Professor Alan Jenkins is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). This morning he was interviewed (briefly) on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
The interview was originally intended to have been longer, but other events, including the resignation of the Marks & Spencer Chief Executive, caused a late change to the running order.
This is the interview transcript:
BBC Radio 4 Today programme – 7th January 2016
Intro from John Humphrys, the Today programme presenter: Not only the towns and cities of Cumbria that have been hit by the flooding, but the rural areas too, more than 600 farmers badly hit, 1000s of sheep and other animals killed. What do we do about it? Prof Alan Jenkins is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Good morning.
AJ: Good morning to you
JH: Not long to talk about this I’m afraid but in a sense that isn’t a problem as we don’t know, do we, the idea of rewilding, take all the sheep off the uplands etc. there’s no evidence it will work, is there?
AJ: The thoughts at the moment from the scientific community are that we should be looking more at this concept of integrated catchment management. We have to look at local scales and bigger catchment scales, at the same time, and we have to look at a mix of solutions to encompass appropriate mitigation levels.
"The thoughts at the moment from the scientific community are that we should be looking more at this concept of integrated catchment management. We have to look at local scales and bigger catchment scales, at the same time, and we have to look at a mix of solutions to encompass appropriate mitigation levels." Prof Alan Jenkins, CEH
JH: So how do you catch the water then if not by planting lots of trees, and having lots of rough ground, so it can sink in more gradually which is the object of the exercise
AJ: Well, I’m afraid that is very difficult with the kind of rainfall amounts and intensities that have been seen over the last few weeks and it is our understanding that those kind of measures will help with smaller rainfall events, but with these huge rainfall events one has to look more towards concrete infrastructure, flood defences
JH: So stop the rivers in the end, that’s the only way to stop them overflowing their banks.
AJ. Easily said, but also brings other issues, if one channelizes the water it can actually make flooding downstream even worse
JH: Exactly, you want the water to spread out…
AJ. Yes, floodplains are named appropriately, and one should of course consider that floodplains could be used to store water, with due compensation for farmers that need to work that land, because of course they can’t do their job on flooded soils.
JH: SO in a nutshell, we allow the fields to flood, and we make it up to the farmers,
AJ. Well, it’s a possibility and it certainly should be considered but it’s not a one size fits all I’m afraid.