Save The Ribble

A blog dedicated to preserving the beauty and delicate ecosystem of the River Ribble, and opposing the Riverworks 'vision' to build a barrage on our River and develop on our riverbanks, floodplains and green spaces, causing damage to wildlife and the environment and increasing the risk of flooding to our homes. Save the Ribble Campaign is not responsible for the content of external blogs or websites which link here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

River Barrages and Flood "Defence" Embankments Causing Flood Devastation in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh

The most recent flooding in India, Napal, and Bangladesh has been exacerbated by River barrages and flood "defence" embankments built along the river floodplains, particularly the huge Ganges river system.

These barrages have also caused huge environmental impacts such as erosion, desertification, siltation, and loss of farmland and environmental habitats including huge impacts on fisheries in areas where people rely completely on being able to grow and catch their own food.

As the flood waters have backed up behind the barrage structures, the river banks either side have been seriously breached and flooded huge areas of land. The Kosi barrage was itself breached too in recent weeks, causing further devastation downstream.

photo courtesy ASAP

Sudhirendar Sharma reports:

'Over 3,465 km of embankments have been built as a flood-control measure in Bihar since 1952, and more embankments are in the offing. When will government realise that it is the embankments themselves that are responsible for Bihar’s recurrent floods?
The truth is that Delhi has got its flood action plan consistently wrong over the years, and so has Patna. Shockingly, it is the flood control measures themselves that have over the years turned north Bihar into a watery grave for millions. Over 2 million people are permanently trapped between the flood control embankments which have been built along the Kosi river since the early-1950s ... An estimated 8 million people are faced with acute water-logging outside of the embankments. Strait-jacketing the silt-laden Kosi has actually caused flood-prone areas in the state to increase threefold since independence, from a low of 25,00,000 hectares to a high of 68,00,000 hectares today. No less than 73% of the entire land mass of Bihar remains flood-prone.'
See Missing the River for the Dam and Abandoned Victims of the Kosi Embankments.

'A dam on the river in Nepal breached earlier this month causing the Kosi to change its course, swamping hundreds of villages in Bihar and destroying more than 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of farmland.'

The havoc was reportedly caused by the gates of the Kailashpuri barrage (on the Ghagara river) not being opened.

See What is Flooding the Koshi Barrage and Nepal Blames India for Fresh Flooding.

On Sept 5: 'Engineers working at the Kosi Barrage in Nepal have said that the river would continue to change its course if heavy silt deposits are not removed... the river has breached its embankment 8 times in a span of just 50 years and government officials as well as the engineers are being blamed for the catastrophe said to largely manmade.' See News Track India.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Javed Iqbal has recently pointed out the ongoing devastation caused by the Farakka Barrage to huge areas of India and Bangladesh along the Ganges basin, which has caused desertification, massive erosion, and huge siltation problems along the Ganges basin.

This particular barrage was built to supposedly SOLVE problems caused by earlier barrages along other stretches of the Ganges huge river system, but has of course made the problems considerably worse - and not just for the environment as over 20 thousand people been made homeless by the unforeseen consequences of the Farakka barrage, and two rivers 20km downstream of the barrage, which used to be 3 km apart 10 years ago, are now only 750 METRES apart, and are likely to merge and cause even more havoc.
See The Farakka Barrage - An Environmental Mistake

If you would like to help people hit by the devastating floods in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, please click on the links below:
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Save The Children donation site

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Sunday, September 21, 2008


Plans to re-vamp the controversial Preston Vision Board have survived a demand from Labour Councillors to give the so-called think tank more democratic accountability by adding more politicians to the restructured board (Vision Board survives after row)

Councillor Jack Davenport (Lab) called for council leader Ken Hudson (Con) to chair the Preston Vision Board Limited with Labour leader John Collins also a member.

But the move, which was narrowly defeated in the City Centre Committee by a vote of 6 to 5, would have gone against North West Development Agency rules which say that the Board needs to be headed by a private sector figure.

The Vision Board, responsible for a number of deeply unpopular projects, has been much criticised by local residents for its secretiveness, lack of democratic accountability and its over representation of business interests rather than those of local people (Preston Vision Boards limited vision)

However, the structure of the re-vamped Vision Board is unlikely to address the concerns of local residents. Councillor Collins said that the Vision Board, with only one Preston Council member, would have “a democratic deficit”, while Matthew Brown (Lab) said a private sector chairman would have a “conflict of interest”.

Councillor Davenport said “we need to be more enthusiastic about democratic accountability, otherwise every project that comes up is going to be met with scepticism”.

Lack of democratic accountability is of course welcomed by private business since it ensures that their own narrow interests are heard at the expense of those of local residents. Preston City Council Chief Executive Jim Carr appeared to acknowledge this when he commented that the “private sector are very easily put off by politicking” (Vision Board survives after row)

But what the private sector calls politicking we call democratic accountability and ensuring the interests of local people are protected.

Local residents are unlikely to be persuaded by Jim Carr’s comment that Preston Vision Board was not a decision making body – decisions would be made by the cross party City Centre Committee.

Surely putting important decisions to a small hand picked committee rather than the full council simply compounds residents' concerns about the Vision Board's lack of accountability and fears that unpopular projects will be pushed through without the scrutiny of the full democratic process (A Barrage of Democracy)

Preston City Council is clear that it wants to attract investment into the City and Jim Carr believes that “when it comes to attracting investment we need the best people and the best people are the private sector”.

This may be so. But what local residents question is whether the private sector is always going to act in the interests of local people and of our environment when businesses could stand to make huge profits from Vision Board projects.

Given the recent track record of the Vision Board in promoting deeply unpopular projects such as the Ribble barrage and associated building on our Green Belt, and the proposed re-vamp of Winckley Square and the Flag Market, the answer to this question is surely no.

And considering the Vision Board's continued interest in developing the Ribble corridor with cafes, restaurants, businesses and homes (Revitalised riverside or developers dream?)local residents would be right to continue to be highly sceptical of Preston Vision Limited and its projects.

The private sector will of course have a role to play in the future development of Preston.

But it is clear that the interests of business must be kept in check by the process of democratic accountability if the interests of local people and our environment are to be protected.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Preston Vision Board's Ltd Vision

Preston City Council has announced that it wants to recruit a senior figure to overhaul the much criticised Preston Vision Board (LEP 29/8/08 Search for think tank supremo ).

Councillors have been asked to back making the Board a limited company known as Preston Vision Ltd to give it more clout and make it more accountable.

Local residents have frequently expressed concerns about the Vision Board's lack of accountability and failure to represent the views and aspirations of the local community. And this failure to consider the needs of the local community and environment has resulted in the Board limiting its Vision to plans which serve the needs of developers and simply further the oft repeated but fundamentally un-ambitious mantra of Preston achieving “Third City” status.

It was the Preston Vision Board which came up with the plan to barrage the Ribble, develop the River corridor and build homes and offices on our Green Belt and flood plain. Plans which were opposed by 74% of local people. 74% of residents say NO to Ribble Barrage
More recently the Vision Board's plans for the historic Winckley Square in Preston have caused a storm of protests amongst local residents.

While plans to barrage the Ribble were shelved as a result of the opposition of local residents and environmental organisations the Preston Vision Board continues to view the Ribble as a “tremendous asset” and wants to press ahead with plans to develop the river corridor with cafes, restaurants and homes alongside the river (see Revitalised river or developer's dream? ) But the Vision Board's “dream” for the River, as espoused by its chair Malcom McVicar, continues to betray a lack knowledge and lack of respect for the River Ribble, the riverside area, local communities, and all of the environmental strategies directly connected to the River Ribble itself as well as to broader biodiversity and flood management issues.
Unfortunately, turning the board into a limited company is unlikely to do anything to encourage a change in its direction or its already limited vision.

Opposition leaders on the Council have expressed concerns that the Preston Vision Board would be led by an “unelected” supremo if it is turned into a limited company and could become a “self-satisfying group for old boys networking” (Concern over unelected think tank boss).

It is unclear exactly how turning the Preston Vision Board into a limited company will increase its accountability to local residents.
And other than the requirement to submit audited accounts to Companies House it won’t be subject to any increased public scrutiny either.

Neither should we expect the newly appointed (and no doubt highly paid) executive to have the views and aspirations of local people or protection of our local environment as his/her priority.

Indeed, the City Council is clear that they want a new high profile executive “who can relate well to the private sector and negotiate with potential developers with the aim of attracting entrepreneurs into the city.” (see LEP Search for think tank supremo ).

As long as Preston Vision Ltd continues to address the needs and interests of private sector developers before considering the aspirations of local residents and the needs of our local environment it will continue to deliver more of the same limited vision for the future of our community.

We were amused to read Barry Freeman's 'View from Here' in the LEP on 4/9/08 in which he pours scorn on the latest attempts to revamp the Vision Board by "shovelling more public brass into an executive salary trough", saying that calling it Preston Vision Ltd is "an unwittingly great name which explains an awful lot". He says that there is "something increasingly Alan Partridge" about Preston City leaders' aspirations to achieve Third City status. We tend to agree.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ribble Wildlife Walks and Talks

Ok, so this summer is pretty much a washout again, but when the sun does shine, grab your shoes and head down to the Ribble - or grab your brolly and go anyway because the Ribble is beautiful whatever the weather!

A particularly interesting series of events are coming up, starting
this Wednesday, 3rd September
- a Herbal Health Walk.

We've been told that 'two lovely herbalists will be leading a walk to enjoy the fresh air and scenery and to look at some of the herbs that grow wild in the Avenham Park area and surrounding countryside.'

They are meeting at 2 p.m. at the new Avenham Pavilion, which is looking pretty much finished now, down by the river.

But if it carries on raining until October, don't worry because the Preston Birdwatching and Natural History Society have announced their new season of talks, beginning at the end of September...

Most of the Preston Society talks take place at St. Mary's Church Hall, Cop Lane, Penwortham, (100 metres from the Liverpool Road traffic lights near the Fleece Inn) but a few are in an alternative venue further down Cop Lane.

Best of all, a number of the talks are directly connected to our Ribble wildlife!! - so check out their website for full details, but look out for:

"Life and Colour in our Northern Coastal Waters" on October 13th 7.30pm St. Leonard's Hall, Marshall's Brow (at the bottom end of Cop Lane, Penwortham);

"Gravel to Grebes" - How Brockholes Wetland is coming along!
December 8th St. Leonard's, 7.30pm;

"A Year in Bowland" - yes, Bowland wildlife and Ribble wildlife are often connected, from breeding Lapwings to the Harriers who breed on Bowland but hunt the entire Ribble corridor - and beyond!
January 26th in St. Mary's Church Hall, Cop Lane 7.30pm;

"A Year at Marshside" February 23rd, St Mary's, 7.30pm;
- another must-see, but make sure you also get down to Marshside in person too!

plus many other talks on "Waterworld", "Migration", and various Birdlife and Wildlife from local, national and international perspectives.

Happy Ribbling, wellies and all!

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"The care of rivers is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart" Tanako Shozo Save The Ribble Logo