PRESS RELEASE: IWA Himalayan Balsam Campaign Wins Award

Issue date: 13th October 2015

A campaign by national waterways charity The Inland Waterways Association, to control an invasive plant which causes damage along many canals and rivers, has won the Natural Environment category at the Living Waterways Awards in London on 8th October.

Himalayan balsam is a non-native plant which has spread across the waterway network, crowding out native plants and reducing biodiversity.  IWA’s campaign, which has increased in strength in the four years since it began, saw volunteers undertake a record 25 work parties on 14 different waterways in 2015, bringing together over 250 volunteers who cleared 17 miles of towpath and banks.

To promote and support the campaign this year IWA held a Himalayan Balsam Awareness Week in May, before the main growth season, featuring a range of educational awareness resources and a step-by-step guide for organising work parties, all available online at IWA’s website.  This resulted in many other organisations, some not directly involved with the waterways, being inspired to join the campaign.

On receiving the award on behalf of the Association, IWA’s Campaigns Officer, Alison Smedley said "Himalayan balsam affects navigation by increasing dredging requirements and limiting places to moor.  It also inhibits the diversity of native wild flowers and even the fish population, so it is in everybody's interests to control it where we can. This award recognises the effort and dedication of everyone who has taken part and I’d like to thank every volunteer, boater, walker or passer-by who has ever pulled up a bit of Himalayan balsam as a result of IWA’s awareness campaign.”

IWA already has plans to expand the approach for next year’s Himalayan balsam pulling season, by re-seeding with locally appropriate native plants, as well as increasing the number of locations where Himalayan balsam work parties are held.


Press Contact

For more information please contact Alison Smedley, Campaigns Officer, The Inland Waterways Association, by emailing or phone 07779 090915.

Notes for Editors

The Inland Waterways Association

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA), a registered charity, leads campaigns to conserve, maintain and restore Britain’s network of canal and river waterways. With a membership of around 16,000, IWA provides a strong voice for waterways users, working with navigation authorities, local and national government and other organisations to keep all our waterways alive.

Himalayan Balsam Campaign

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is an invasive plant introduced to Britain in the mid 19th Century. It is the tallest annual plant in the UK, growing to heights of over three metres. The seeds, up to 800 per plant, are released explosively from the seedpods and can travel up to seven metres, meaning the plant spreads quickly. Over the last ten years, Himalayan balsam has become established on many waterways; however, it can be controlled by simply pulling it up.

The increasing prevalence of Himalayan balsam and the relative ease with which it can be tackled by volunteers, led The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) to develop a campaign to tackle the spread of the plant. Starting in 2012, the Association’s campaign aimed to increase waterway users’ awareness of the plant as well as organising Himalayan balsam pulls across the country to help limit the spread of the plant.

Himalayan balsam crowds out native plants and can take over whole areas of river and canal bank, reducing the biodiversity of the area. It dies back in the winter and with no native plants present, the roots of which would help bind the soil, river and canal banks can erode. This can result in structural issues and an increased need for dredging as debris enters the waterway, which can also suffocate fish spawning beds. It is for these reasons that IWA began its campaign to limit the spread of Himalayan balsam and educate the public of the problems it can cause and the importance in limiting its spread.

IWA acknowledges the support of navigation authorities and landowners in this campaign, especially Canal & River Trust who have supported many of the work parties.

More information about Himalayan balsam can be found on the IWA’s website

Living Waterways Awards

The winners of the 2015 Living Waterways Awards were announced at an awards ceremony held last week (8 October 2015) in London.

Run by the Canal & River Trust, and sponsored by Keir, CPC Civils, Fountains and Hyder Consulting, the Living Waterways Awards seek to recognise the most inspiring and exciting waterway-based improvement projects across the UK.

The judging panel is chaired by Sir Christopher Rodriques CBE.  The winners and runners-up were determined after a series of visits and assessments, which saw the expert judges, drawn from the environmental, engineering, architecture and regeneration sectors, visit all of the shortlisted entries to select the most inspiring and exciting waterway-based improvement projects across the UK.

Photograph: IWA Himalayan Balsam Campaign wins Natural Environment Category at the Living Waterways Awards 2015.  L-R: Rob Howes (sponsor, Fountains Group); Alison Smedley (IWA Campaigns Officer); Simon Thurley (event host & CRT Trustee)

Alternative images, including photos of IWA Himalayan balsam work parties, are available on request.