Four Cambridge environmental groups protest against ‘poisoning’ of the River Cam on bridge over M11
Four Cambridge environmental groups were involved in a banner drop over the M11 as part of the national Dirty Water actions taking place across the UK.
Members of Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, Friends of the River Cam, Cambridge Friends of the Earth and Green Party Members placed banners reading ‘Cut the crap/Save our rivers’ over the motorway near junction 13 on Thursday (August 17) to highlight “the terrible state of all rivers around the country, and in particular the River Cam, which suffers from over-abstraction and pollution from sewage discharges”.
The month-long Dirty Water campaign involves building an understanding of how extreme weather events directly affect our waterways and pollution levels, and taking direct action to demand clean water.
Jenny Langley, a retired scientist and primary school teacher, and spokesperson for Cambridge XR, said: “We should be treasuring our precious River Cam, but instead it is being slowly killed. Worldwide, chalk-fed rivers are rare and it is our duty to look after this precious habitat.
“Over-abstraction of water and pollution run off from agriculture as well as the horrific raw sewage discharges into the river are a disgrace. Anglian Water should be held to account for their culpable poisoning of the Cam. This is totally disgusting and should be stopped now. We need everyone who cares about the Cam to stand up with us and speak out.”
In 2022, a House of Commons Committee report on the state of UK rivers concluded that no river in England was free from chemical contamination. Only 14 per cent of UK rivers had a “good” ecological status.
Both agricultural runoff and the release of untreated sewage are leading causes of river pollution in the UK. In 2021, untreated sewage was discharged into English waterways for more than 2.5 million hours.
Anglian Water was invited to comment.
A National Highways spokesperson said: "Safety is our number one priority and banners attached to road bridges can become loose and blow into the path of fast moving traffic, causing a serious accident.
“Our advice to protestors in future is to refrain from attaching banners as they can pose a safety risk to drivers.”