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Vol. 78/No. 11      March 24, 2014

UK ‘green’ policies lead to floods,
ruin of farmers
(front page)
MANCHESTER, England — Massive flooding in south England is above all a consequence of government policy under the direction of self-proclaimed environmental activists. Driven by anti-scientific ideology and contempt for working people, these policies have led to devastation of working farmers, farmland and infrastructure — as well as the very wildlife habitats they claim to champion.

The worst flooding since 2007 has left 5,800 homes flooded and 80,000 households without power. Many workers could not get to work and farmers watched field after field of crops go under. A rail line connecting Cornwall and much of Devon with the rest of the country is out of commission for weeks. Homes in Chertsey, residents report, have been covered in untreated sewage, while flood water in Basingstoke has mixed with sewage.

“We’ve been without mains water and surrounded in floodwater for five weeks now and Thames Water and the Environmental Agency have done nothing,” Deborah Carter, in nearby Wraysbury, told The Independent.

Flooding began in Somerset in December and spread to other areas of south England following record rainfall in January. Residents in the southwest complain they were flooded for six weeks before they received any government assistance. Government Minister Eric Pickles admitted the government should have dredged the Somerset Levels to speed water drainage. Yet repeated calls by farmers for dredging were disregarded for months.

Flood waters on the Somerset Levels have been rising for the last few years. Four main rivers running across the Levels — home to a fifth of Somerset’s farmland — became so clogged with silt that water from record high rainfall could not escape.

In 1996, Britain’s new Environment Agency took over management of rivers, diminishing the role of local bodies that had organized flood control for generations. Farmers and engineers told Christopher Booker, who wrote an article on the roots of the flood problem in the Feb. 15 issue of the Spectator, that this change coincided with a decline in regular dredging, neglect of pumping stations and a rash of new “environmental” regulations.

Gov’t cuts back dredging, drainage

Dredging was cut back further in 2002 after the Labour government appointed wildlife zealot Barbara Young, Baroness of Old Scone, as chief executive of the Environment Agency. In 2008 the agency halted drainage on the Somerset Levels under the rubric of protecting biodiversity. “For instant wildlife just add water,” Young, who previously headed up the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England, blithely advocated at the time.

Elsewhere, the Thames has not been properly dredged since 1996, following European Union environmental protection directives that made it more expensive for landowners to dredge rivers than to collect government subsidies to develop so-called conservation schemes.

Agronomists estimate that farmers on the Somerset Levels may not be able to grow crops for up to two years as a result of the floods. Half of the flood pumps could not be used because of damage to the banks of the Parrett River.

The current coalition government has also reduced spending on flood defenses. Prime Minister David Cameron tried to hide behind “abnormal weather” and “climate change” as reasons for the disaster. Yet around 5 million people in the U.K. are known to live in areas prone to flooding.

The impact of the flooding has also called forward a chorus of panic-mongering from liberal commentators. A lead article in the New Statesman warned that “the U.K. faces the prospect of food shortages, more floods, extreme heat waves and mass refugee flows.”

Rather than target government priorities and the social conditions working farmers in the areas affected face, Guardian writer and self-described environmentalist George Monbiot blames them, alleging the government pays farmers “for the privilege of having our wildlife exterminated, our hills grazed bare, our rivers polluted and our sitting rooms flooded.”

The reality working farmers face was described in a phone interview with Surrey dairy farmer Youleite Parkes. “The knock on effect of having to buy more cattle feed at higher prices because of the floods will be with us for some time,” she said, describing how government regulations prevent farmers from drawing water off rivers and also draining ditches on their land as frequently as necessary.

For many working farmers flood insurance for their land “is too expensive to even consider,” she said.

Insurance companies predict price rises in premiums. The bad weather has been a boon for these capitalists. An article in The Times was headlined, “Profits soaring, the insurance industry must love floods.”

Fearing potential electoral losses, Cameron has visited areas affected and pledged tax breaks and grants to businesses and households hit by the floods. In order to provide subsidies to insurance companies, the government announced it would impose a new tax on everyone holding home insurance across the United Kingdom.  
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