Deal With IT's Secretary Victoria Nicholls writes a regular column in the East Kent Mercury:
Two contrasting stories have come to the fore this week; both relate to rivers but there the similarity ends. One story tells how the river Thames has changed from a polluted and dead environment to one where wildlife thrives and the other tells how a torrent of toxic sludge has devastated some rivers in Hungary, threatening to pollute the mighty river Danube.
Back in the 1950s, the river Thames was declared ‘biologically dead’. It was a heavily polluted waterway with effluent from many industries and the sewage from several million people living along its banks. Now, the Thames and its tributaries are home to otters and support 125 species of fish including salmon, trout, bass and sole. The past five years has seen about 400 habitat enhancement projects and more than 40 miles of river have been transformed from urban channels into natural streams.
The disaster in Hungary was caused by the waste from turning bauxite into aluminium, an industrial process that leaves tonnes of red sludge, contaminated by heavy metals. This has been stored in reservoirs, one of which has fractured and released the sludge into the surrounding area. It would appear that neglect has had a large part to play in what happened here.
The river Danube is vital to central and south eastern Europe and has suffered other disasters during the last ten years; not least oil spills and cyanide poisoning and there are many heavy industrial plants sitting on the river’s banks. There could be disasters waiting to happen if great care is not taken.
So far, numerous tests on the waters of the Danube have shown that the water that so many countries rely on is quite clean. If we need to support heavy industry, we must make sure that all precautions are taken, no matter what the monetary cost, to guard against disasters such as the one in Hungary.