Monday, 1 August 2011

Fighting alien algae

It's difficult to imagine how blue-green toxic algae "blooming" on a lovely lake like Loweswater can have a positive side - unless you are a science fiction writer looking for inspiration. It looks pretty sinister and it's certainly bad for the tourist industry that provides many residents with a livelihood. But adversity often bring human beings together in common endeavour, and that doesn't have to be about fighting off extra-terrestrials. Relu's Community Approach to Catchment Management project has put this tendency to good use. Concerns about the algae prompted the suggestion that farming in the catchment might be to blame and it was farmers themselves who took the initiative and got together to see what could be done. When scientists became involved they were able to bring an additional dimension to the work, but the residents themselves have continued to be equal partners in the group that has come to be known as "The Loweswater Care Project". They would not claim that the algae have been defeated yet - that looks like a much longer term ambition. But they have learned to work together to improve their local environment in a way that could prove to be an important model for future community environmental projects. And they have managed it without any help from Dr Who - or so they claim. Relu Policy and Practice Note no 32

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