Science & Environment

Spelman pledges £110m to revive unhealthy waterways

Image caption The country is blighted by waters which cannot support animals such as otters, Mrs Spelman argues

Otters and salmon will benefit from a £110m boost in spending on England's lakes, rivers and streams, the government has said.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said the funds would revive "lifeless" bodies of water, allowing wildlife to flourish by tackling invasive weeds.

She also said that ministers wanted people to become more involved in caring for local waterways and streams.

Ralph Underhill, of campaign group Our Rivers, welcomed the announcement.

£92m will be provided over the next four years to combat non-native invasive weeds and clear up pollution.

Redundant dams, weirs and landings in England will also be removed.

The funding will be shared between the Environment Agency, Natural England and charities such as the Association of Rivers Trust.

This boost is earmarked for England alone because funding for waterways is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

An additional £18m will be provided this year to help farmers protect water courses near agricultural land, the government added.

Grass roots

Image caption Floating pennywort, a non-native species, can deoxygenate bodies of water, killing aquatic life

Announcing the move, Mrs Spelman said: "The health of our rivers has come along in leaps and bounds, but we still see nasty invasive weeds and lifeless waters blight blue spaces in cities and across our countryside.

"With this funding, we'll help all our waterways and streams thrive by tackling problems that until now have been sitting in the 'too-hard' basket.

"Our new grass-roots approach to boosting healthier waterways and flourishing wildlife has local experience and knowledge at its heart."

Mr Underhill warned that the funding would not "solve all the problems overnight".

But he hailed the announcement as "fantastic news for our rivers and the wildlife they support".

"Rivers are a national asset and in the current financial climate it is great to see a new investment being made in their future," he added.

Conservation charity WWF-UK said it was delighted by the government's extra funding.

Tom Le Quesne, freshwater policy manager, said: "We recently withdrew legal action against the government which was originally taken because the previous government's 2009 plans for implementation of the Water Framework Directive did not deliver for rivers.

"We hope this funding shows the beginning of a long-term drive to improve the quality of our rivers and helping wildlife thrive."

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