Thames21 launches new Five Year Plan with call for increased collaborative action to get rivers ‘climate-ready’ by boosting nature-based solutions

Thames21 has announced plans to ramp up its efforts to work with communities and river stakeholders to help develop nature-based solutions in order for the River Thames and its tributaries to be better prepared to tackle the impacts of droughts and floods brought on by the climate crisis.

The environmental charity made the announcement as it launched its Thames21’s Five Year Plan (2023-2028). It urged the government, private sector and charities to work together to deliver effective action.

Debbie Leach, CEO at Thames21 said:

“The clock is ticking on preparing the river networks for the extremes of weather heading towards us. This is Thames21’s own plan – we need to hear more from all sectors and how plans will work together to protect not just our capital city and communities of the Thames Basin, but protect people around the country and around the world.”

Droughts in Europe and floods in Pakistan this year has shown that countries across the world, including England, need to be better prepared to make rivers more resilient to cope with Climate Emergency-related extreme weather events.

Creating wetlands, planting trees, and supporting sustainable drainage systems to help improve biodiversity and help capture rainwater to reduce flood risks are just some of the solutions the charity will be developing to help make our rivers healthy and climate resilient.

Leach said. “Two decades on from its inception, Thames21 has developed a strong reputation for its work on delivering long-term environmental improvements to our rivers. This must continue. We now have an ambitious Five Year Plan, which will ramp up our efforts to make rivers and communities climate-resilient through initiatives such as nature-based solutions and river restoration programmes.

“Rivers are crucial in our response to the Climate and Nature Emergency and are vital tools if we are to tackle more extreme, accelerated and intense periods of drought and flood and manage their impact on people and wildlife.”

Wetlands can help to keep rivers flowing, even when rain is scarce, thereby protecting the living, shimmering threads that bring life to the landscape. Water standing on the land in the right place also helps recharge the aquifers that underpin much of our public water supply.

Thames21 is currently working with partners to develop and implement a freshwater habitat creation and floodplain restoration scheme along the River Rom in East London. Wetland habitats will be restored to improve wildlife, biodiversity and help store flood water.

This work forms part of three priority areas featured in Thames21’s Five Year Plan, which include:

  • Tackling the Climate Emergency through creating climate-resilient rivers and communities
  • Tackling the Nature Emergency by supporting healthy, varied wildlife populations in rivers and catchments
  • Tackling the Social Emergency by working to improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities

Work has already begun on delivering key elements within the Five Year Plan.

Thames21 also has the ambitious aim of expanding the number of volunteers actively involved in learning maintenance and river improvement projects to 12,000 by 2028.

“We will work in partnership across all sectors to achieve our vision of a healthy river and achieve the objectives that we have set in our three priority areas over the next five years,” Leach said. “We must all act now, and act together, to protect our communities, wildlife and key economic centre from the impacts of the Climate Emergency. We will do this through our rivers.”

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