WE need sustained investment in flood relief for at least 15 years, as new research predicts extreme weather events here are becoming more common.
Minister at the Office of Public Works Martin Mansergh said 40 minor relief schemes had been announced since last November when flooding caused widespread damage in south and east Galway and Cork.
Mr Mansergh said that he expected at least €12 million would be spent to protect against flooding in the Galway region alone between now and 2012.
“We are going to need sustained investment, I would say, for at least 15 years, so it’s not all going to be done at once. Obviously, the most urgent and immediate things that will make the most difference quickly, we are trying to do under the minor relief work scheme.
“We have approved 40 minor flood relief schemes for south and east Galway at a cost of €1.6 million. I have just approved €3.85m for the Dunkellin river and the Aggard stream. It is probably the case that between this year, next year and the following year, we will be spending about €12m on flood relief in south and east Galway. It is a major priority,” he said.
The minister said it would be wrong for people to jump to assume flooding will become a more common occurrence simply because of what happened last November and December.
“At the same time, it would be jumping to conclusions to assume we have a monsoon climate and that the monsoons will return in November. In fact, rainfall this year has been well below average so far.
“Obviously, our first priority is to protect people, then livelihoods. We’re practically the only country in Western Europe that has not had recent fatalities from flooding. We have the most extensive programme for flood relief and flood protection that has been developed in the history of the state,” said Mr Mansergh.
Research carried out in University College Cork for the Environmental Protection Agency has found evidence that extreme weather events in Ireland are becoming more commonplace with the long-term forecast predicting a wetter climate.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Dr John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth said the report showed there has been a significant increase in rainfall and temperature in Ireland since the 1970s.
“They are evidence of both natural and human forcing of climate. It is systematic of the rest of the world. We can say for example that almost all of the changes of the past half century in Ireland are primarily driven by human factors, by human induced climate change. The team do find, quite rightly, that there are many aspects of natural change occurring due to our position in the Atlantic Ocean and due to the fact we have cyclical changes,” he said.
Dr Sweeney said the report showed the need to focus on protecting against extreme weather into the future.
“What this report says is really that we have to wake up and start looking at how much we protect population against flooding, how much we protect our crops, for example, against changes in drought. These are important things that only Irish research can ascertain,” he said.
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