£535 million of a UK Government-initiated investment program has been allocated to improving river environments in the Thames, a past winner of the Thiess International Riverprize.
Late last year, the UK Government announced a £2.3 billion investment in flood and coastal protection schemes—of which £535 million has recently been earmarked for a range of projects in the Thames.
With more than 400 new schemes, the public and private investment program will help improve river environments through a range of initiatives, including habitat creation, construction of fish or eel passes, river channel improvements and better water level management for protected wetlands.
Starting in 2015, the six-year program for the Thames will:
Create or revitalise 336 hectares of water-dependent habitat
Create 266 hectares of intertidal habitat, and
Protect 50 kilometres of rivers designated for wildlife.
The aim of these initiatives is to make more space for water in estuaries and along rivers, restoring floodplains and increasing habitation areas.
As previous winner of the Thiess International Riverprize, the Thames underwent a colossal clean-up since the 1950s, when pollution and falling oxygen levels led the river to be declared biologically dead.
The new program is a promising initiative for continued investment in maintaining river environments in the basin.
The Yamuna has failed to show any improvement in its pollution level in the past one year despite gradual reduction in pollution load contributed by major drains in Delhi, says an Environment Ministry report.
According to the Environment Ministry's Annual Report (2014-15), a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) study has found that discharge of sewage water intoYamuna has declined in the past one year though it still remains one of the top reasons behind the deterioration in the river's water quality.
Possible reasons for this decline are diversion of treated or untreated wastewater for irrigation and increased efficiency of waste water collection, transportation and treatment system, the report states.
The government has spent Rs 1,514.70 crore under Yamuna Action Plan I and II for creation of new sewage treatment capacity of 942.25 million litres per day (mld) in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
However, the CPCB study conducted in the about 40-km stretch in Delhi said pollution level in the river has remained unchanged.
"This might be due to less availability of fresh water in the river, essential to maintain self-purification capacity of the river. Less availability of fresh water in the river may be due to reduction in the rain fall in the catchment area or increased rate of water abstraction from the river," it said.
CPCB regularly monitors water quality of Yamuna at four locations -- Palla, Wazirabad Barrage, Nizamuddin Bridge and Okhla at Kalindi Kunj -- in the about 40-km stretch in Delhi.
The water quality status of this stretch suggests that values of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) observed during first ten months of 2014 was well above the prescribed limit of 4.0 milligram/litre (mg/l) at Palla and was in the range from 6.4-11.0 mg/l. It depletes significantly after Wazirabad Barrage and remains critical in remaining part of the stretch.
At Okhla, Biochemical Oxygen Demand values were found well above the prescribed limit (9-79 mg/l). The report also says that the presence of 'free ammonia' is showing increasing trend as compared to observations of 2013.
"The reason of deterioration of Yamuna River water quality in Delhi stretch especially after Wazirabad barrage is due to unabated discharges of waste water predominantly from domestic sources into the river," the report says
English waterways could lose one of their most charismatic and once widespread residents as water voles succumb to the invasive American mink, records released by the Canal and River Trust show.
Between 1970 and 1999, water voles were found on 269 of the 2,000 miles of waterways managed by the trust. But since the turn of the century, their range dropped by almost 50% to 141 miles.
Mark Robinson, national ecologist for the Canal and River Trust, said the numbers told of a species in desperate decline.
“I very rarely hear good news about water voles. Whether extinction [from England] will occur or whether we will turn the tide I don’t know, but I think it’s certainly in the balance,” he said.
The introduction of the American mink, which have escaped from fur farms in Britain since the 1920s, has been the single greatest driver of decline. Mink are voracious predators and will hunt voles.
“That has driven whole river systems to a complete population crash,” said Darren Tansley, a wildlife officer with Essex Wildlife Trust. “The possibility [that they will become extinct in England] is there if nothing is done to control mink.”
The development of river banks and water pollution has added to the pressure on one of Britain’s most endangered mammals. The industrialisation of river systems during the 1970s and 1980s destroyed the banks where voles make their burrows.
Tansley said although the Canal and River Trust’s numbers were based on ad hoc observations not scientific surveys, they were consistent with the observed decline in all English waterways. Water vole populations are very difficult to estimate, but Tansley said the natural population of tens of millions had now almost certainly dropped below one million.
All counties have suffered “dramatic declines”. A survey in Essex in 2006 found most main rivers “utterly devoid of water voles”. The animal is now extinct in Cornwall. Across the country water voles cling on in isolated pockets, coastal marshes and backwaters where the mink has not found its way. In Scotland water voles have fared better by behaving differently to their English cousins, often living on land and thus avoiding the mink invaders.
Where conservation programmes to control the mink have been put in place, Tansley said the vole population had rebounded. Unfortunately, he said, mink do not pose an economic threat and therefore controlling its spread was not seen as a priority and attracts no funding from the government. The fight to save water voles has been almost entirely led by charities.
The trust has called for the public’s help in a mass citizen science survey of the species – the Great Nature Watch. Robinson asked people to download theeNatureWatch app and log their vole sightings.
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