Protesters in Shrewsbury Highlight River Pollution
Before Shrewsbury's annual Dragon Boat Festival, river pollution protesters led by the group Up Sewage Creek organised a 'Boaters Not Floaters' march in Shrewsbury recently.
From Coton Hill to Quarry Park, activists protesting the dumping of waste into the River Severn marched to increase public awareness of the matter. A procession that included samba drummers, canoeists, wild swimmers, and anglers included approximately 100 protestors wearing "poo hats" and carrying colourful signs.
A theatre troupe performed an impromptu play about Sabrina, Goddess of the River Severn, and a pop-up information booth was set up in the park to educate the public on river pollution.
Claire Kirby, from campaign group Up Sewage Creek, said:
“We are thrilled that the wonderful Dragon Boat Festival is returning to the River Severn after a two-year hiatus. It is a brilliant example of how important the river is to Shrewsbury residents. Sadly, though, in the time since the festival was last held, the quality of England’s rivers has gotten steadily worse. If we want to keep using rivers like the Severn for leisure and pleasure, we need to stop the water companies from treating them like a toilet.”
The level of concern regarding the quality of England's rivers is at an all-time high. The Environment Agency released a surprising study last week revealing that water firms' pollution performance was the worst in years.
The organisation took the shocking step of recommending the imprisonment of chief executives who continue to damage waterways.
Says Ms Kirby:
“According to the Environment Agency, the River Severn saw 21,000 hours of discharge from the 39 Combined Sewer Overflows in Shrewsbury in 2020. Pumping human waste into the river is having a terrible toll on wildlife and public health. Just 14% of English rivers are ecologically healthy, with pollution from raw sewage, agriculture slurry, roads, and single-use plastics creating what the government’s Environmental Audit Committee (chaired by Ludlow MP Philip Dunne) has called a “chemical cocktail”. We think it’s time for the water companies to clean up their act and use the billions they’ve made in profits to ensure that our beautiful rivers are healthy so we can enjoy them for years to come. But they won’t do it unless we force them to…”
Etienne Stott MBE, an Olympic gold medal-winning canoeist, was present at the march. He said:
"As a canoeist, I appreciate the natural beauty of waterways and their value for recreation and sports, including mental health. It is frustrating to see our beautiful rivers destroyed for a quick profit for the shareholders, and it needs to stop, for the sake of our wildlife and our health."
Patricia Wilson, the spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Shrewsbury, said:
“It was fantastic to see so many ordinary people come out and march to save the Severn. Clean water is essential to human health and the continued success of events like the Dragon Boat Festival. The pollution we’re seeing in Shrewsbury’s river isn’t inevitable. It’s happening simply because the water companies would rather chase profits than invest in the health of people and the environment. We have the solutions to tackle the river pollution issue, but it won’t happen until we make the corporations clean up their act. If we’re going to win this battle, we need as many people as possible to tell the water companies and our politicians that we’ve had enough of their cr*p.”