Jan and I are on a mini break to visit the cathedrals of Hereford and Worcester. Unfortunately Storm Dennis got here before us and many people have been flooded as the rivers of this region have broken their banks. We saw several houses in Hereford yesterday that have been overwhelmed by the floods. Our hearts go out to those who have been so afflicted. A reminder that nature is ever powerful.
Periodic flooding has always been with us, but as weather patterns become more dramatic we can expect to see more. It is not beyond the wit of man to take effective action, but it must be multifaceted.
We have to stop building on flood plains and flood sensitive areas. Planning authorities continually accept that there are engineering solutions to overcome flooding issues in sensitive locations but surely we have leaned our lesson that nature is too powerful and we should leave flood plains well alone. Let them do their work of holding water back and allowing it to disperse slowly.
One of the key truths about flooding is that the actual time period of water spilling over its catchment is usually mercifully brief. Accordingly schemes that hold water back upstream just for a few hours can be very effective.
Under our new agricultural system we have to incentivise farmers to use their land in such a way as to retain water for a short period of time. This can be done in a way that would still allow some crop cultivation.
In addition we must continue to invest in flood defences to deal with the times when prevention is not sufficient. The government is consistently increasing investment in this and rightly so.
Nor should we turn our backs on traditional methods of flood prevention. I notice that the Somerset levels have not flooded since its rivers were dredged following the massive storms and floods of 8 years ago. I know that some environmentalists do not like dredging but we do have to be practical about this. In the same way it seems that one of the triggers for the recent destructive Australian bush fires was a decision made some years ago to do away with fire breaks. We must learn from these mistakes.
Back to cathedrals. It is humbling to see what our ancestors were capable of achieving 1000 plus years ago without much in the way of technology. It is inspiring to consider their skills as well as their dedication to God. Some truths are timeless.