Members of Margate Women’s Institute travelled to Westminster in flippers and fins this week to make waves and call for action against polluting our rivers.
Joining women from other WI groups in London on Tuesday (12 September) the Thanet-based group gave their support for the WI’s national Clean Rivers campaign.
As an organisation with a history of campaigning against polluting watercourses and seas dating back to the 1930s, this year the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) passed a resolution to urge members, the public, local authorities and the Government to work together to protect rivers for people and wildlife.
As well as displaying banners calling for action, the Margate WI members dressed as swimmers and mermaids, and brought with them a stark reminder of just some of the things regularly found discarded in our waters.
Items, including disposable barbecues, fast food wrappers, children’s plastic toys, flip flops, face masks, cosmetic wipes, as well as sanitary products, condoms, nappies and dog mess bags, were all hung out on a washing line to highlight the litter problem regularly blighting outdoor bathing areas.
The Clean Rivers campaign seeks to promote the designation of more bathing waters, where water quality is regularly monitored for its effect on human health.
According to Surfers Against Sewage, there are only three stretches of river in the UK which are protected by the bathing water designation.
Margate WI has a thriving subgroup who meet every morning to swim in the sea.
Scarlet Drayson from Margate WI said: “While we are a seaside WI, we recognise the importance of keeping rivers clean as nobody wants to swim in litter, sewage and other pollutants, so our mermaids were happy to give their support to the WI Clean Rivers campaign this week.
“We regularly have litter-picking sessions around the town and we see rubbish that is not biodegradable and is causing risks to wildlife and to our communities. Keeping our rivers clean is as important as our green spaces and our beaches.
“It is vital that people are made aware of the ecological state of the UK’s rivers and the need to take urgent action to protect them.”
The event had been arranged as part of the Week of River Action which runs from 11-18 September.
NFWI Public Affairs Chair, Chrissie Booth also held a Parliamentary Drop-In Session on the same day, inviting MPs to hear what members are doing locally, show their support of the WI’s campaign and to pledge to take action against river pollution.