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Riverine Environmental Champions a real force of nature

17 July 2020

Environmental Champions from across the Strabane/Lifford area had the chance to learn more about their natural surroundings at the weekend thanks to the Riverine Environmental Project.

The PEACE IV funded project is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), with match-funding by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland. It  aims to bring people from different backgrounds together to discover, explore and protect this diverse region. Hummingbird NI (CIC) and Dennett Anglers have been leading on The Environmental Champions programme which concentrates on waterway protection and conservation.

Environmental Champions is just one of the programmes within the wider Riverine Environmental Project, managed by Derry City and Strabane District Council. Over the past five weeks the participants have conducted litter picks along the River Deele, close to Convoy in Donegal, and along the River Dennett close to Donemana.

Over 40 bags of rubbish have been removed from the river system and the group have been harnessing the power of social media to highlight the problem of litter in waterways. The Riverine Environmental Project is made up of several different strands focusing on different aspects of engaging with the local environment, from learning how to grow plants, to protection and conservation.

Riverine Environmental Project Manager with Council, Allan Bogle, explained more about the project. "The Environmental Champions is a cross-border, cross-community and cross-generational programme. The past few months have been a difficult time for everyone, however through the Riverine Project people have been given the opportunity to do something positive for their local environment and to build relationships with people that they may not otherwise have met.

"We often think of rivers as something that can divide areas and communities. However, the Riverine Environmental Project uses rivers join areas and communities together."

As with all aspects of life at the moment, the programmes have had to adapt in adherence to the current Covid-19 restriction guidelines, resulting in smaller group sizes, staggered start times and increased hand washing.

As restrictions have eased the programme has been able to bring groups from both sides of the border together at Ballyheather Trout Fishery to explore water safety, ecosystems and issues around litter and pollution.

The cross border, cross community group conducted a litter monitoring programme and examined the impact of litter on local biodiversity. 3 Rivers Search & Rescue also delivered an exciting water safety demonstration and showed the group the steps to take to safely help someone in difficulty. This cross-border approach to the programme is essential and central to the Riverine Project as rivers do not recognise borders or differences and can be seen as shared spaces that we can all enjoy and have a shared responsibility to help protect.