Leading waterway charity Thames21 have restored 320 metres of the River Lea in Newham by installing a ‘green corridor’ of vegetation onto the river walls to tackle water pollution and provide habitats for wildlife.
Members of the local community volunteered their time to build sixty large wall modules containing marginal plants that break down pollutants. These have then been attached to the otherwise dull and lifeless concrete walls of the Lea.
The first phase of this project was successfully completed in January 2013. Following this, monthly monitoring has shown the plants successfully establishing themselves on the river banks, with additional new plant species self-seeding taking to the modules – including tomato plants likely to have come from waste water from our homes. When our sewage network gets too full it overflows straight into the river.
Over the last couple of months, 33 more ‘green walls’ have been built completing the vegetation corridor comprising a total of 470m2. For this second phase the design was revised to increase the lifespan by attaching a wooden frame which will trap in sediment.
Ben Fenton of Thames21 said: ‘The River Lea is London’s second largest river and it is seriously polluted. Water quality tests carried out by ourselves and University College London show that the Lea is monumentally failing the Water Framework Directive targets. The Love the Lea Campaign aims to take practical action like installing this green corridor to reduce the level of pollution and to raise awareness of this by inspiring communities to make changes in order to help’.
Pollution sources include rainwater, washing oils and other pollutants from vehicles (off roads, driveways and car parks) which pour straight and unfiltered into the waterways. In addition, wrongly connected household and commercial plumbing sends raw sewage straight to the capital’s rivers as well. It is estimated that there are 60,000 plumbing misconnections in London.
Vegetation breaks down pollutants within a water course benefiting the health of the river, and further provides vital habitats for wildlife such as birds and insects.
Thames21’s Love the Lea campaign plans to spend a minimum of £50,000 on reedbeds in 2015.
The Greening the Lea Project is kindly funded by the Environment Agency, the HSBC Water Programme and the London Legacy Development Corporation.
Contact: Ben Fenton, Thames21, Lock Office, Gilender Street, London E3 3JY
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