Flooding – The Blame Game……

11 Feb

‘We’ve reached that time of the year again that nature overwhelms us.  Last year it was the turn of snow and ice; this year it’s the rain, or to be more accurate, its effect……’

Approximately 5000 homes in the Somerset Levels, the South-West and towns and villages lining the river Thames have been affected in the latest event.  The political mud slinging has begun, with the Environment Agency

Eirc 'the pie' Pickles

Eirc ‘the pie’ Pickles

in the firing line for giving what the pie eating MP, Eric Pickles, described as ‘poor advice’ on flood management, although had they been given ‘good advice’ it wouldn’t have changed anything.  Our political system has become reactive rather than proactive.  The residents of the areas affected have accused the Government of being unprepared and failing to respond fast enough; chasing the problem, rather than putting measures in place to deal with it.

Somerset Levels

Somerset Levels

There have been various claims that the Environment Agency have neglected to dredge rivers stretching back 20 or more years and claims that work undertaken up-stream has exacerbated problems further down.

All of these claims may have some degree of truth but the real problems began hundreds, if not thousands, of years earlier and are the work of human beings and their management of the landscape……

Climate change is cited as being one of the major causes but this is unproven.  No matter how many statistics are pulled out of the hat, for example; this is the most rainfall recorded in the 248 years since records began, yet areas that were affected on previous occasions have not been affected this time around and visa versa.  Climate change models have thus far proven to be unreliable.  There is a much simpler answer closer to home……

UK over 80mtThe beginning is usually a good place to start.  Much of our country is below sea level which has been managed for years successfully.  You only have to look at the map to see where is below sea level.  Most of East Anglia and Lincolnshire fall into that category.  They have been managed by digging dykes and pumping out the seawater.  It used to be done by windmills, then steam engines and now with electric pumps.  Although the system works well most of the time, when high rainfall combined with high tides and low atmospheric pressure over the North Sea they become overwhelmed, which is what happened in the 1953 disaster which claimed 1836 lives.

The Somerset Levels are called that for a reason.  Our ancestors new that they had a tendency to be submerged or swamp like at certain times of the year and farmed or grazed their animals accordingly.

The ‘picture post-card’ view of the Peak District and its counterparts is a man made image.  Before we came along with our farming and grazing they would have been a mixture of woodland, scrub, salt marsh and all of the other naturally occurring variations in the landscape.  So, the current situation is as a result of mankind’s manipulation, which has the side effect of draining higher ground much faster and, without plants, washing the soil off of the hills……

The upshot of this interference is to overwhelm the streams and rivers further down hill, causing the current floods.  What I do find interesting is the NIMBY effect, whereas which ever area is this seasons chosen one, the residents are up in arms about the lack of action taken either before or during the event.  We hear very little about the crumbling East Coast where beach front properties are left to the elements and fall inevitably into the sea……

Solutions can be found but there will be a price to pay.  Managed areas of high ground can be planted, costal defences can be left breached to allow the sea in and, if you have ‘delusions of grandeur’ you can try to play King Canute using ever larger, and more expensive pumps to fight the loosing battle with nature……

Whatever action you take, its effects will only last an increasingly shorter amount of time.  The Human Race has gone and made that same mistake again and presumed it can control nature, which it can’t.  The only thing we can do is stop building on areas we know to be below sea level and pursue the councils who gave the planning consent, the bankers who lent money against a toxic asset and the political system that allowed it all to happen on their watch……

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