Page last updated at 06:56 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

River clean-up to revive wildlife

The River Usk at Caerleon (Photo: Steve Westhead)
Welsh rivers, such as the Usk, will be cleaned up by 2015

A major clean-up of Welsh rivers, lakes and coastline aims to restore them to their natural state to encourage more wildlife.

Environment Agency Wales and the assembly government aim to improve all waterways by 2015 and return them to a "near natural" condition by 2027.

They aim to ensure water companies, farming groups, industry and councils work together to tackle pollution.

Environment Minister Jane Davidson will launch the project later.

The intention of the River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) is to make Wales' water more attractive for both people and wildlife.

River Taff
This is an achievable challenge that will make Wales an even better place to live
Chris Mills, Environment Agency Wales

Developed by the Environment Agency and approved last month by ministers, the plans detail how the water environment across England and Wales will be both protected and improved in light of new EU targets.

For the first time they detail how collective action will be taken to improve the nation's waterways.

This includes action to tackle pollution including run-off from rural and urban sources and pollution from sewage treatment works.

Other major pressures will also be addressed, including over-abstraction of water, which can affect wildlife and wetlands, and obstructions such as weirs and culverts that can prevent wildlife from thriving in rivers and streams.

The wildlife which would benefit from the clean-up includes otters, water voles, frogs, kingfishers, butterflies and fish.

Ms Davidson, who will launch the project at Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve, said it was essential that the quality of rivers was improved and protected.

Southerndown (Photo: Les Humphreys)
The coastline, like Southerndown, Vale of Glamorgan, will be improved

"I am delighted that rivers like the Taff running through south Wales into Cardiff Bay are now cleaner than they have been for generations," she said.

"These plans set out how we intend to repeat the success so far in three other river basin areas of Wales to ensure they are healthy thriving environments for people and wildlife."

Chris Mills, director of Environment Agency Wales, said although Wales' rivers are at their healthiest for over a century, more work needs to be done.

"Diffuse pollution from urban and rural land uses impacts water quality, and the spread of 'non-native' species threatens Wales' natural wildlife.

"To address these issues and meet new targets not just on the Taff but across the whole of Wales' waters, everyone will need to play a part including farmers, water companies, industry, local authorities and groups such as wildlife trusts and the RSPB.

"This is an achievable challenge that will make Wales an even better place to live.

"We'll have even healthier, cleaner rivers and we want to see more natural waters in towns and urban locations where they're all too often hidden by too much concrete."

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