Why we all need the bog

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The Independent Online
Today, you may not yet have been told, is International Bog Day. It seems to be a regular point on the calendar, though it has so far passed me by. For it is rather grandly entitled International Bog Day VI.

This time the organisers headlined their press release "Spend a Day on the Bog". As you see, it worked.

Britain's Wildlife Trusts have got together with conservation bodies in Slovenia, France and Canada to offer "a wonderful opportunity to experience the majesty and mystery of these much overlooked habitats". Muddy guided walks and dragonfly-spotting binges are being held to persuade us that bogs are beautiful.

They are certainly useful. They're a bulwark against global warming: drying them out releases more carbon dioxide than burning tropical rainforest. And they help to prevent the kind of flooding that has been devastating central Europe, by soaking up rainwater and releasing it gradually.

Yet everywhere they are being drained. Only 6 per cent of Britain's original lowland raised bog remains. So I'm with Gerard Manley Hopkins: "What would the world be, once bereft/of wet and wildness? Let them be left."

o BUT WHAT would the poet have made of Dorney Lake, Bucks? Until recently it teemed with snipe, moorhens, swans, watervoles, and all the trimmings. Now both it and a two-mile stretch of river have dried up, despite all the last wet weeks. Why? I hate to tell you this: it happened when Thames Water closed a sewage works which discharged into the river upstream at Taplow. The local Wildlife Trust calls it a "disaster". But what does it say about the water that used to fill the lake?

o TALKING of disasters, there's been a flood of helpful suggestions since the Independent on Sunday disclosed last week that environmentalists were threatening to disrupt the building of the Millenium Dome because its roof is to be clad in toxic PVC. Architects and companies have identified several greener materials which they say would do just as well. Which rather contradicts Heritage Secretary Chris Smith who told Greenpeace: "The dome design ... cannot be built without using PVC."

The New Millennium Experience Co Ltd (sole shareholder: P Mandelson) insists it has looked into other materials and found them wanting. But Greenpeace says the firm has refused to let it look at the results of the investigation. I asked the company nine days ago whether the report had been made public, but it could not tell me. On Friday, a spokesman said he had still not found out because he had been "rather busy" with the fall-out from last week's article (which, you may recall, the firm tried to suppress). So now you know. Or not.

o READER Robert Dick-Read wrote to the dome's architect, Richard Rogers, suggesting that the "vast amount" of rainwater running off it could be collected to flush the project's loos and water its gardens. He says he got no reply either. But here's an idea. Why not really get into water collection by turning the thing upside down. The resulting lake might even attract a few swans.

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