Campaigns from The Times and the i highlight the worsening state of Britain’s rivers and seas as water firms continue to pump raw sewage
Launched on Saturday in partnership with New Scientist magazine, the i‘s UK-wide ‘Save Britain’s Rivers’ campaign sets out to ‘rescue the country’s polluted waterways from toxic waste’.
The news brand’s initiative comes after the government’s own analysis shows only 6% of English rivers will be in ‘good’ ecological condition by 2027 without new interventions. Water companies are accused of increasing the volume of untreated human waste they discharge in them.
The i and the New Scientist will be delivering news, investigations, in-depth features, films, podcasts and live events on the subject for the next year, working with experts, activists, public officials and political leaders.
In a letter to readers in the news brand’s weekend edition, the i‘s editor Oliver Duff explained the three aims of the campaign: to reveal what’s going on in the UK’s rivers and why; to raise awareness and understanding of the terrible effects the situation has on people, nature and the rivers themselves; and to drive policy change through a cross-party plan to fix them.
He said: “Protests are largely ignored by watchdogs and the government. We cannot rely on them to take this seriously. So journalists, readers and community groups will need to step in to force change.”
He added: “The need is urgent. We hope that this campaign meets with your approval.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, The Times unveiled ‘Clean It Up’, a separate campaign into the state of Britain’s waterways aiming to ‘turn the tide on a problem that’s plagued these isles since the Great Stink of 1858’.
While steps have been taken over the past century and a half to protect the nation’s rivers and beaches, there is still large progress needed to be made in tackling phosphorus and nitrogen’s effects on nutrient pollution.
The campaign also looks at the effects of agriculture pollution through fertilisers, pesticides and soil erosion, as well as the impact of post-privatisation regulation.
The Times’ manifesto includes four key actions: to apply criminal penalties to water chiefs under a more powerful Environment Agency; to bring forward the target date to improve three quarters of storm overflows currently discharging waste near sensitive sites; to introduce hundreds of clean bathing sites by 2030; and to incentivise farmers to curb the pollution of rivers.
The news brand’s leading editorial on the campaign said: “These are long-term goals but conserving the environment has no quick fix. Especially in an age of environmental degradation due to climate change, water provision regulation is not adequate to the task of curbing pollution. The welfare of future generations depends on action taken now.”
Singer Feargal Sharkey also backs The Times’ campaign, saying: “I am deeply grateful for The Times putting itself up for this and being willing to take this battle on, because despite billions of words of rhetoric about the environment, all of it in this country has come to naught.”