It is easy to go around making jokes and flippant comments. “We should get an Ark” or “The North is basically underwater” are just a couple that I have heard and made over the past few weeks. It is easy to make these comments and forget about the hundreds and thousands of people who’s lives have been seriously and irreversibly affected by these floods.
In the South West of England, we have been lucky. With the odd sinkhole and closed seafront we have very little to complain about in comparison to what is happening in the north of the country. Several counties across the north, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire to name just a few. Beyond that, Scotland and Northern Ireland are struggling at the moment.
People’s homes, businesses, their entire livelihood is being destroyed by this water. Homes and shops with water waist deep, deliveries unable to get out to get food to people, bridges collapsing. Streets are becoming rivers, in many places it’s hard to tell where the river should end and the path should begin.
There is a lot being thrown around in parliament, in newspapers and in conversation about what went wrong or what we’re doing wrong. Time for my tuppence. Cameron has promised £2.6billion to go into building new flood defences and this is great in theory. A number of issues arise though, I’ll name just a couple.
Nothing has been said about maintaining flood defences that are already in place. It’s all well and good putting a couple of billion quid into the building of defences, but you also need to look at the defences that are already in place, you need to consider how to maintain them, how to ensure that they don’t become less effective. Maintenance will be better in the long run if there is already something in place that works.
They keep building on floodplains. a floodplain by definition are “an area of land that is prone to flooding” National Geographic points out that “Houses that are build in small flood plains often require more insurance coverage because damage due to flooding is more likely to occur there than in higher elevations.” We have literally been told that these places are likely to get flooding. It makes no sense to build in these areas.
They are literally changing nature. There are some powerful and natural flood defences that have been provided for us for millennia. I’m not going to claim that there would be no floods if we weren’t to make changing to what naturally occurs, I will however say it would probably help the situation. The meanders (or bends) in rivers allow for water to take its time moving downstream which prevents flash flooding from hitting so fast and violently. On top of that we are cutting down trees and destroying habitats in the uplands of rivers, which is causing more problems for villages, towns and cities downriver. “A hillside covered in thick vegetation tends to release water more slowly than a bare hill […] This is especially important upstream. Planting woodlands at a stream’s upper reaches could help delay the water from reaching the main river.”
At the end of the day, it is all very well saying that there is going to be all this money, the important part really is focusing on what the money is used for and how we maintain flood defences. It’s a sad but unavoidable fact that global warming is going to make flooding a more regular occurrence and the country cannot allow it to get to the extent it got this winter. The country cannot allow such a large part of the country feel abandoned underwater.