Proposed motorway threatens Wales' equivalent of the Amazon rainforest
The Welsh Government wants to bulldoze through the Gwent Levels – Wales' equivalent of the Amazon rainforest in terms of its diversity of wildlife – to build a 14-mile six-lane motorway. Gwent Wildlife Trust is asking people to help prevent the destruction.
The historic and beautiful Gwent Levels in south Wales are a fragile wildlife haven, and are much-loved by the people who live and visit there.
Water voles – the UK's most rapidly declining mammal, now lost from 94 per cent of places where it was once prevalent – are thriving across the Gwent Levels after bouncing back from extinction on the internationally important wetlands. Six years ago, Gwent Wildlife Trust reintroduced the endangered species to Magor Marsh nature reserve on the edge of the Levels. New mapping shows that they have bred successfully and have spread up to 10 kilometres.
But this important wildlife comeback is now threatened by the proposal of the new motorway.
Iolo Williams, television presenter, has called on the Welsh Government to rethink its controversial plans. He said: “This road is going to destroy Sites of Special Scientific Interest – these are the jewels in the Welsh crown. This road is going to destroy habitat for otters, for water voles and for cranes, which have nested on the Levels for the first time in 400 years. Let's make sure the Welsh Government wakes up to its commitment to future generations. There are better and cheaper alternatives to this idiotic development.”
The proposed route will cut across six protected wildlife havens, and destroy or damage a historic landscape that is rich in biodiversity. Alongside water voles, rare wildlife such as otters and cranes will be badly affected. The nature-rich Levels are also home to dragonflies, rare bees and precious wildflowers.
Some of Wales' most important sites for wildlife – including Gwent Wildlife Trust's Magor Marsh nature reserve – will be damaged or destroyed.
The Wildlife Trusts have launched a new campaign urging people to write to the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones.
Ian Rappel, chief executive of Gwent Wildlife Trust, said: “The fantastic success of the water vole reintroduction project is a wonderful testament to all the great efforts of volunteers and staff working to enhance the Gwent Levels for wildlife. This beautiful landscape is a nature-lover's paradise, and people really enjoy its peace and tranquillity. If the new road gets the go-ahead, billions will be spent destroying a very special place – for the sake of saving 10 minutes of commuting time.
“We need everyone who cares about nature to voice their concern about these destructive plans. We believe that the Welsh Government should scrap the billion-pound-plus road – and invest instead in a modern public transport system for the people of Wales.”
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “When future generations realise the extent of the damage this generation has wreaked on our finite, beautiful, natural world they will ask "why?" Why – for the sake of a few minutes knocked off journey times – did we destroy the unique and irreplaceable Gwent Levels? Why did we think it was okay to wipe out its woods, its precious waterways, its water voles? Together, these make a wetland of international importance. Wherever you live in the UK, please help stand up for wildlife and put a stop to the M4 "black route". We do not have the right to destroy this treasure or deprive future generations of its joy.”