Environment Minister John Gormley has cited climate change; Fine Gael has cited lack of funding while Labour has cited inadequate local preparations when it comes to dealing with the recent spate of flooding.
MEP Kathy Sinnott believes that all of the aforementioned are, to use her own words, “missing the point”.
Said Ms Sinnott: “Despite our wet climate, in the past flooding was a relatively uncommon occurrence. Recently destructive flooding has become a yearly, seasonal phenomenon.”
So what’s left so many parts of the country, including Clonmel and, potentially Waterford city, seemingly more susceptible to flooding than ever?
“To understand this we should consider the changes to water drainage patterns that are directly connected on the one hand to the recent boom in construction and on the other to years of neglect of native Irish forestry which has rendered much of the Irish environment incapable of dealing with heavy rainfall.”
The solution, in Kathy Sinnott’s view, is to go native – when it comes to planting trees.
“Irish Trees like oak, ash, willow, alder, elder, blackthorn and crab apple are an essential part of nature’s drainage system. Native forests on the hills create and secure a spongy soil which holds water and reduces the amount of water and soil that runs off the incline.
“The trees in hedgerows act as barriers along the way. More native Irish trees on the flood plains create soakage to take up and hold water in the soils.
“Native trees, especially willow growing in and by our rivers and streams, rather than submerging them washing soil away, secure the banks even in high water and slow the course of the water. In this combined way, native trees ensure soil stability and prevent serious flooding even in conditions of heavy and persistent rainfall.”
Unfortunately, as Ms Sinnott sees it, trees have become “inconveniences and barriers” by a host of bodies, including county councils, the National Roads Authority and developers when building roads, houses, shopping centres and the like.
“Rather than working around and with, trees, hedgerows, native forests and the natural growth in and by our waterways, they have been cleared, storing up problems for the people who then use those buildings, roads, etc in the future,” she continued.
“The few decorative trees left by construction and the replacement trees planted after, are hopelessly inadequate to the job of managing excess water in wet weather.”
Work has to be carried out across a range of Government offices to come up with a long-term, sustainable solution to the flooding problem, said Ms Sinnott.
“I call on the Minister Tony Killeen, with special responsibility for Fisheries and Forestry, to ensure that the €1 Billion funding allocated to forestry be spent on native forestry species.
“I call on Minister O’ Cuiv, responsible for Ireland’s Rural Development program, to revisit and revise our guidelines to include forestry with native species of trees in the program, when our Rural Development Programme is reviewed in 2010.
“And I call on the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Brendan Smith and the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, to recognise the essential role of native trees and to promote and protect them as a matter of urgency.”