Letter: Flood prevention in Scotland

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The Independent Online
Sir: Millions of pounds are going to be needed to clear up the mess and pay for the insurance claims after the recent floods in Tayside. Many people must wonder about the cause of this recurrent problem which now affects many river systems in Scotland.

In most countries of the world, watershed managers recognise that the removal of natural forest cover and overgrazing leads to soil erosion, rapid water run-off, siltation and flooding. Scotland is also suffering. Overgrazing by 9 million sheep and 300,000 red deer along with forestry ploughing, draining and clearfelling are critically damaging our upland areas. The consequences are felt by large numbers of people who live and work in the lowlands.

The public is paying twice for this absurd situation. We subsidise most of the land-use practices that cause the flooding and then pick up the bill for the resulting damage. We then spend even more money on expensive engineering solutions in the lowlands in futile efforts to contain the flood waters. Instead of tackling the symptoms of flooding, it is time that the Government examined the origin of the problem and sorted out land- use policy in the uplands. Ecological solutions are needed rather than grandiose engineering schemes.

Overgrazing and the use of intensive afforestation techniques need to be curtailed. Upland vegetation and native woodlands should be restored to many of our upland areas, especially along burn and river courses to increase retention of rain and melt-water. Improved grass and moorland management techniques are also vital in reducing water run-off rates. All our flood-prone catchments are in urgent need of integrated watershed management schemes to bring about the necessary land-use changes.

The Overseas Development Administration is very good at dispatching British experts to developing countries to advise on watershed management. Perhaps the Scottish Office would be well advised to request their assistance in Scotland to help solve our river flooding problems.

Yours sincerely,

ANDY WIGHTMAN, Reforesting Scotland; DAVE MORRIS, Ramblers' Association; MARTIN MATHERS, WWF UK (World Wide Fund for Nature); DAVID MINNS, RSPB; MICHAEL SCOTT, Plantlife; ALASTAIR SOMMERVILLE, Scottish Wildlife Trust

Reforesting Scotland