Resolving an environmental crisis

No, not Stern, but from this week’s Time Out comes a story (sorry, no link) perfectly illustrating the idea of trade-offs and unlike the usual environment-vs-business conflict, this has at its heart the conflict over two environmental goals.

“…proposals to build an £18.5m lock on…part of the River Lea…have raised a complex environmental debate. The lock is needed to stop the river from becoming tidal, and…maintaining a constant water level would allow building materials to be taken to and from the site on barges….British Waterways says the environment will benefit as the number of lorries on the roads will be cut. [Research shows that] the lock will significantly improve the habitat of invertebrates that depend on the area.”

Leave aside for the moment the cost and environmental benefit of the lock against the alternative (not mentioned in the article). The story

“However, environmentalists are opposed to the development of the river, which they say could have a catastrophic effect on the habitat of the local wildlife. ‘The ecology of flowing water is very different to still water. There are fewer and fewer breeding grounds in London for spawning fish and they will die out very quickly once the impounding occurs. They are creating a nice new waterside habitat but destroying one in the process, it’s nonsense’ said Annie Chipcase, an ecologist based in the area.”

London Waterways are deliberating over the decision, but I bet it’s too much to expect that sensible analysis will play a part.

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