Health workers rallied outside London City Hall on Thursday morning to call on Labour mayor Sadiq to stop the construction of the Silvertown Tunnel. The polluting project will cost £2.2 billion to build and connect the Greenwich peninsula and west Silvertown in east London.
The Doctors in Unite union handed a letter to London assembly members, voicing their concern that the tunnel will add to already dangerous air pollution levels. It has now been signed by over 100 health workers.
GP Emma Radcliffe told Socialist Worker, “Air pollution affects every organ on the body. And not only this, we are in the midst of a climate crisis. The tunnel will contribute to higher emissions and impact the health of some of the poorest people in London.”
Air Pollution is one of the biggest killers in Newham and its neighbouring borough Tower Hamlets. In 2019 it was found that seven in every 100 deaths were caused by air pollution in Newham.
Medical student Zaynab, who joined the protest, added, “I was recently reading that pollution is stunting the growth of children’s lungs in Tower Hamlets. That’s why as health workers, it’s so important we come out and protest this against tunnel. This project will affect residents not only now, but for generations to come.”
Zaynab added that the local community had been sold a lie about the supposed benefits of the tunnel. “The mayor has tried to say this tunnel will ease congestion,” she said. “He’s tried to manipulate the situation.
“It’s really our job to make it clear that this tunnel won’t benefit working class people at all—it will damage their health instead.”
Zaynab and the other health workers also pointed out that these boroughs also have high numbers of black and Asian residents. And that those in power would never back a project like Silvertown Tunnel being built in a more affluent and whiter area.
Health workers will join other activists for a rally on Saturday at 2pm outside City Hall. Coral Jones, a retired doctor from Hackney, said the campaign against the tunnel must be connected to other campaigns against polluting infrastructure. “The Edmonton incinerator is another example of a project that will harm people’s health built in a deprived area,” she said.
“This is going on, on the watch of Labour councils who reside over areas with lots of deprivation.”
To stop the tunnel’s construction, Coral said that the campaign must draw in as much of the community as possible. “Doctors and health workers are just one part of the opposition we have to build against the tunnel,” she said.
“I spoke at a community banner making session for our protest on Saturday. There were lots of parents with their children in attendance from the local area. They were shocked and angry to hear about what the tunnel could mean for their families’ health. It’s clear we need the whole community to come out against the tunnel.”
Trade unionists, climate activists and anti-racists should join protests and actions against the Silvertown Tunnel.
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