Recently we had front-line footage of waterways anti-pollution volunteers in a navel action to clean up the River Sour in Leicester, and now we have been sent this video (above) about Waterways Watch in Singapore to show what they are doing. These people are serious.
GlaxoSmithKline's Ulverston factory (2008), alleged to be one of the most polluting factories in Britain (photo: creative commons)
British Waterways London recently gave pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline an award for their employee volunteering programme which "dramatically benefited the region’s waterways over the past 12 months".
The company volunteers were praised by British Waterways after they "removed 4,385 litres of rubbish, cleaned
off 460m2 of graffiti, installed new benches and planted over 1,200
Hopefully GlaxoSmithKline have turned over a new green eco leaf (or maybe they are just feeling guilty), but just for the record:
• In 2008 GlaxoSmithKline was fined for serious violations that led to the release of trichloroethylene, TCE, into
the public drinking water system in Scottsdale, Arizona. GlaxoSmithKline was found guilty of failing to properly treat groundwater at the site, and
failing to alert proper authorities about the release, despite being
under an agreement to do both.
• GlaxoSmithKline owns a chemical plant in Ulverston, very close to the Lake District, which is alleged to be one of the worst polluters in the UK. According to a survey by Friends of the Earth (Factory Watch) of over 1,500 factories nationwide using official Environment Agency data the Ulverston plant is the 3rd worst polluter in Britain. The data showed the GlaxoSmithKline plant emitting 773 tons of carcinogenic linked material in 2001, 10% of the national total.
• In September 1992 the Ulverston site dumped several toxic chemicals in the River Leven, without
It is hard to find up to date information about what is happening in the UK, but the Associated Press recently did an investigation into pharmaceutical pollution in the United States. They found that tons of drugs are being dumped in waterways every year by manufacturers while the authorities turn a blind eye:
"Major manufacturers and drugmakers in the U.S. have legally released at
least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways, but the
federal government has consistently overlooked the contamination."
AP reported that the antiseptics phenol and hydrogen peroxide - account for 92 percent
of the 271 million pounds dumped in waterways identified as coming from drugmakers and
The rest included 8 million pounds of
the skin bleaching cream hydroquinone, 3 million pounds of nicotine
compounds that can be used in quit-smoking patches, 10,000 pounds of
the antibiotic tetracycline hydrochloride, plus chemicals related to treatments
for head lice and worms.
The investigation also found that 51 million Americans are drinking water with traces of pharmaceutical drugs.
Above: dangerous drug waters - the River Thames, under London Bridge.
Above: the entrance to a train station in Manila submerged by flood waters after typhoon "Ondoy" flooded 80% of Manila (pop 11.5 million) last weekend, causing massive damage (photo by rembcc).
In the deeply religious Philippines many are blaming the disaster on an "Act of God", or 'climate change', but 'green architect' and urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox, one of the world's top architects, with a reputation for honesty and speaking out against corruption, is putting the blame firmly at the door of the Manila government;
“This is not an act of God, as what people have already said. This is a
sin of omission on the part of government and leadership."
What he means is corruption; a survey of businessmen in the Philippines last year discovered that 7 out of 10 were asked for pay-offs by government agencies.
Palafox points to a land use plan that took floods into consideration which was drawn up as
far back as 1977, titled “Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and
Development Planning Project,” sponsored by the World Bank.
Palafox says that the study noted the possibility of
heavy flooding in at least three sites of urban growth in the
Philippine capital—the Marikina Valley and its northern and southern
These are precisely the areas in Manila worst hit by flooding today.
The Malina authorities ignored the study and did nothing. Now 80% of the city is flooded.
As with Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans (large parts of the city remain a wasteland), the Manila authorities allowed a highly dangerous situation to arise because of inadequate planning controls, corruption, ignoring expert opinion, and worst of all doing nothing to defend large areas of the city, especially the poorest.
• Felino Palafox is considered to be a 'maverick' because he has high ethical standards which makes him stand out from the majority. Last year he turned down a $1 million fee because the deal involved the destruction of 300 trees in an urban area, some of them over 100 years old. In 2007 he pulled out of a project to build Manila’s tallest
building because it would result in traffic jams.
The picture above shows the River Thames flooding in 2007. London has survived the plague and the 'Great Fire', but will the city survive the 'Great Flood of London' which is almost certain to come?
A new study, aptly named the 'Wild Weather Warning Report' is not at all hopeful, unless you like lots of rain. It forecasts that what we now call "extreme" weather will become the norm.
According to the study, which could be called the 'Long Range Disaster
Forecast', by 2050 there could be 19 per cent less rainfall in the
summer causing water shortages, and 14 per cent more rainfall in winter causing floods. By 2080 the
temperature on the hottest day of the year could increase
by up to 10C.
The study by the London Climate Change Partnership predicts annual heat waves for London which will kill thousands, as well as regular tidal surges, windstorms and heavy rainfall events causing serious
flooding in the city on a regular basis.
Nearly 15 per cent of London lies at risk from tidal and fluvial flooding. One of the findings of the study is that the effects of heavy rainfall
causing flooding in London usually come about two days after the main
Iraq has had canals, aqueducts and dams since the 7th Century BC, but after years of war and neglect the nation's extensive canal and waterways networks
are in a terrible condition. These photos (courtesy dvids) taken at Salah Al Din, north of Bagdad, show the state of much of Iraq's waterways is similar to that of the British canals in the 60's and 70's, if not worse.
Large parts of Iraq including important farming areas rely on extensive
networks of irrigation canals, while millions of Iraqis rely on
waterways to bring them drinking water, but the whole system is in such a state it is holding back recovery, impacting the lives of millions.
However the strategic importance of Iraq's waterways and their lack of maintenance has not been missed
by the US Army. Their engineers have led a number of important canal and waterway
reconstruction schemes, the latest was recently announced. These are seen as crucial for future prosperity
and stability in Iraq.
Meanwhile the results of one of the worst premeditated ecological crimes ever committed by man against man and nature continue to be felt in southern Iraq. This is where Saddam Hussein drained nine-tenths of the largest wetlands in the Middle East (above), turning the whole area, which was possibly the site of the original Garden of Eden, into desolate arid salt flats. The native Marsh Arab peoples, considered to be "backwards thinking" by the brutal regime, were forced to flee for their lives.
After the Iraq War which finally ended Saddam's rule, some attempts were made to return the valuable wetlands to their original condition and bring the Marsh Arab people back to their homes, but so far only a tiny part of the marshes have been brought back to life.
Above: the dead lands which were once a paradise (photo by Raheem Salman/Los Angeles Times, Sep 24, 2009).
The Greenlife boat in action (above) operated by Leicester City Council's Riverside Rangers and volunteer crew from Volunteer Action Leicester. We must win the war on rubbish in the waterways or the seas of plastic will just get bigger.
I am not any kind of art expert but this (above, click to enlarge) looks very much like an original Banksy under a canal bridge. If this is a Banksy it could mean British Waterways owns a fairly valuable piece of artwork, although it is by no means the finest example. Of course there could be legal arguments as the bridge may not belong to British Waterways. However it does look like it is built on British Waterways land, so BW could own the freehold to this Banksy by the canal bank.
• Floating in the City will always support an all out war, using what ever means necessary, including Apache helicopter gunships, against the ego driven 'tagging' graffiti nobodies who insist on spreading their marks like dogs where ever they go. However there are usually exceptions to any rules and Banksy is obviously one. Hopefully the excellent graffiti clean up squads who have been cleaning up the towpaths will not go the way of Westminster Council who insisted on destroying a popular Banksy artwork in the center of London despite local opposition.
British Waterways and the Small Hydro Company are starting 25 small-scale hydropower
projects on the banks of British Waterways' 2,200-mile waterway
project will be funded with a £120 million investment from Climate
Change Capital, a £1.1 billion investment fund focused on renewable
Once fully operational, the
hydropower projects will generate 210,000 megawatt-hours per year (enough renewable energy to power 40,000 homes), and
prevent an estimated 110,000 tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions.
About 150 jobs are expected to be created during the construction of
Canals being considered for the scheme would not be man-made but rivers converted into waterways, which retain a natural flow. Underwater turbines will be installed next to existing weirs and will
not affect the navigation of canals and rivers.
The first two hydropower projects will be located on
the Severn and Trent Rivers. The other locations identified are the
Ouse, Don and Aire rivers in Yorkshire. The first project is expected
to begin operating in 2010.
Any income generated from the schemes will be reinvested in the maintenance of the waterways.
per cent of the United Kingdom's renewable electricity is provided by
hydropower but few large schemes have been constructed since the 1980s.
Globally, hydro generates about 20 per cent of electricity
waterways were the arteries of our economy, providing transport and
power," said the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, when the plans were first announced in March. "This scheme shows
how with ingenuity and innovation they can once again deliver real
economic, social, and environmental benefits, especially in tackling
and adapting to climate change."
• Last year British Waterways announced plans to build wind turbines with 100MW of generating
Few people know that beneath the 'pillars of capitalism' of the Bank of England (above) is an ancient Artisan Well or 'spring of wealth'.
Given the state of the economy and levels of corruption in the banking world, it may not be a surprise to learn that the waters of the spring are now totally polluted.
There is a story that if you ask the Bank of England doormen (dressed in pink with top hats) for a glass of water from the spring they have to give it to you. According to the story this is because under the original agreement when the spring was first built over it was stipulated that eternal access to the waters for the general population had to be guaranteed.
I decided to put this to the test and ask for my glass of water from the Bank of England doorman but was informed;
"We can't give it to you because it might kill you, it's all a horrible yellow colour and smells terrible, you would not want to drink it."
Apparently the Bank of England's 'spring of wealth' polluted waters are now being unceremoniously piped to the nearby Walbrook drain (once the Walbrook River) which empties into the Thames.
I followed the trail from the Bank of England down St Stevens Row, and Walbrook road to the Thames.
The photos below show what is almost certainly the pipe where the Walbrook and the nation's 'spring of wealth' now empties.
No wonder the nation's economy is going down the drain.
This is terrible Feng shui for the Bank of England. We need to get that spring reinstated and purified.
A combination of rising sea levels and sinking river deltas means global flooding is even more likely than previous forecasts of doom. Scientists are now predicting that global delta flooding could increase by 50 percent. The image above is of the Pearl River Delta in China, taken by NASA's space
shuttle Endeavour, with the areas below sea level shown in purple (Source: NASA, CSDMS, University of Colorado).
A new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder
indicates most of the world's low-lying river deltas are sinking from
human activity, making them increasingly vulnerable to flooding from
rivers and ocean storms and putting tens of millions of people at risk.
The study concluded that 24 out of the world's 33 major deltas are
sinking and that 85 percent experienced severe flooding in recent
years, resulting in the temporary submergence of roughly 100,000 square
miles of land. About 500 million people in the world live on river
"Every year, about 10 million people are being affected by storm
surges," said CU-Boulder's Overeem, also an INSTAAR researcher and
CSDMS scientist. "Hurricane Katrina may be the best example that stands
out in the United States, but flooding in the Asian deltas of Irrawaddy
in Myanmar and the Ganges-Brahmaputra in India and Bangladesh have
recently claimed thousands of lives as well."
The researchers predict that similar disasters could potentially occur in the Pearl River delta
in China and the Mekong River delta in Vietnam, where thousands of
square miles are below sea level and the regions are hit by periodic
Of course it was a boiling hot day when Liz and her coal boat came by today. They will be back in a month or so, and probably by then so will winter. That's ok, floating in the winter has it's moments, especially with a good wood-stove and central heating.
• Apparently Liz needs to sell 2000 bags of coal just to pay her commercial license fees to BW, so anyone who wants good coal or logs (or diesel & gas) delivered along the canal phone/text: 07930347558.
• The other coal boat (07973915146) can even be followed on twitter to find out where they are.
Local politicians are apparently worried that closing the museum will hamper their ability to draw tourists to the docks area's shops and other attractions. However they are not offering any cash to bail out the museum.
The Mayor of Gloucester Chris Witts, a former grain barge skipper and author of several books on the River Severn (the longest river in Britain), is supporting a call for volunteers, otherwise the museum may have to close by the end of the month. Staff are already being laid off.
However it is not just volunteers that are required, they also need visitors, but they are just not getting enough.
• The National Waterways Museum is run by the Waterways Trust which was criticized recently by North Star because it "lacks focus, lacks imagination, lacks a vision, tries to be the jack of all trades and is, unsurprisingly, master of none".