Beyond the Biodiversity Benefits of River Restoration: Social and Health Values
There are 2,000 miles of canal and rivers in England and Wales that provide amazing social and health benefits to the human population as well as animals. An estimated 270 miles of the inland waterway network is composed of navigable rivers according to the Canal & River Trust. River restoration immediately benefits the quality of the ecosystem through re-engineering channels that improve the ecology and reduce floods. It also enhances biodiversity in the area by restoring natural functions. Rivers are important natural habitats for different plants and animals. They are also used in navigation. In addition to the economic benefits, healthy rivers and waterways provide communities with cost-effective sources of entertainment.
Restored Rivers and Canals Provide Recreation
Water has a cleansing and healing effect on people. By being near to a source of water, it helps in relaxation and gets rid of stress. A body of water is soothing and calming. This serenity makes river walks a popular pastime for various groups of people from singles and couples to families and groups. Taking your dog for an adventure along canals and rivers is also a popular activity.
The Deputy Veterinary Director at Dog Trust says, “Many dog owners enjoy taking their dogs for walks along the canals and rivers because it is generally quite quiet. All dogs enjoy a long walk and exploring with their noses, so all the smells – people, boats and animals – are wonderful for environment enrichment.” Connecting with nature during these walks not only affects humans positively but also animals. The presence of vegetation and animals around the river walks are stimulating and inspiring. Social contacts amongst communities are created whilst outdoors.
The Health Value of Waterways to the Population
Pollution of water sources is a problem that affects health. Contamination of water from human activities has serious consequences. Not only does it cause environmental degradation and destruction of the ecosystem, it also affects the quality of water and air. Pathogens in rivers cause waterborne illnesses and pollutants in the ground affect drinking water.
Sewage and industrial wastewater affect sanitation as well as emit foul smell. When bodies of water are cleaned up and restored, healthy rivers equate to salubrious surroundings that in turn affect the wellbeing of people. Clean waters add value benefitting surrounding communities and people who use the canals and waterways for recreational purposes.
Taking care of rivers, canals and waterways is vital in the preservation of the ecological systems and the environment. The gains from cleaning up and maintaining water bodies are enormous. Apart from the economic benefits of improved navigation and a balanced ecosystem, communities also enjoy being outdoors contributing to their overall physical health. In addition, social contacts are fostered that enhance mental health and overall wellbeing.