Today is World Wetlands Day, and I cannot stop thinking about the fact that whilst we are celebrating and cherishing these amazing places to visit, that South Wales’ very own wetland haven is threatened with destruction. This year the Welsh Government are voting to rip up the Gwent Levels, all for 10 minutes less spent in a car.
This is our last chance to inform ourselves, and to fight for the future of our environment. Time to get angry South Wales.
Plans for an M4 relief road diverting traffic from Chepstow, around Newport, and into Cardiff, have been rumbling around for years, but the issue is now at crisis point as we approach the decision deadline within months.
For a little bee, and thousands of other species that share its home, this road will signal the destruction of one of only a handful of places to live in the UK.
The Shrill Carder Bee is a tiny (the size of a fingernail) but important bumblebee, part of a wider ecosystem including rare flowers, birds, animals and the environment itself. It is at high risk of being lost from our landscapes due to its need for unique habitats, such as our very own Gwent Levels.
When bees disappear, the world around it does too.
Our Communities Future
Here in Wales, we are not just people living in places. We are a community, sharing a unique space. Our wildlife shares these landscapes with us, and like us, requires a home that is ‘just right’ in order to thrive, not just survive.
The Gwent Levels is a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. A vast, open and wild place. A patchwork of rustling reed beds home to elusive wildlife such as bearded tits and otters. It’s known as the ‘amazon rainforest‘ of Wales.
Peaceful green spaces give cranes a chance to breed. A 4 foot tall bird which was pushed to extinction 400 years ago, and has in the last few years come back and chosen the very spot where the M4 relief road will go to nest. Once disturbed, we will lose these ancient giants from our home again.
The black route road will break up the levels, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) internationally, cutting off wildlife corridors that allow wildlife to freely move for food, shelter and breeding. Roads have now been scientifically proven to be shattering our landscape into too small a chunks to support wildlife and to allow it to thrive.
It will disturb delicate and unique environments where flowers and insects flourish no where else in Wales. Construction work will rip through the heart of these rich and diverse meadows. Right now, we are in the middle of a mass extinction, with the number of animals in the wild on track to fall by two thirds by 2020, compared to 1970.
Do we really want Wales to be a contributor to that?
No Benefit For People
At a cost of approximate £2 billion out of the Welsh budget after inflation and pay offs in a post Brexit economy, there is no solid evidence proving that this road will increase jobs or wealth in the local communities. It will at best shave 10 minutes off a commute, diverting drivers from one busy road, to another busy road.
‘The Welsh Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Hower recommends an alternative package of integrated public transport and axtive travel which would cost £578 million.’ – CALM Campaign
If we were to increase our budget for better, more accessible public transport, this could benefit a far wider reach of the community. Not only those who can afford cars and to commute.
Once this unique habitat has been destroyed and disrupted, it can never be replaced.
What Can I Do?
Get vocal, share your concerns on social media, get angry, use #NoNewM4 and kick off. Time is of the essence with the vote to give the go ahead happening this year.
Here is the Gwent Wildlife Trusts e-action, they’re the guardians of the Gwent Levels. It takes a minute and will make all the difference http://action.wildlifetrusts.org/page/30798/action/1
Write to your AM, Friends of the Earth have set up an easy to use e-action where you can pressure your AM to vote against the M4 – https://act.friendsoftheearth.uk/act/no-new-m4-dim-m4-newydd
Sign the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway Petition, these folks are doing a really amazing job of pressuring the government, get involved by signing their petition! https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-proposed-m4
There is plenty of other informative articles out there, I’ll be compiling them here at the bottom and will add as I find them. If you have any I should share, please let me know in the comments!