A Dutch report examining the effects of a barrage on the Oosterschelde, obtained by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), indicates an ecological ‘disaster’ for the Severn if the proposed 10km barrage is built
Increased flooding is just one of the effects the barrage could bring, say the RSPB.
The Dutch study claims a barrage built across the Oosterschelde in the 1980s has increased flooding and erosion in addition to: “Devastating impacts for wildlife, fishing, tourism and shipping.”
The RSPB say the Oosterschelde: “Iis very similar to the Severn Estuary, where a barrage could have similar consequences.”
RSPB Director of Conservation, Dr Mark Avery, said: “This report makes grim reading. It is the closest we can get to proof that a barrage across the Severn will devastate the estuary.
“Although smaller, the Oosterschelde is very similar to the Severn Estuary in many ways and it is being damaged beyond repair, something our Government appears to have known since 2008.
“The Dutch built their barrier to prevent deadly storms from claiming lives. Ironically, it has now led to an increased risk of flooding behind the barrier, but it could be argued they had little choice at the time.
“On the Severn, we do have a choice. A barrage would not be built to stop storm surges but to harness the tides and generate electricity. There are other, far less environmentally damaging ways to do that, yet Government studies to date have been fixated on barrages.
“We have long said the Government should invest in innovative schemes, which offer the potential to put the UK and UK engineering at the forefront of tidal power without the risk of floods, loss of wildlife and livelihoods.
“We know the Government have produced their own report on how a barrage would affect the tides and sediments of the Severn. The big questions now are what does that report say, why can’t we see it?” he said.
While the Department for Energy and Climate Change knew about the Dutch report in 2008, the RSPB say the department is yet to address the concerns of the Dutch study, which found:
- Increased erosion has led to the loss of mudflats along the estuary, leading to higher waves and water levels. Huge sums will have to be spent on strengthening coastal defences to protect lives and property.
- By 2050, the tidal flats of the Oosterschelde will have more than halved, falling from 11,000ha in 1986 to about 5,000ha in 2045 and 1,500ha by the end of the century.
- Salt marshes will disappear from all but the most sheltered locations by 2050.
- Less intertidal habitat will mean less shellfish and fewer birds. Oystercatcher numbers will have crashed 80 per cent by 2045 with other species “awaiting the same fate”.
- Shipping channels will become shallower and harder to navigate.
- Shellfisheries will be hit because of loss of habitat for the cockles and mussels.
- Tourism will be hit by the loss of wildlife interest.