Pollution and flooding have wide-ranging damaging effects in Wales, with poor air quality identified as one of the greatest immediate environmental threats to people and the natural environment. It has been linked to 40,000 premature deaths a year across the UK, costing more than £20 billion annually12.
Agricultural pollution incidents continue to be an issue with significant impacts on water courses. Water pollution in Wales caused by abandoned metal mines is the worst in the UK.7
Climate change is likely to result in more frequent and extreme weather events, with people located on flood plains or near to coasts increasingly at risk. Drought is also an issue with water availability likely to be reduced in some areas. In urban areas in particular, impermeable surfaces and development on flood plains exacerbate localised flooding.
Although recycling rates are increasing1, hazardous waste and fly tipping continue to be a serious issue. We need to move towards a circular economy – reducing resource use in the first place and using natural resources many times before waste is finally used to produce energy where possible.
An ageing population in Wales suggests that there will also be an increase in the number of vulnerable people who will need help should an environmental incident occur.
Environmental hazards will be considered as part of an integrated approach to land and water management. Nature-based solutions (such as tree planting or wetland and flood plain restoration) will be considered as a first step, although more ‘hard engineered’ approaches, such as culverts and concrete barriers, will still be needed in some cases. Area Statements will identify the best opportunities at a local level.
Flooding will be dealt with at a water catchment scale: the whole river and coastline will be taken into account and flood risk defences will have investment plans for the long term. Sustainable drainage systems provided by additional greenspace in urban areas will help manage flooding, temperature rises and particulate pollution. Diffuse pollution, including that from mines or agriculture for example, will have been minimised, with simple solutions to prevent leakage into watercourses. Contaminated land will have been remediated and restored where possible. All waste, particularly hazardous and illegal waste, will be significantly reduced, and fly tipping no longer takes place. Everything that can be recycled is recycled as we work towards a circular economy.
People will understand that prevention is better than cure, so inappropriate development on flood plains or where the risk of an environmental incident is high no longer takes place. Everyone will understand it is better not to pollute in the first place.
Communities and businesses will understand the risk of flooding or an environmental incident occurring in their local area. They will appreciate the effects on ecosystem resilience and how this affects their lives and livelihoods. They will recognise what they can do themselves and take responsibility to prevent or reduce the risk of an incident occurring and the impact it might have. If something does happen, they will be able to respond to minimise the impact and ensure that the most vulnerable are cared for.
NRW will work in partnership to help achieve this – providing guidance and advice, monitoring and evidence, modelling and forecasting the likelihood of events and providing an effective response to incidents that do occur. We will be trusted to recommend the best approach to help reduce the risks both to people and to habitats and biodiversity. As a firm but fair regulator, we will investigate incidents and use our full range of powers to tackle environmental crime when it becomes necessary.
Lead by example
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