England is lagging behind other European countries when it comes to caring for our rivers.

A study into the quality of waterways in Europe has shown up England for its disappointing river conservation record. The results of the survey are being highlighted by supporters of the recently launched Our Rivers campaign which is being backed by the RSPB, WWF, the Angling Trust and the Associations of Rivers Trusts.

The report, launched in Brussels today (Fri May 29) by the European Environment Bureau, compares countries according to their river basin management plans – the blueprints each European state has to compile to ensure their rivers are up to EU standards.

Countries are marked as bad, poor, moderate, good or high in various categories relating to environmental river management. The Netherlands and France come out well in the report but the English regions scores several poor and moderate marks.

The RSPB’s head of water policy Rob Cunningham said the report showed the UK was not doing enough to protect its waterways and the wildlife which rely on them.

“This report proves that England is lagging behind when it comes to caring for our rivers,” he said. “This backs up everything the Our Rivers campaign has been shouting about – there is a lack of ambition and a lack of clarity from the Government when it comes to improving our waterways.

“The shocking facts are that 85 per cent of rivers in England and Wales are failing to reach recognised quality targets. This is due to a variety of factors including pollution, unrestrained water use and dredging and engineering of rivers.

“The Environment Agency has a responsibility to protect rivers in England and this survey shows us they are failing to keep up with the best in Europe. We’re being shamed by several of our European neighbours who clearly care more for the health of their waterways than our Government does.”

The report highlights the fact that several countries including the Netherlands, France and Germany are committed to river restoration projects that are re-connecting flood plains to rivers and recreating natural riverbanks and wetlands, but in England we have no similar long term plans.

The Our Rivers campaign was launched earlier this year. The official website – www.ourrivers.org.uk – features an interactive map of the UK’s rivers allowing users to highlight the issues facing their local waterway.

The Environment Agency will decide the fate of every river in the country through 11 regional management plans which they will be consulting the public on between now and 22 June. The campaign aims to encourage river action groups, ramblers, boaters, anglers, and anyone else who cares about their local river to make their voice heard.

“A healthy river means a vibrant population of fish, plants and bugs and that in turn supports some of our best loved aquatic mammals and wild birds including otters and kingfishers,” Rob added.

“Everyone has a river they care about – whether it’s the brook they cross on their way to work, the waterway they take their family to for summer boating trips or the stream they fish in.

“But sadly we are in danger of missing an opportunity to do something to help those rivers. This survey deals with how individual countries are complying with EU guidelines – however it’s a disgrace that we need a directive from Brussels to spur us into action, this is something we should be doing because we care for our environment.”

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