With much of the media’s focus being on the extensive flooding that has caused chaos in the north of the country, and the pillorying that David Cameron then received for breezily blaming ‘climate change,’ I would like to highlight a couple of causes of the recent flooding.
The first is the almost complete cessation of dredging of our rivers since we were required to accept the European Water Framework Directive (EWF) into UK law in 2000. (Directive 2000/60/EU). Since this came into force, UK authorities, for the first time, were no longer charged with a duty to prevent flooding but instead to achieve ‘good ecological status’ for our national rivers.
What this has meant in practice is that many of our rivers have been steadily silting up over the last 16 years and no amount of ‘flood defence barriers’ along the watercourse itself can therefore ever guarantee protection from the resulting increased water
The second is the deforestation of our hills under EU regulations. Studies have shown that wooded hillsides absorb water 67 times more effectively than grassy ones. Tree roots
provide channels down which the water flows, deep into the ground. That soil becomes a sponge, a reservoir sucking up water and releasing it slowly. On grassy hillsides, the small sharp hooves of the sheep puddle the ground, making it almost impermeable, and off which the rain floods. Farmers know this but under the subsidy rules of the Common Agricultural Policy their hillsides have to be free of ‘unwanted vegetation’ and this subsidy has enforced the mass clearance of vegetation from hillsides.
The Government publishes a list of what are called Permanent Ineligible Features which include woods, dense scrub, bracken, ponds, wide hedges and ungrazed reed beds – all of which impede the flow of water downhill. Land that harbours these features is disqualified from subsidies, so farmers have a powerful incentive to erase them. This
rule is one of the reasons why, above 650ft, you will struggle to find trees almost anywhere in Britain. European regulations, in other words, prohibit both wildlife habitat and flood prevention. Ironically, for decades the British government has funded scientists working in the tropics and used their findings to advise other countries to replant trees in the hills to prevent downstream flooding.
EU rules prevent us from adopting our own advice at home.
David Cameron can don his fleece and wander around the flood-stricken areas expressing sympathy with those who have had their homes devastated by the floods until the end of time. But the inconvenient truth is whilst we remain bound by EU statutes there is actually nothing whatsoever his, or any other government, can do about it.
Membership secretary - UKIP