River Thames Wins Environmental Prize
07 Dec 2010
The Environment Agency wins the world’s largest environmental prize after Britain’s most iconic river was crowned the beauty queen of the planet’s waterways
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The Environment Agency has collected the world’s largest environmental prize after Britain’s most iconic river was crowned the beauty queen of the planet’s waterways
The River Thames has been selected out of hundreds of rivers across every continent as the winner of the International Theiss River Prize, which celebrates outstanding achievement in watercourse management and restoration.
England’s most renowned waterway was in the competition finals against the world famous Yellow River in China, the Hattah Lakes in Australia and Japan’s Smirnykh Rivers Partnership. The Thames scooped the prize thanks to its dramatic recovery from a biologically dead river in the 1950s to the thriving place it is today, teeming with fish, including eels and whitebait, and with returning salmon, otter and sea trout populations.
The chemical quality of the river water in the Thames catchment has improved and the estuary can even support viable shellfisheries, as well as being a nursery bed for commercial sole and bass stocks. The numbers of fish are also increasing, with 125 different species recorded, including smelt — closely related to salmon — and the shad, which is a type of herring. Both are rich in omega-3 and considered two of the healthiest fish to eat.
Since 2005, 393 habitat enhancement projects have been completed and nearly 70 km of river has been restored or enhanced. Alastair Driver, the Environment Agency’s national conservation manager, said: “In the last 150 years the Thames has been to hell and back, and it has taken thousands of people decades to restore it to this point. Tighter regulation of all the polluting industries and our work with businesses, water companies and farmers, to reduce pollution and improve the water quality, have helped to make the Thames a living river once again.
“But the recovery is fragile and under increasing pressure from a growing population, ageing infrastructure and climate change. Through innovative projects such as the Thames Tideway tunnels and the London Rivers Action Plan, we and all of the people and organisations we work with, are proving that we are tackling all these challenges head on to ensure that the Thames remains an iconic river for many centuries to come.”
The Environment Agency has pledged that the prize money — approximately £215,000 — will go to the Thames Rivers Restoration Trust. Part of the prize fund will be used by the Trust to establish a twinning project to help restore a river in the developing world.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said he was “thrilled” with the result, while London-born actor David Suchet, a keen boater and chairman of the River Thames Alliance, said: “I’m fortunate in my life to have travelled extensively and enjoyed many other rivers worldwide. But the River Thames is priceless and one of the most glittering jewels in the crown of our English heritage.”
Contact: Environment Agency,
PO Box 544, Rotherham, S60 1BY
The Thames Barrier: a system of stainless-steel-plated hollow flood
gates across the River Thames
Photo: © Environment Agency
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