There will be Extinction Rebellion protests in Farnham and Alton this weekend to highlight the "shocking" state of local waterways.
Protesters against the dumping of sewage into local chalk streams and rivers are gathering on Saturday to install satirical blue plaques in Godalming (10am), Guildford (midday) and Farnham (2.30pm).
Members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) will unveil blue plaques at riverside locations in these three important Surrey hubs along the River Wey as part of a national day of action across the UK with an associated action also taking place in Alton.
The famous pink XR boat, veteran of many previous XR climate actions, with its messages of 'ACT NOW' and 'TELL THE TRUTH', will accompany the protestors, who will call out the voting record of local MPs on the vote which took place on October 20, 2021, when 265 MPs voted down an amendment to stop private water companies from dumping raw sewage into the UK’s rivers and coastlines.
The plaques highlight the government’s continued failure to tighten environmental regulations and stop profit-grabbing by water companies.
The plaques will read:
Guildford: A(ngela) Richardson MP voted to block a law requiring water companies to dump less raw sewage in our waterways and seas.
Godalming: Jeremy Hunt MP abstained on a vote requiring water companies to dump less raw sewage in our waterways and seas
Farnham: The UK Government voted to block a law requiring water companies to dump less raw sewage in our waterways and seas.
The government’s failure to properly tackle the issue of sewage pollution has been hugely controversial. Last summer, XR says more than a hundred beaches were closed to the public after a series of sewage discharges by water companies left the sand and sea contaminated with human sewage.
Meanwhile only 14 per cent of the UK’s rivers achieve “good” ecological status with pollution from agriculture, human sewage, roads, and single-used plastics creating a dangerous “chemical cocktail” in our waterways. In December the Environment Agency announced it was pushing back targets to clean up England’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters from 2027 to 2063, prompting outcry.
Becca from Farnborough said: “I’m 20 and a climate student, and I’d like to say waterways are our lifelines, they have provided us with food, travel, water and beautiful biodiversity, and what have we given back?
“Pollution and devastation to the point of no return. We must stop destroying these vital ecosystems to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis.”
Campaigner Etienne Stott, Olympic gold medal canoeist said: “It’s disgusting, literally, to think what’s being pumped into our rivers. The government and the water companies aren’t going to clean up unless ordinary people put pressure on them. Extinction Rebellion can’t do this alone.
“We need everyone who cares about our rivers and seas to stand up with us and speak out. Today is just the first part of a bigger campaign to protect nature and our waterways."
South West Surrey MP and Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has defended his record on tackling river pollution ahead of the spoof plaque unveiling in Farnham and Godalming.
He said: "I have been campaigning to clean up our rivers for the last 18 months. I held a public meeting in Bramley towards the end of last year along with senior representatives from the EA, Thames Water and Southern Water which was attended by over 70 local residents.
"Whilst we all agree that a long-term plan for cleaner local water is needed, I am glad that both water companies have now committed to improve local water quality over the next two years.
"One of the first decisions I took as Chancellor was that money from water company fines will be ring-fenced for work to fix pollution and improve water quality. I believe this will make a real difference to the environment in South West Surrey and across the country."