Despite widespread flooding in The North of Britain last week, Pickering, Yorkshires main flooding region, beat the weather and stayed dry. Notwithstanding, the town had been refused financial aid for a defense mechanism, so it tackled it with wringing success.
The town prevented the frequent inundation by using what many will call an “old-fashioned” method.
On their own, the citizens worked with nature to control the floods.
The towns triumph should influence the decisions that were made by policy makers after last month’s floods that saw, at least, £5 billion channeled to flood control schemes elsewhere.
The success of the town is a mock to the people who believe that flood cannot be prevented in an environmentally friendly manner. The people who subscribe to this school of thought fail to understand why the government fails to take into account all safety measures and insist on dredging waterways, in order to protect fauna and flora.
Dredging is mostly unsafe, pointless and environmentally unsafe. This is because scooping of silt and weed from the river bed causes water to flow faster increasing the danger of downstream flooding.
Pickering is situated at the bottom of a steep gorge draining of the North York Moors, the residents of the town have been victims of perennial flooding. There have been four floods recorded since 1999-2007 causing damage of about £7 million. The solution mooted to the residents was to build a £20 million wall to keep water out of the river. This solution was, however, disadvantageous as it would reduce the attractiveness of the area hence reduce tourism. It was also found to be uneconomically viable as the costs would outweigh the benefits accrued; too few people would be protected by the wall.
Mike Potter, Chairman of the Pickering and District Civic Society and the residents, decided to take the matter into their hands and tackle the problem facing them. They consulted a number of local environmentalists on the history of flooding in the area. They were told of how the moors in the area released water more slowly and how a bund built by monks centuries ago held the excess water back. They followed this up by consulting with some universities to assess the best and most viable option.
The best option was going back to the past. This would be achieved by recreating past conditions by significantly slowing down the flow of water from the hills. A number of bodies at this point joined the residents and provided support.
The work began of building 167 leaky dams, 187 lesser obstructions and 29 hectares of woodland. After some haggling, they also built a bund. The result? The average flow of water was retained, but high flows of water were slowed down. Three months after the project was officially opened, the floods came calling on the rest of England, and the residents of the town unlike the past watched it on their televisions. All this was achieved at a cost of less than £2million.
Another area that has benefited from such a scheme albeit more technical is found at the Somerset villages of Bossington and Allerford. Here, they built porous wooden dams and blocked ditches.
Destruction of forests and wetlands is another issue that quickly needs to be addressed with one language by the government. Some departments encourage maintenance of this crucial ecosystems while other agencies encourage developments at the expense of this eco-systems. Trees absorb water faster than grasslands. Sixty times faster to be precise. Another issue is helping other farmers to stop overstocking of livestock. The sheep compact the grass with their hooves reducing the ability of the soil to absorb water that results in excess water running off. The cities have become concrete jungles with very little soil but full of sewers that are not able to adequately handle the excess water.
Ultimately, the best solution to solve the floods issue is the prevention of the floods themselves which needs to happen at a national level. The issue is that it appears there is no government goodwill to accomplish this objective. The slashing of support for farmers and diverting the funds to reduce flooding has been suggested by experts. Shockingly, David Cameron, last year allowed grants to go to such environmental friendly projects to be slashed. The hope is that efforts such as the Pickering scheme will help change attitudes to the issue of inundation.