Dredging of rivers not a flood solution, says An Taisce

An Taisce has asked the Government to ignore the “self-styled” experts calling for increased dredging of the Shannon as a response to the recent flooding.

Instead, An Taisce wants a wider approach that recognises the role of climate change in the recent floods. An Taisce’s comments are a response to widespread criticism over a lack of dredging in Irish rivers.

Roscommon-South Leitrim Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, was this week critical of President Michael D Higgins, who, as a government minister in 1997, signed the EU habitats directive into law.

Mr Fitzmaurice says this directive has hampered efforts to tackle flooding.

“One solution that would prevent a lot of flooding in areas all around the country would be to dredge and clean up rivers and streams and ditches,” he said.

“However, the habitats directive, which was signed into law by Michael D Higgins in 1997, prevents a lot of that work going ahead and that should be remembered today.”

Sinn Fein, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, and the Bandon Business Alliance have all called for increased dredging of rivers.

However, An Taisce has warned that dredging “is not the solution to Shannon floods”.

“The recent flooding, which has devastated so many communities around the country, was record-breaking for many reasons,” a statement from An Taisce read.

“These conditions are unprecedented, with many weather stations around the country recording their highest levels of rainfall on record, according to Met Éireann.

“Even with a reprieve in storms, Ireland’s swollen rivers and flooded towns and countryside will continue to receive normal levels of winter rainfall. These kinds of extreme flooding events are to be expected, according to climate-change scientists, and, indeed, they will only increase in frequency, in line with increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.”

An Taisce pointed to a European Commission statement that the directive did not prevent dredging, but that dredging “is not always the solution for flooding”.

“It may help to sort out a local problem, but it may also transport the problem downstream, sometimes from rural to urban areas, where the damage on properties and economic activities can be much higher. Therefore, the basin-wide approach included in EU policies is essential to find effective and long-term solutions,” the statement read.

An Taisce said the solution to the Shannon’s flooding problem “must be based on the entire Shannon catchment and must allow for the fact that climate change will increase the problems over coming years.”

“A number of ‘self-styled’ experts are appearing on the media, telling us how to control the flooding on the River Shannon,” An Taisce said.

“An Taisce first called for a single authority for the Shannon river basin over 30 years ago. It is the basic step required for coherent flood-management and, now, with climate change, it is even more urgently required.

“Any task force or single authority that is formed must also allow for proper public participation in the form of social, community and environmental groups,” it said.

It further cited a report from a Shannon catchment flood-risk assessment and management study, which found that “localised dredging upstream of Meelick Weir was not found to have a significant impact on flood levels”.

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