Target to clean UK water bodies pushed back 30 years - 2027 to 2063
Data released by the Environment Agency show that only 16% of the latest state of rivers and lakes are found to be in good ecological status.
Not only is the world failing at just setting new and urgent targets to save the environment, but now targets that have already been set to clean up England's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters from pollution have been pushed back 30 years - from 2027 to 2063.
Pollution from water treatment plants and agriculture has been named as the key sources of damage in the UK's 3,651 water bodies, which has caused impediments to achieve good chemical and ecological status.
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Before the infamous Brexit, the UK government signed the water framework directive, requiring participating countries to ensure all waters achieve “good” chemical and ecological status by 2027. By that year, only 4% of water bodies are on track to be in overall good condition.
'Nothing short of a tragedy'
The Wildlife Trusts said that previous plans from 2009 and 2015 have the responsibility to oversee the recovery of a large fragment of these waters by 2015 and 2021, but the targets were not just missed; have been pushed back.
This, according to water policy manager for the Wildlife Trusts Ali Morse, indicates that water bodies won't be healthy for the next few generations. “For too long we have allowed our rivers and lakes to become poisoned, decimating aquatic wildlife and habitats."
“We need ambitious targets to repair the immense damage inflicted on our natural world. Instead, the government is comfortable with kicking action on rivers into the long grass. At this rate, a great deal of us will not see England’s rivers and lakes given a clean bill of health in our lifetimes – and that is nothing short of a tragedy.”
The latest state of rivers and lakes released by the Environment Agency in 2020 shows that only 16% meet the criteria for good ecological status and that no water bodies are deemed to meet the criteria for achieving good chemical status. Both combined criteria are supposed to be met for a waterway to be considered in a good state.
Back in October, The Guardian reported that a leaked report revealed that for the past ten years, the Environment Agency was aware that raw sewage from wastewater treatment works was being illegally dumped into English rivers.
One individual who worked on behalf of the EA admitted that the report “highlights how common” the practice of dumping sewage is. “This was known in 2012 when self-regulation was pushed and water quality monitoring, staffing and regulation was dramatically cut,” they added. “The agency had an opportunity to prevent over 10 years of illegal sewage dumping but chose not to take it, despite the funding being available. They knowingly permitted the illegal activity to continue.”
Acting before it's too late
The EA said on Thursday that £5.3 billion ($6,398,557) is being invested in plans over the course of the next five years to protect and improve the UK's waters, which are legally binding. The plans' objectives are to tackle main threats, such as agricultural pollution, climate change, and excessive population growth.
The Agency's executive director, John Leyland, said, “Whilst progress has been made to protect and enhance England’s waters, it is clear that considerable time and investment will still be needed if we are to see further improvement in our water environment that we all want.”
The £5.3bn action plan which was supposed to be achieved by 2027 was already funded - including £4.3 billion by water companies and more than £500 million to tackle agricultural effects on the water environment. However, as per the EA, if no progress is made, then only 6% of the water bodies would be in a good ecological state by 2043.
The Wildlife Trusts stated that pressure from water demand and pollution was non-stop, and from record-breaking temperatures and low rainfall to dumping raw sewage into rivers, it can be indicated that there is insufficient attention directed at sewage infrastructure.
Morse said that chemical pollution was the main reason behind the major delay. Waterways are polluted by landfill sites, urban runoff, or agriculture. Once these chemicals reach the environment, the pollution spreads like fire - making it much harder to reverse and remove them.