Flooding and the environment

JOOTT

Floods 1981
Floods 1981 Our new Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was quick off the mark to mention Climate Change, what we once called Global Warming, when talking about the floods that have affected so much of the UK this 'summer'. It was as if there was no chance that central, local government or any agency had failed in any way, re. flood defences. However, we have seen this trick before. We saw the blame game being played when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. But it was later to be established, beyond any doubt, that the flood defence measures of that city had been neglected for some time. This must be very annoying for people in the UK with strong memories of only the upper part of their house fit for occupation, and then only just, due to the strong smell from the water below, and doubly annoying that the playing of this silly game goes on, and on.

The Ancient Mariner 
The Ancient Mariner And we can now see the UK version of this game. It is widely reported that The Environmental Agency's spending on flood defences was cut last year, the sum of £15 million being quoted frequently. The new PM has also promised £800 million a year to be spent on flood defences. But, like so many of Gordon Brown's promises, it is jam tomorrow, rather than today. This money will not be spent until 2011. And it would not dare to rain until then would it? So we must look on the bright side of life and also assume that these extra measures, if required, would actually be deployed in time, and not be stuck on one of the UK's overcrowded motorways, in heavy traffic, due to a flood, as happened in the West Country.

Also for those who suffered recently it will be not much comfort to find the 'experts' have made a start on answers to questions. It has been reported that 70% of flood affected property in the Tewkesbury area was NOT on what would have been called the flood plain. By contrast a similar proportion of property in the Hull area WAS so described. So, something for everyone. Then during the recent 'wellies on' phase, when those affected by the floods could watch the media film the rubber-booted politicians, it must have been a great comfort to know that Prince Charles got there first, and came to see them, rather than to be seen.

Hose pipe ban, remember?Hose pipe ban, remember?At the back of all this, unseen and not mentioned by the mainstream media, is, as you might have guessed, the EU. But isn't that a force for good I hear you say? No, not at all. Lord Pearson, the dogged seeker after truth, has managed to extract from Lord Rooker the following. That the total expenditure to date to comply with EU water purity demands is £65 billion. While the total spent on infrastructure, the bit that would help you keep dry, is £14 billion. Also all of the 22 water companies have not done enough to reduce leaks. With 8 companies so pushed to meet targets that they had to introduce water use restrictions last year. How ironic it would be if people in the areas of the UK still damp from the floods also had the ground under their feet sodden due to leaking water pipes. Doubly ironic if next summer turns out to be a 'scorcher', and people who this year had their garden under water cannot water their vegetable plots due to water restrictions. What a pity some of this year's water could not have been saved, unless it was 'the wrong sort of water'. You never know with things the way they are these days. After all, 9 staff from The Environmental Agency, including the director of water management, got a bonus averaging 10% of their salaries for good perfomance.

As a child I lived within walking distance of the Thames, this was pre-Climate Change and blame game. A person could balance the joy of living next to a river with the risk. Now and then the river flooded, the consequences were accepted, it was, just one of those things. However, time moves on, we now think that any situation can be altered by the efforts of man, Prime Ministers are very keen on this theory. And we always have to find a reason for bad outcomes, we have to blame something. But no flood defence scheme can offer 100% protection; we cannot take on nature and win every time, so why pretend? Central, local, regional government and associated agencies should be honest and say if mistakes were made, and we, as citizens, should accept that not all risks can be removed. Mind you, we should also be told where the vast number of affordable homes, another one of PM Brown's 'good ideas', are to be built. I fancy that the land by the river will be cheap, but will the insurance be affordable?

JOOTT = just one of those things.