Aleppo - 02-12-16

My KM column usually involves issues directly relevant to Maidstone & The Weald but every now and then an international tragedy develops that demands overriding attention.

The situation in Eastern Aleppo is dire. The last hospital was put out of action on 19th November, the food stocks are set to run out in the next fortnight and 275,000 people are in real and immediate danger of starvation and / or extermination. That's about the same population of the entire boroughs of Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells combined, and of those at risk, nearly 100,000 are children.

In May this year our government said "preparations for airdrops will now take place and go forward rapidly because there isn't a moment to lose". Six months later we are no further forward.

Following devastatingly indiscriminate bombing campaigns the combined forces of Assad and Putin are now intent upon wiping out all Aleppo's survivors. They are refusing all attempts to allow access to UN relief agencies whilst dropping unguided barrel bombs full of chlorine gas onto the remaining civilian populations.

We have all the will and the resources to help, but we are thwarted from gaining ground based access to the besieged civilians without putting our servicemen and aid workers at very significant risk.

The alternative of 'airdropping' our aid requires pilots to maintain a significant altitude for safety, but that makes pinpoint targeting of drop sites exceptionally difficult. The strong likelihood of our aid then falling into the hands of the enemy has, until now, been considered a worse outcome, but that argument no longer stacks up.

Aleppo's remaining survivors are in the last chance saloon and we must act. I have therefore written to the Prime Minister, together with colleagues from across the house, asking her to urgently authorise the airdropping of aid. It is no longer an option of last resort, it is our only option.


Helen's weekly column is published every Friday in the Kent Messenger.  The content shown here may differ slightly from the press version.

Farm wetlands scheme gives new hope to Yalding flood victims

Marden, Kent 15-11-16: A Kent farmer working with Kent County Council has started a new initiative to to create a 4 acre 'wetland' to store and hold-back up to 15 million litres of flood water.

It is hoped the earthworks will help delay one of the flows that threaten the village of Yalding and the surrounding areas that were so badly flooded three years ago.

The RSPB were also involved in the design to create a marvellous year round habitat for wildlife and water fowl.

Visiting the site as work was getting underway this week local MP Helen Grant said 'This is precisely the type of scheme we have been looking for and I congratulate farmer Peter Hall and Louise Smith from Kent County Council for creating a wonderful idea and then making it a reality. If we can get other land owners to follow suit they may just be able to make a significant difference to the flooding problem here in the Low Weald'.

Mrs Grant then announced that she will be hosting a visit to Maidstone & The Weald by Andrea Leadsome, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the New Year when she intends to seek central government support for a roll-out of wetland schemes further afield.

Farmer Peter Hall said 'This is such a win-win for everyone. A piece of land that is difficult to farm is now being used for the wider public interest to help with the flooding problem, and as a fantastic environmental feature. It is a low-tech, low cost, low maintenance project and helps achieve our 'greening' objectives under the Common Agricultural Policy'.

The scheme includes the restoration of historic ditches and drainage systems that have been in use for centuries and the overall cost is expected to be less than £25,000, most of which has been funded by KCC.

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