An interesting document has surfaced on the European Commission’s website, which enables us to understand a bit more of the complicated ‘wheels within wheels’ of overlapping organisational responsibility for the deliberate policy of surrendering managed environments to floodwater that has seen much of the Somerset levels submerged.
The document is the ‘Wise use of floodplains – a demonstration of techniques to evaluate and plan floodplain restoration’. In other words, giving back reclaimed wetland that had been drained and while a managed environment had become home to many small communities and farms.
What stands out about this document is that the project (which is outlined on the short document linked above) is the timing and the funding. It ran from 1st April 1999 until 1st April 2002 and was co-funded by the RSPB (which was the driving force behind the project) and the WWF to the tune of €1,056,065.85, a sum that was topped up with almost 50% of matched funding from the European Union – some €1,052,044.45 of taxpayers’ money – taking the total project budget to €2,108,110.30.
The timing and funding sources are significant because this kicked off in 1999 while Barbara Scott Young, aka Baroness Young of Old Scone the Labour peer, was the Chief Executive of… the RSPB. Little over a year later, Baroness Young left the RSPB to take up appointment as Chief Executive of the very public body that would be able to implement the ‘restoration’ of floodplains and wetlands through policy… the Environmental Agency.
The bird loving flooding facilitator
In terms of overseeing implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive, and their policies of ‘restoring’ wetlands and floodplains to a water covered state, Young’s transfer from the RSPB to the Environment Agency was the political equivalent of putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
In no way can it be argued that Labour put an impartial Chief Executive in charge of the Environment Agency, someone who would use the agency’s substantial human and financial resources to best effect to ensure adequate protection of the communities and businesses located in managed environments such as the Somerset levels.
Labour put in place one of their own to fulfil EU policy underpinned by a number of directives; a woman who was a zealot in matters of wildlife and habitats and whose approach we have already reported was in order to achieve ‘instant wildlife: just add water‘. A woman whose desired outcome for the pumping stations that prevented the Somerset levels from being drowned was to destroy them with limpet mines to ensure reclaimed land was flooded again, in the expectation that habitats for the birds she values above the lives and livelihoods of the communities that would be swamped.
The moment Barbara Young was put in charge of the Environment Agency, the events of this winter (and last winter on a smaller scale) became inevitable. When she was appointed what we saw was a RSPB take over the Environment Agency. Backed by EU directives, the RSPB’s woman in the Environment Agency hot seat set about pursuing the wishes of the bird lovers. Dredging was scaled back. Pumping stations were left to ruin.
Millions of pounds that could and should have been used to safeguard managed environments through proper flood prevention in places like the Somerset levels, instead were allocated at EU behest to hugely expensive and lavish projects to create new habitats on the levels themselves – such as the hundreds of hectares of the Steart Peninsula being transformed into new saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands to attract species including wading birds and wildfowl, rare water voles and great crested newts at a cost of £20 million, while £3 million required for essential flood maintenance in the same area could not be found. There is no way the Environment Agency left behind by Barbara Young would fight for such skewed spending priorites to be altered. These kind of projects were what she always wanted and the EA has been delivering them with relish.
While the RSPB – part of Birdlife International – is in this mess up to its neck it does not prevent it from engaging in the most sickening hypocrisy, as in January when it joined with the Somerset Wildlife Trust (which also seems to prioritise birds over other wildlife) to call on MPs and others to press government and its agencies to develop a water management strategy for a more flood-resilient future on the Somerset Levels that benefits both people and wildlife – while expressing ‘concern’ over calls for the very dredging that has previously prevented such flood destruction in the past. This was just an earlier instance of this week’s example of those who have brought about the situation in Somerset throwing up one vast smokescreen to conceal their complicity in action which directly led to the flooding disaster and magnified its effects.
But what of the RSPB’s partner in this plot to ethnically cleanse people off the Somerset levels, the WWF? A trawl of their press centre shows they have not issued one release about the impact of the flooding on the Somerset levels on wildlife. Rare butterflies, wild flowers, badger, vole, mouse and many other species, some of them rare have been killed by the flooding and had their own habitat polluted. But from the WWF we hear nothing – bar calls for farmers to allow ‘small floods‘ on their land to prevent wider flooding downstream. There is no mention of their complicity in or support of the ‘restoration’ of wetlands which led to environmental management decisions that have made this flooding so bad.
Overseas the WWF seems quite happy to rush in and comment on flooding, as they did in Poland in 2010, where they criticised development on floodplains. But even then their intervention had a familiar ring to it. Cue a reference to our old friend, Making Space for Water which we referenced in this earlier post. The WWF made a deeply ironic observation that people in the Somerset levels might take issue with, when they claimed that:
More and more rivers around the world have been seeing projects to restore wetlands as natural wet and dry season reservoirs, with dramatic reductions in flood damage being only one of the benefits.
As for the WWF’s direction of travel, we note that earlier this month the organisation announced the appointment of Dr Marco Lambertini as Director General of WWF International. This is noteworthy because he is currently the Chief Executive of… Birdlife International, the global partner of the RSPB. Clearly the wheels within wheels are turning at an international level even outside the governance top table of the EU where such organisations sit as equals alongside representatives of national governments, informing and directing policy agendas in their own interests rather than the people in the European Union, who have no vehicle or method to exert anything like that kind of influence.
It is common to hear people say this country is going to the dogs. All the evidence that is accumulating so far suggests that is wrong. Thanks to the power wielded by certain organisations it is clearly going to the birds – helped by those who claim to love animals too.