Watership Drown for Mr Smith

There is no denying it. If you are in the UK, you are likely drenched, flooded or drowning. It is the worst hardship that any person could ever face. Even though such a situation unheard of in Australia, I grew up in the Netherlands and as such, rainy conditions are not unknown to the Dutch, the flooding they are facing however has not been seen to THAT degree ever. Yes, if you were living by the Maas, there some have had their skirmishes with floods; also the Australians have had their own versions of ‘enlarged’ swimming pools. The flood that has hit Somerset is however one of the few moments where ‘biblical’ is the only word that covers the hardship these people face.

It goes beyond Somerset, as per tonight, anyone who is living around the Themes is likely to be in dire need for higher ground. I agree with certain people when they state that this is not the time for the blame game. (at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/10/uk-floods-cameron-ministers-flooding). I myself do not have any intentions to blame Lord Smith of Finsbury at present. I saw how people seem to blame him for this, but why?

Dredging? The news that hit the Daily Mail less than 12 hours ago (at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2555667/Environment-Agency-bosses-spent-2-4million-PR-refused-1-7million-dredging-key-Somerset-rivers-stopped-flooding.html), which shows us how their story is not a useful example.

No matter how correct their numbers are. You see, numbers do not lie; the writer who uses these numbers like in the quote “but refused £1.7million dredging of key Somerset rivers that could have stopped flooding” is at the very centre of the entire deception.

No amount of dredging would have saved Somerset, whatever experts will tell you in cautious words, the issue is not just the rain, but the amount of days that the rain continued. The soil is saturated for many hundreds of square miles. You see, rivers do help getting water away, but the soil soaks up most of the water. Consider a simple experiment. You take two buckets, one filled with dry dirt, one empty. You add 2 gallons of water to both, put a lid with a few small holes on both and after 15 minutes you empty the bucket again through the holes into the 2 gallon measure. You will see that the bucket without soil returns 99.322% (roughly), the other one will yield less than 60%. This is what Somerset and others face. Water that has nowhere to go, it remains afloat upon the land. I watched as an old lady on sky news proclaimed that she had never seen anything like this in her 43 years living in that area. That should be a first indication that England is not facing anything they have faced before. Weeks of rain and more rain to come for at least 2 weeks (as presently indicated), dredging would not have had the smallest of influence, there is too much water to deal with.

Additional consideration was the image they placed (at http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/02/10/article-2555667-1B5A5F2E00000578-651_634x446.jpg), take the small blue lines as the rivers and consider the red areas as flooded. Now consider that all the red area water is at least 3 inches, which would make it billions of gallons. How are rivers to deal with that? Dredging would not have made a difference at all. Now, important is that I am not against dredging, but in this case it would not have been the solution people claim it to be.

In support we can see the following at the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/10/uk-floods-cameron-ministers-flooding), where the following was stated by former environment minister Richard Benyon “A lot of people are becoming very fed up with the way in which this debate is being reduced to a binary choice about whether rivers should be dredged or not. I have to point out floods are caused by rain not silt“, the additional fact that we can find in that story is that the Brits haven’t seen these amounts of rain since 1760. Consider that most of the affected areas had been uninhabited in those days strengthens that this event to this degree is a first.

The second misuse of ‘facts’ by the Daily Mail is “The Environment Agency spent £2.4million on PR activities“. The Environment Agency is not there just for floods. On their website they state “regulation of major industry, flood and coastal risk management, water quality and resources, waste regulation, climate change, fisheries, contaminated land, conservation and ecology, navigation“, so basically it is a big bucket of events that is covered. Keeping track of pollution is a big one as many (not at present) can agree to.

Looking through the articles, there is an interesting one by Colin Thorne from Nottingham University (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/10/britain-floods-chief-scientist-sewage-coastal-defences). It shows that not only is the UK facing hardship, it will soon be facing a really hard choice on how to deal with these events. Sir David King had mentioned the need for radical change a decade ago. The quote “Sustainable flood management actually involves a lot less flood management and a lot more managed flooding” might give an indication on how drastically the changes need to be. If we use the Netherlands as an example, the UK will soon face the discussion on spending. This is because in the Netherlands managing too much water has been a massive part of its national budget for over half a century. Take a look at the map of the Netherlands, and consider that the lowest dry spot in the Netherlands is 7 meters BELOW sea level! Let’s not forget that the Netherlands did not get to this point easily or free of hurt. The fight against the sea began in all earnest after the storm of Sunday February 1st 1953, which killed almost 1800 people. This storm changed the face of the Netherlands in more than one way. Such a project is not feasible in the UK, but we will see some projects start, which will start debates on many levels. As people realise that the future in Somerset could start to revolve around managed flooding, we will see new levels of anger. It is only natural that this happens. We are not talking about flooding residential areas, but consider that areas, surrounded by dikes doubling as roads will create places where all the water can go to, who owns these lands? More important, what happens when it is not enough? They are all valid questions and the least favourite part of this will decide on some of the choices, because all of it will cost money and it will take loads of money to get something done decently. In addition, the land lost will impact on land prices and land value. So when Sir David King spoke about hard choices he was not kidding and I wonder if people realise just how hard these changes could be.

The final thought I leave you with is this. ‘This had not happened to this degree for a little over 250 years!‘ How unsafe do the people feel there and how far will the government go to take a stand against what has happened? Lord Smith of Finsbury stated a good point when he mentioned the 5000 houses that did get hit and the 1.1 million houses that remained safe. It is a good point and we need to focus on that part before the parties in the UK start pushing out ‘wild’ programs on visibility against floods.


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