Call for National Taskforce to combat Japanese Knotweed

Published by Dave Brooks on

August 16th, 2016

Delays caused to a housing project in County Cork by Japanese Knotweed sparked calls last week for the establishment of a National Taskforce to tackle the invasive plant.

The presence of the plant at a 56 unit social housing site at Beechgrove, Clonakilty, has led to delays in the €9 million project,  driving up the costs of construction. Japanese Knotweed can penetrate building foundations and walls and cause subsidance around buildings, as well as crowding out other plants in competition for resources.

Clonakilty-based Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard commented: “To save the future cost, which will only increase incrementally the longer the problem is left, action must be taken now.” The plant is so difficult to eradicate because it multiplies if cut, and its rhizome root system makes it more resistant to weed killer treatment than most other plants. Cork County Council has set up a working group to tackle the issue, but with invasive species costing the Irish economy in the region of €260 million annually, there is a strong case for a coordinated national drive to control the impact of such pests.

Mr Lombard gave an example from the UK of the scale of response that should be replicated here. “To give an international example of the cost involved, £70m was required to clear Japanese Knotweed from the Olympic village site in London in 2014. Appreciating the magnitude of the issue, the UK has allocated a national budget of £5bn per year towards addressing this problem.”

Liam Flynn, a farm manager and naturalist in Millstreet, County Cork who has been treating the plant for a number of years, believes that as a matter of urgency, the government should start a public awareness campaign to help people identify Japanese Knotweed, and to be informed of effective treatment methods. Meanwhile, he advises people to know the source of any topsoil they buy and to be vigilant if they live near waste ground, or streams. And they should always thoroughly clean boots, tools and tyres of soil before the leave any contaminated area.

Senator Lombard added: “To gain an understanding of the magnitude of this issue, all Local Authorities should carry out a survey on  their lands to record the prevalence of invasive plants such as Japanese Knotweed. Once the scale of the problem is known, a national strategy can be put in place to eradicate this plant so that crucial infrastructure projects, such as the Clonakilty housing project, are not delayed in future.”

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.