Severn Barrage Divides UK Environmentalists


Treehugger has already reported here this week on the UK government's Energy Review. Predictably, it is a mixed bag from a traditional environmentalist's standpoint - the emphasis on efficiency and renewables will certainly be welcomed, whilst the re-opening of the nuclear debate will be decidedly worrying for many of us.

However, there is one detail which looks set to divide much of the treehugging community in two, namely plans to build a giant barrage across the Severn Estuary. For the benefit of non-UK readers, the Severn Estuary is the stretch of water dividing Wales from South-West England, and it boasts the second highest tidal-range in the world. On the one hand, this means it has the potential to power somewhere between 5 and 10% of the UK's energy needs, on the other it is a unique habitat for wildlife which would be irreversibly changed by such a massive project. As someone who grew up on the edge of these waters, I know only too well how important these huge tides are to the distinctiveness of the local area. The difference between high tide, with water lapping at the top of the sea wall, and low, when the sea retreats behind seemingly endless mud banks, is often breathtaking to visitors. So where is a good Treehugger to stand? Whilst I would hate to join the not-in-my-back-yard crowd, I can't help but fear the potential loss of such a unique feature of our bioregion. And then there's the question of embodied energy for such a massive engineering project... [Written by: Sami Grover]