency, Thames21, the South East Rivers Trust, London Wildlife Trust, ZSL, CPRE London, the Thames Estuary Partnership, and Thames Water.

London’s rivers can be beautiful spaces for wildlife and for people, but they can also face great challenges, including regular discharges of untreated sewage, run-off from busy roads and increasing plastic pollution.

The city is also likely to face more extreme weather more frequently, due to the climate emergency. This will lead to accelerated and intense periods of drought and flood, and so London’s rivers will need to be ‘climate-resilient-ready’ to tackle these issues.

The Catchment Partnerships in London (CPiL), which runs (London Rivers Week (11th July to 17th July) through its London Rivers Restoration Group (LRRG), are calling for the following to tackle these challenges:

  • All river stakeholders, including water companies, businesses, regulators, industry and the public must invest in ending all sewage pollution and the management of land and surface water as a system (catchment-based management) to deliver healthy rivers;
  • Funders need to see the value of the multiple benefits that restoring our rivers can bring to the health of people and a variety of wildlife.

The organisers say that the above actions will also help river rewilding projects – initiatives which manage rivers to reinstate natural processes to restore biodiversity. Organisers are also calling on citizens to get involved in citizen science projects to monitor the health of their rivers in order to gather evidence of the issues and opportunities for water quality improvements and physical rehabilitation to support local wildlife and communities.

Dave Webb, chair of the LRRG and biodiversity specialist at the Environment Agency, said: “A healthy river can better adjust to changes in the climate, providing refuge for species in extreme events, and enabling free movement of species. Even taking small actions can contribute to the river has a whole.”

Rewilding can involve simple actions such as adding woody material to a river or removing concrete and metal from its banks. It can also mean giving rivers more space to flood over water meadows or creating new wetlands beside them. It can even mean daylighting stretches of rivers – bringing buried rivers into the light once more. London has examples of all of these, and the public will have a chance to participate in many walks and talks at sites where restoration projects have been carried out during London Rivers Week; and find out how to spot, suggest and support new opportunities for improvements.

As part of the week and part of its key theme ‘Natural Recovery’, LRRG has revealed a map which shows all the river rewilded projects that have completed in London since 2000. Webb said: “This has been a collaboration between Catchment Partnerships in London and Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL), providing a snapshot on where restoration can take place and details of the schemes that have been delivered.

“The map highlights the potential for 144 projects and over 36km of scheme which can be restored. This is a fantastic tool, to inspire the delivery of more restoration, to not only support the creation of new wild spaces, but to also bring wildlife to the heart of the city.”

On average, 3km per year of rivers and other waterways have been rewilded in the capital since 2000, but the LRRG has set an ambitious target to increase that rate to 5km by 2025. If that rate was achieved and maintained, about 33% of London’s 640km of rivers (about 400 miles) could be restored by 2050, a rise from the current 20%.

As well as the theme Natural Recovery, other central aspects of London Rivers Week include access to nature, health and wellbeing and climate resilience, which will be outlined in a series of walks, talks, events, and seminars.

Debbie Leach, CEO of environmental charity Thames21 which chairs CPiL, said: “We are excited to see London Rivers Week return for its seventh year. From virtual swimming lessons, meandering river walks to pond dipping and dog walking, we want to celebrate London’s blue spaces. Our packed programme has a wonderful mix of free events for everyone to enjoy. We really look forward to seeing you there!

“London Rivers Week raises awareness of the success so far of the city’s river restoration projects and the opportunities still to come, but we also have a duty to work together to protect our rivers from any further destruction in light of the climate emergency. The best way to tackle this is to share what everyone knows, work cooperatively and find solutions.”

For a full list of events, access to river restoration map and details of the campaign visit:

https://www.thames21.org.uk/events/category/london-rivers-week-2022/

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