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30 May 2024

Grassroots Groups Launch Manifesto for the Wye

Photo credit. Mike Erskine
Photo credit. Mike Erskine

A coalition of ‘river guardians’ in the Wye catchment has co-created a Manifesto for the Wye.

Save The Wye, Friends of the River Wye, CPRE Herefordshire and Wye Salmon Association, with support from Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, have outlined key actions they say are required to restore the river to health.

The manifesto – launched at the Hay Festival – calls on the governments of the UK and Wales to establish a single, cross-border approach to tackling the pollution crisis across the Wye catchment. It also demands the establishment of a Water Protection Zone, enforcement action against polluters, financial support for farmers to transition to river-friendly farming and action to empower consumers with honest labelling.

The authors of the Manifesto have criticised the Government’s recent River Wye Action Plan, which they said failed to tackle the pollution of the Wye, and put forward their own ‘people-powered plan’.

The River Wye is increasingly plagued by algal blooms and has lost much of its water crowfoot, which used to carpet the river and provide habitat and food for other species.

Last year the official status of the River Wye was downgraded by Natural England to “Unfavourable, declining”.

The groups says urgent action must be taken to prevent further decline, which requires stopping pollution and tackling legacy nutrients in the soils.

David Gillam from Save The Wye said:

“The Government’s ‘Action Plan’ is really an ‘Inaction Plan’. It falls far short of what is required to stop the pollution of the River Wye, let alone restore it to health. Fortunately, we know what needs to be done and our manifesto represents the people’s plan for the Wye, created in response to all the evidence we’ve gathered over the last few years.”

Christine Hugh-Jones from Friends of the River Wye said:

“We are astonished that the long-overdue Government plan for the Wye only applies to England, neglecting much of the river. We’re calling for Defra to work with the Welsh Government to tackle the pollution on the Wye. This will require radical cross-border action to enforce the law against polluters, reduce animal numbers in the catchment and reduce the amount of fertiliser applied to land.”

Stuart Smith from Wye Salmon Association said:

“Wye salmon have declined by 95% over the last few years. We need serious ambition to restore their population to abundant levels once more. We believe this Manifesto embodies such ambition for the river and we’re proud that our volunteers have played a part in creating it.”

James Hitchcock, CEO of Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, said:

“This manifesto offers a set of reasonable, practical and achievable actions. In just a few points, these passionate groups of local river guardians have summarised a practical path forward in a way that hundreds of hours of official meetings and government intervention have simply failed to do. Perhaps we will see this adopted. Better still funded. This would drive meaningful change, improve livelihoods and wellbeing within our beautiful river catchment.”

Chair and Founder of River Action Charles Watson said:

“DEFRA’s much promised and long-awaited Wye Action Plan has turned out to be little more than a vague plan to come up with a plan. The fact that its remit only applies to the English side of a river catchment half of which in Wales, is one of the many examples of its woeful lack of understanding of the ecological crisis facing the river. Its universal condemnation by all the local environmental and community groups who are on the front line of this environmental disaster says everything that needs to be said. We urge DEFRA to study today’s Manifesto for the Wye – and then get back to the drawing board.”

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