IRELAND’S ecosystems are worth billions to the economy each year, according to an environmental report published yesterday.
A study conducted by Comhar Sustainable Development Council (SDC) outlines how Ireland can achieve a comprehensive green infrastructure.
It said the country’s ecosystems should be mapped to measure the value of biodiversity and ecosystems to the economy and society. The group said Ireland’s ecosystems are worth about €2.6 billion to the economy each year.
The council proposes a green infrastructure planning approach to assist Ireland in meeting a range of legislative requirements concerning biodiversity, flooding and cultural heritage.
Entitled, Creating a Green Infrastructure for Ireland, the report sets out how Ireland’s green infrastructure can be mapped so that planners become aware of natural drainage and wetlands systems that can complement built developments.
Cathy Maguire, director of research at Comhar SDC, said biodiversity is declining because its value is not reflected in decision-making by business and government.
“Development has been a major driver of habitat degradation and biodiversity loss in Ireland,” Dr Maguire said.
“While tools such as Strategic Environment Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment have become part of our development process, they are essentially reactive measures.
“The introduction of a green infrastructure approach to planning policy would help to protect, create and manage green infrastructure in an integrated and proactive way. It would also enhance Ireland’s biodiversity and improve resilience to climate change.”
Dr Maguire said the infrastructure plan would minimise conflicts between environmental and economic goals such as the eight- year struggle between locals and energy giant Shell over the Corrib gas project in Mayo.
She added: “Green infrastructure provides space for nature to deliver vital ecological services that underpin our quality of life.
“By protecting our bio-diversity and enhancing our green infrastructure, Ireland can adapt more effectively to climate change,” she said.
The report also looked at improvements which could be made in north-east Dublin City including the water quality of rivers and streams flowing into Dublin Bay, cycling amenities to link green spaces and greater use of green spaces for flood attenuation and food production.
In Offaly-Westmeath it said lakes, rivers, drainage ditches, eskers and woodlands are key features of the local green infrastructure. The report recommends a pilot study should be undertaken to develop a green infrastructure strategy facilitated by Comhar SDC in partnership with selected local authorities.
It also says the Government should identify the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government as the lead department which should champion the green cause.
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