Rivers Trust report on state of NI waters disappointing but not surprising, says Blair

Alliance Environment spokesperson John Blair MLA has said that the statistics emerging from newly published research relating to the state of Northern Ireland’s rivers are disappointing, but unfortunately not surprising.

Environment John Blair

He was speaking following the publication of environmental charity The Rivers Trust’s State of Our Rivers 2024 report.


The report states that of the 450 river stretches looked at in Northern Ireland, 0% achieved good overall status, and 12% were given either poor or bad overall status. Furthermore, all of our rivers failed to meet high chemical status, meaning there is a high presence of toxic chemicals from plastic (PBTs) and mercury in the animal and plant life.


The South Antrim MLA has said:“The Rivers Trust’s report, alongside others such as RSPB’s State of Nature report, paints a stark picture of the state of our natural environment.


“However, it will come as no surprise for many, given the blue-green algal bloom crisis witnessed last year at Lough Neagh and other areas across Northern Ireland. Rivers are vital to our everyday lives, impacting biodiversity, tourism, recreation, fishing, culture and even, critically, our drinking water. Therefore, the state we have allowed our waterways to reach is incredibly concering.


“Factors such as agriculture run-off, sewage, and invasive species, such as Zebra Mussels, have been listed as the worst offenders for causing our rivers to become unhealthy. Years of underinvestment and mismanagement, alongside the climate crisis, have exacerbated the effects of these pressures.


There is no doubt that over these years, these issues have only been allowed to intensify, with our political institutions having been collapsed for five out of the last seven years. However, with the Assembly restored, and with Alliance Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Andrew Muir MLA now at the helm, progress is possible. However, this is only possible with the appropriate funding, backed by wider political commitment.


Protecting our environment, tackling climate change, and investing in sustainable infrastructure must be a commitment across both government and society. Minister Muir spent time on Lough Neagh in his first few days in office, reinforcing that protecting our waterways is high on the department’s agenda. It is, therefore, vital that reform of our political institutions also remains high on the agenda so that we are not faced yet again with years of stagnation due to a collapsed Assembly and Executive.”