Bandon flood scheme will lead to loss of precious natural amenity

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

September 19th, 2018

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has urged the Office of Public Works (OPW) to opt for more eco-friendly solutions for flood relief along the Bandon River.

The appeal follows locals and environmentalists’ rebuke of OPW for its handling of the Bandon Flood Relief operation, which they believe has breached environmental standards.

Some experts argue that the scheme’s 3.6km dredging operation breaches environmental safety standards and poses a significant threat to the river’s key species, namely the freshwater pearl mussel, eel and Lamprey that live alongside the river’s well-known salmon population.

The Bandon Flood Relief Scheme was designed to protect Bandon Town from flooding after a heavy rainfall led to the river bursting its banks in 2009, inflicting more than €20 million worth of damage to the town.

River Bandon works Photo: Ecofact

River Bandon works Photo: Ecofact

A permanent loss?

The IWT said that the people of Bandon deserve an adequate flood relief scheme one that would alleviate the menace of flooding while preserving the environment and natural marine habitats.

The IWT said, however, that the river has been transformed from a river with naturally diverse vegetation and physical features to one that is “uniform” and lined with walls of rock armour. This has led to the “permanent loss of a precious natural amenity” the conservation groups said in a statement.

Ecologist Dr William O’Connor has previously told The Green News that the current rock armouring installed to stabilise the river’s banks will “obliterate” the Cork stream.

“I can’t see the river really going to recover from the amount of rock armouring that they’re putting along the entire section,” he said.

Heron standing beside dredger in the Bandon Photo: Ecofact

Heron standing beside dredger in the Bandon Photo: Ecofact

1940s mindset

IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty said that nobody blames the people of Bandon for wanting to “rid their town of floods”. However, he added, the solution should not be to dig up rivers while simultaneously “destroying all the landscapes around them”.

“The OPW must crawl out of their 1940s mindset and realise that concrete and heavy machinery are not the solution to everything,” he said.

In a statement to The Green News, the OPW said that the scheme had been subjected to significant ecological assessments with appropriate mitigation measures designed to ensure the livelihood of the river’s fish species.

OPW is aware that the scheme’s short-term impacts can be significant but can be managed in the long haul, the statement reads.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.