Beijing-level air pollution levels recorded in Galway after Gorse fire

Published by Niall Sargent on

11th May 2017

Beijing-level air pollution levels were recorded in Galway yesterday evening as one of the largest gorse fires in recent years blazed in the Cloosh Valley, Co Galway.

The fire, which destroyed more than a third of the country’s biggest forest, was brought under control late yesterday evening. Coillte staff are monitoring the area to ensure that any damaged land does not reignite.

Dr Liz Coleman from NUI Galway’s Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies recorded air pollution levels at Mace Head, Ceann Mhása, in Connemara equal to levels recorded in Beijing yesterday.

Speaking on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta this morning, she said that the “Citizen Science Air Pollution” monitoring network recorded levels of pollution of 150 micrograms, well above the accepted safe level of 25 micrograms.

It is estimated that 30 fires were active at the start of the week. Various fire brigades, together with the Air Corps and Defence Forces, were called upon to deal with major fires in counties Cork, Cavan, Sligo, Galway, Kildare, Mayo, Monaghan and Wicklow

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said there have been hundreds of fires in the past few weeks with most of “a minor nature”. He again warned landowners about setting illegal gorse fires between March and August.

It is an offense under the Wildlife Act to burn any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated from 1 March to 31 August.

Mr Creed’s department has issued a series of Fire Danger Notices to the forestry sector since March. These fires were then monitored using satellite date, leading to the detection of over 50 illegal fire locations by 21 April 2017.

The Minister told Morning Ireland that eleven prosecutions have been brought in recent years, leading to nine successful convictions.

In a joint statement with Minister for Heritage and Rural Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, Mr Creed also stressed that land found to be burned is not eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme, except where controlled burning is carried out in full compliance with relevant environmental legislative and after consultation with Gardaí and local fire services.

Documents released under Freedom of Information legislation to the Irish Wildlife Trust reveal that the use of satellite images to monitor burning on farmland has not led to any prosecutions since introduced in March 2016.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London