Cut the cr*p from the River Wye
Life in the River Wye is silently slipping away.
The River Wye (Afon Gwy) is the fourth-longest river in the UK, stretching some 250 kilometres (155 miles) from its source on Plynlimon in mid Wales to the Severn estuary. For much of its length the river forms part of the border between England and Wales. The Wye is also a victim to terrible pollution; sewage is one problem but the sheer volumes of chemical run-off from poultry farms is causing a major issue.
The crisis can be seen in the death of fish and insects, the unrelenting loss of aquatic flowers, and the huge algal blooms that turn the river green and stinking during long, hot spells.
Phosphate, the chemical that creates these algal blooms and the resulting loss of oxygen in the water, is invisible. But you can see, and often smell, the main cause of the problem. Manure from chicken farms making its way into the Wye.
Powys now has more than 150 Intensive Poultry Units housing an estimated 10 million chickens. This is industrial scale agriculture with factory-like production lines of up to 100,000 plus birds at each site, making Powys Europe’s largest producer of free-range eggs.
Research suggests an extra 2,000 tonnes of phosphates a year are being tipped and spread via muck onto land in the overall Wye catchment area. This equates to 1.5 million tonnes of manure being spread within the catchment area, which exceeds what is required for crop growth by many times, every year.
Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs and Julie James, the Welsh Minister for Climate Change, both have the power to make urgent, long-term changes that will save the Wye river and its wildlife.
Wherever you live, you can help.
Everyone can contact the Welsh Ministers asking them to take urgent action to protect the River Wye. If you live in Wales you can also email your Members of the Senedd asking them to take action for the Wye.
What does Radnorshire Wildlife Trust want? >
- The Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) for the whole of Wales to be fully implemented.
- Natural Resources Wales' budget for monitoring and enforcement to be restored, with immediate effect, to its 2013 level as a minimum and then increased over the next 5 years.
- The Interim Office for Environmental Protection to be given the powers and funding to ensure proper monitoring and mitigation.
- A catchment-based approach to be adopted through the Agriculture Act, and properly funded, for the Wye – and all Welsh Rivers.
- Specific targets to ensure 30% of the land and sea will be actively managed for nature by 2030, enshrined in the emerging Agriculture (Wales) Act.
- A Sustainable Farming Scheme for Wales that provides incentives for sustainable land management within a Farm Sustainability Plan.
- Investment into developing new markets for chicken manure. With calls to ban peat compost, the nutrient within chicken manure could have value. Mixing manure with bracken and green waste could create rich organic and peat-free compost.
- All IPU’s to be licensed and require planning permission – currently IPUs of fewer than 40,000 chickens or a 1,000 pigs only require an environmental permit, but these units produce significant amounts of manure.
We're not alone in calling for urgent action >
A petition signed by more than 75,000 people is calling for an immediate pause on planning permissions for new or extended poultry units in Powys, until the environmental and community impacts of existing units can be fully assessed and reduced.