September 23rd, 2019
A statement issued by South Dublin County Council on the recent destruction of a wetland area in Tallaght is a “cop-out of the highest order”, the expert group that discovered the urban biodiversity hotspot has said.
The Herpetological Society of Ireland (HIS) discovered on Saturday that a wetland area that it was monitoring in Sean Walsh Memorial Park was completely covered over with mud and silt and levelled off.
The former waste ground and dumpsite for silt dredged from local ponds regenerated naturally over many years and was, until the weekend, bursting with wildlife including protected newts, frogs, bats and the critically endangered European eel.
Collie Ennis, a science officer with the volunteer group of amphibians and reptiles experts, said that this weekend’s discovery was “a punch in the gut” after spending months documenting species.
Ennis found the “little miracle” last year while surveying the Tallaght area for potential pond sites to help link up existing populations of urban amphibians in the area for the Council.
The group approached the Council about the site and its importance to local biodiversity, leading to its inclusion in the draft Tallaght local area plan.
The wetland area was also set to be the flagship site for a new pond rehabilitation project within south Dublin green spaces.
Part of a planned process
In its first comment on the matter, the Council said this afternoon that the dumping of material on the site was “part of a planned process” to remove silt and illegally dumped rubbish from man-made lakes in the park.
The Council said that over 40 tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish was removed off-site while the drained silt was put in mounds on an “uncultivated area” to the north of the wetlands and subsequently levelled.
While the Council said that it will “immediately review” the practice of silt disposal, best practice “dictates that the material removed is placed as close to the origin as possible”.
“The Council will continue to work to enhance the wetlands in Sean Walsh Park and in the County through its Constructed Wetlands Programme. The Council will also continue to deliver on the commitments given through our Climate Change Action Plan.’
Statement ‘answers nothing’
The HSI said that the Council’s statement “answers nothing” about the situation and “is a cop-out of the highest order”. The group added that the statement highlights the Council’s clear “contempt” with which it “holds their communities and green spaces”.
Green Party Councillor Liam Sinclair said he was “disappointed” by the Council’s statement that failed to “acknowledge the importance of the area”.
He added that the statement was a “missed opportunity” to engage locals on the issue and that it was “unnecessary for the Council to try and defend themselves”.
“Like lots of residents around the area, [I] was heartbroken when I saw the images on Twitter, it was like getting a blow to the solar plexus,” he said, with a meeting set to be held with Council staff this afternoon.
“What we’re looking for now from the Council is how this was allowed to happen, who did the work and we want guarantees and an idea right away about what steps are going to be put in place to ensure that this remains a wetlands area and whatever investment that is required to ensure that happens is put in place,” he added.
Ennis and the HSI also want answers fast, especially as the Council was supportive over the past year, in particular, the heritage officer who Ennis described as “absolutely brilliant”.
“I just think it’s down to a lack of communication within the council itself. I don’t think there is any malice here,” he told The Green News this morning.
He added, however, that decision-makers are going to have to “pull their socks up” and take action to protect nature as we are “losing hedgerows, forests, [and] precious little oasis for wildlife” all over Ireland.
“We know how important biodiversity is, so they need to get their act in gear. This stuff should never happen again.”