Thames 21 starts ‘Fixing Broken Rivers’ to clean up polluted Lea

Dead fish washed up in the polluted River Lea, pictured by reader Dean Bennett

Dead fish washed up in the polluted River Lea, pictured by reader Dean Bennett - Credit: Archant

A massive clean-up of the polluted Lea River gets under way in east London this week after hundreds of dead fish were washed up in the summer.

Volunteers are being urged to help tackle urban pollution in a four-year ‘Fixing Broken Rivers’ project announced by the Thames 21 charity.

It follows shock evidence of pollution in the Lower Lea Valley that the river and its Bow Back tributaries is facing.

“Thousands of fish died in the summer,” a charity spokesman revealed. “Heavy rain washed vast amounts of road pollutants into the Lea.”

The area affected is the silted waterways from Hackney Wick and Old Ford down to Stratford and Bromley-by-Bow, even as far south as Poplar and Canning Town before the Lea joins the Thames.


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Now the charity has been given £490,000 from HSBC Bank for the project to create new reed beds and regenerate existing ones and to lay sustainable drainage systems to replenish stagnant water.

The project also includes an education programme for 32,400 children in Tower Hamlets and Newham schools, working with 4,000 community volunteers and staff from HSBC to look after the reed beds and drainage.

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Thames 21’s project manager Ben Fenton explained: “This is a step towards stopping the ongoing degradation of east London’s rivers.

“We know how badly polluted these rivers are and how much people want to see this issue addressed.

“Creating vital green spaces will support a vast array of wildlife and offer respite to the communities they run through.”

Volunteers with local knowledge will plant reed beds to clean the water and create wildlife habitats as part of the environment charity’s ongoing campaign to clean up east London’s “neglected rivers” and raise awareness about pollution and how to prevent it.

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