The British government is about to make environmental history. If everything goes according to plan, very soon the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill will receive Royal Assent. When this happens, it will be the first time a government-sponsored bill has aimed to destroy an ENTIRE SSSI. Oh yes, we all know that they’ve dug them up, bulldozed through them and polluted them to hell and back, but this time the Welsh Office is determined to permanently flood the Taff/Ely Estuary in Cardiff - covering the mudflats and destroying homes and feeding grounds for thousands of birds. Why are they doing this? I hear you cry - surely there must be some reason. Surely this must be because they want to generate lots of tidal power, save the city from drowning or something? But there are no such reasons. If you were to ask the Governor General (sorry, I mean Secretary of State) for Wales he would explain in the following terms:
Southern Cardiff is a shithole that needs regeneration. (This is true)
If lots of nice businessmen invested in the area it would be regenerated (...hmmm)
Because somebody stuck a muddy estuary in the way, nobody will invest because it is so ugly. (This is bollocks)
If we stop the water leaving the estuary (by building a big wall across the mouth of the bay) then people will think it’s really a lake so all the businessman in the world will rush to Cardiff with their wallets bulging. (what?!?!)
HOWEVER, there are one or two teensy problems...
Cardiff Bay is designated as an SSSI because of the numbers of Shelduck, Dunlin, Redshank and Knot that wade and feed on the mudflats. It was also proposed in 1990 by the Nature Conservancy Council (as they were) that the whole Severn Estuary (of which Cardiff Bay is a part) be designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds under EC law. In 1991 the government decided to remove Cardiff Bay from consideration as part of the SPA because destroying part of a candidate SPA would be illegal. This must be the most blatant piece of ecological gerrymandering ever seen. The European Commission is investigating the legality of this.
When you play around with nature she gets her revenge. Some of the problems predicted (by the developers’ own consultants, the Environmental Advisory Unit of Liverpool University) are as follows:
The water quality in the lake will be poor. (the Taff and the Ely which flow into Cardiff Bay are two of the most polluted rivers in Wales). So ‘water sport activities should be restricted to those involving only accidental contact’. The water quality will lead to growth of algae (some of it poisonous blue-green algae). ‘Dogs entering the water become covered in the algal scum and may ingest lethal quantities of algal toxins when licking algae off their fur.’
The consultants go onto say:
‘We consider that midge swarms may pose a problem in summer around the lake.’ They cannot suggest a satisfactory method of dealing with this problem.
It has been recognised that water quality may be so bad that oxygen should be bubbled through it. However ‘[Trials have] not demonstrated unequivocally that oxygen would be effectively dissolved, dispersed and retained in the water body.’
Also, ‘Weil's disease results from infection by leptosphire bacteria and has been recognised by the promoters as a particular problem associated with the impounded waters of Cardiff Bay.’
Basically then, the Cardiff Bay Barrage is a massive £56 million phallic extension for the Secretary of State for Wales which will destroy an SSSI, break European Law and create the sort of wrecked environment you wouldn’t even wish on John Selwyn Gummer.
We really need help planning and organising direct action. In the meantime please contact Julian at Mid-Glamorgan EF! for info about how to complain at the European Commission about a breach of the EC Wild Birds Directive.
- The Shelducks
Refs: Cardiff Bay Barrage: Environmental Statement - Environmental Advisory Unit of Liverpool University