(Above) Blaenavin in South Wales. Picture © Heritage Lottery Fund
Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies has announced a £10 million facelift for Britain's waterways in a bid to clean up the country's rivers, lakes and canals and boost endangered wetland wildlife.
The cash injection, aimed at restoring habitats, tackling pollution and ridding rivers of destructive species, will create up to 130 "green jobs" in the next year after a report rated less than a quarter of UK water bodies as having "Good Ecological Status" under European requirements.
"This funding will be a really welcome boost for our rivers, lakes and canals and the wildlife that needs them to thrive, and I look forward to seeing the results over the next couple of years," said Irranca-Davies, challenging organisations to "think creatively" about galvanising the project.
Applecross in Scotland. Picture © Heritage Lottery Fund
Conservation experts at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds welcomed the news, but warned the government not to "rest on their laurels."
"This extra funding for rivers and wetlands is great news and will take us a step closer to improving our water environment," predicted Rob Cunningham, Head of Water Policy at the Society."
"In particular, restoration and protection of wildlife habitats and the removal of barriers to fish and eels will see tangible benefits for rivers and wetland wildlife.
"By the Government's own estimate, water pollution is causing £1.6million worth of damage in this country each year – that really puts this figure into perspective."
"While we are sure today's announcement will pay for itself many times over, by securing environmental improvements that generations of us can enjoy, we look to others, particularly the agricultural industry and local authorities, to do more to reduce their environmental impact on rivers."
Most of the restoration work will be carried out by the Association of Rivers Trusts. The Environment Agency will also co-ordinate the proposals, which include Riverside Basin Management Plans aimed at improving water quality across the country.
"Improving the quality of rivers and lakes is a top priority for the Environment Agency," added Dr Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Agency. "They are an important part of the environment for both people and wildlife. The extra funding will support local projects which will help bring life back to waters across England."
Earlier this year the RSPB launched the Our Rivers campaign, urging the public to report environmental issues affecting rivers to authorities.