I would like to take a couple of minutes out to talk about the widespread flooding that is really taking hold of a few counties in Ireland at the moment.
I am incredibly busy at this moment in time; there is a newborn in the house, I am preparing for end of semester exams and I am juggling a few other projects simultaneously so fishing trips have been few. Alongside the busy workload we have been lashed with storm event after storm event – Abigail, Barney, Clodagh and Desmond and getting out on the kayak just has not been a reality.
A feature of a couple of these storm events has been the dumping of huge amounts of rainfall onto the Irish countryside (70mm in 24 hours). Shortly after these rainfall events we have seen flooding occurring. Most people have joined the dots and have jumped to the conclusion that excess rainfall was the sole cause of the flooding. I beg to differ and as the floodwaters recede next week (peak flooding levels for Limerick are forecast for tonight, Wednesday for parts of Clare) there will be a race to secure funding for flood defences by county councils across the land. Their time and funding will ultimately be wasted. Why? Allow me to explain.
I am very much of the opinion that lowland flood defences along the latter stages of a river will do nothing to ease flooding in certain events and will turn out to be a fantastic misappropriation of taxpayer’s money. The worst hit areas in the country seem to be located along the River Shannon and one of it’s tributaries, the River Suck, both excellent fishing venues by the way.
The problem starts at the top of this river system, not at the end of it. Historically, most of this land was covered by bog and forestry. When land surrounding a river is covered by bog and trees you have a natural sponge that absorbs water during huge rainfall events. It is stored in these natural reservoirs and released into the river over a prolonged period of time which does not allow the build up of flash flooding that causes devastation further downstream.
The land surrounding these rivers and many more in Ireland has been developed into pasture for livestock grazing for the agricultural sector. When huge amounts of rainfall hit this land there is nothing to soak it up, it drains quickly into our rivers and creates flooding further downstream which is what the country is currently witnessing. A lot of the rivers that rise very quickly are prone to this problem.
Exacerbating the problem are decisions that were taken in more fruitful economic times where developments were erected with the abandonment of common sense and forward thinking; imagine granting planning permission for building on flood plains!!! One would wonder who made these decisions and how they made them. Purported mismanagement of the water flow coming through the dams on the river and dredging for drainage are certainly not helping either.
That’s my two cents; any remedial work on the lower reaches of rivers is potentially a waste of time, effort, materials and money. Take a closer look at what caused the flooding. Take a closer look at our land use further upstream and make steps to rectify changes made here, stop building and giving planning permission in areas that have flooded historically, stop digging and dredging excess drainage ditches on agricultural land and manage water flows with a bit more care and consideration. Don’t think about today, think about tomorrow, next winter, the winter after that. Flooding events are becoming more common and more destructive. They will happen again in the coming years.
To anybody reading this that has suffered damage to their families and their homes; my sincere condolences. There is never a good time for events like these to unfold but with them being so close to Christmas it must be especially hard. I wish you the best for the future and suggest that you urge your councils to look at upstream modification as the cause of your problems.
It’s time to get back to the books….