State of the Thames

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Friday 21st July 2017

When we think of the River Thames words such as grey, polluted, and dirty may spring to mind. It is not surprising that its name is derived from the Celtic word, ‘Temes’ meaning dark. Historically the Thames has been used as a dumping ground, quite literally. During the Roman period sewage was directed straight into the River. In 1858 the river was deemed as ‘ecologically dead’ and the smell was so pungent that an incentive was put in place to clear the River Thames. The engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette set up the sewage network system. This alleviated the issue for a while. However, with London’s population rapidly increasing, sewage overflow still ends up in the Thames. Not to mention, problems with air pollution levels soaring, congestion rising and the Thames still being used for trade.  Consequently, we imagine the River Thames’s environment to be taking the brunt. However, this is not actually the case.

The sewer system

A group of Paper Round employees with a keen interest in our local ecology attended a London Zoo evening named State of the Thames. It was here that we discovered there is hope for the River Thames. It is in fact home to invertebrates, fish and even mammals.
Long gone are the days where the river Thames is ‘ecologically dead’. At present, scientific citizens (volunteers) collect data on the species present in the river and reports are made demonstrating London to be home to more biodiversity than originally thought. It is hard to see how nature and man can cohabitate. When thinking of the urban sprawl and busy cities wildlife often takes a back seat. Attending the Zoo event gave us a sense of hope. We learnt that there are two species of seal that live by the Thames and there have been over 1,000 sightings of these friendly creatures. It is evident that the environment is becoming ever more important to Londoners. There are new means of reporting sighting of wildlife and people are getting involved on their weekends. A group of us from Paper Round have signed up to be citizen volenteers. You could too on ZSL's website (opens in a new tab).

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