Tuesday, 26 May 2009



It’s quite difficult to realise the river Wandle is in a valley, when you are standing in Wandle Park, say. If you stand on the top of Banstead Road South on a clear day, you can see the ridge on which the Crystal Palace transmitter stands to the north. In between is a depression, really quite striking. It is part of the southern rim of the bowl inside which London has grown. The local part, in which a form of incinerator is likely to be built, to join the three others already on the eastern side (Edmonton, Belvedere and Lewisham). In the wrong weather conditions, an inversion layer can put a saucepan lid of warmer air over still, colder air. Like in the 1952 smog. This time what will be trapped will be invisible.

It is not a coincidence that the Megacities most troubled by air pollution are all forms of bowl cities: Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Beijing and London, already the most polluted in Europe, with the UK facing prosecution for breaking EU health based regulations. In the next ten years traffic is predicted to grow by 13%, jams by 60% and the population by 800,000. Things need to change drastically, and soon, to reduce the 4,400 annual death toll directly from air pollution. How many thousands of lorries will it take to deliver 200,000 tons of rubbish to Beddington, and the residues? When the roads are likely to be even more snarled up than before. Add to that the particulate pollution from the chimneys !

The level of the river Wandle is bound to rise. Much sooner than predicted before. Torrential rains will occasionally cause floods. Unfortunately for all of us the Victorians did not think to line their rubbish dumps, nor their industrial waste pits (though the US does not consider lining helps). When waters rise these sites will leak their poisons into the water table. The North-West planning group for climate change are seriously concerned about this in the Mersey basin, which has a lot. What about London’s Thames, and its tributaries?

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