CALLS for urgent action on illegal dumping have been repeated in response to concerns about the worsening biodiversity crisis.
At a meeting of the Physical Development Meeting committee of the local authority last week, Councillor Alan O’Callaghan said community groups are fed up with having to respond to the ongoing problem of fly-tipping in scenic areas across the county. The Fianna Fáil members’ comments followed a detailed presentation from Heritage Officer Congella McGuire on biodiversity initiatives in the county, and an outline of the threats to nature created by pollution and other issues.
“I don’t need to remind you that we are in a biodiversity crisis,” Ms McGuire said, as she outlined a number of initiatives that are ongoing in the county. “One-third of our bee species are threatened and two-third of bird species are in a red or amber conservation concern criteria. 85% of our important wildlife habitats are seen as being in an ‘unfavourable’ status.”
Responding to the presentation Councillor O’Callaghan, who has been consistent in highlighting the problem of illegal dumping, particularly in areas on the Clare-Limerick border, called for fresh thinking.
“We definitely need to set up an action group, at this stage, to address the issue of illegal dumping and fly-tipping,” he said. “There’s so many people out walking nowadays, with the foliage only just starting to grow, you can see into a lot of drains, ditches and streams and the amount of dirt, rubbish, empty bottles and cans and huge volumes of refuse. A lot of community groups at this stage are fed up of this and have had enough of this kind of carry on. If we set up something temporary for 12 to 18 months and do something about it.”
James Giller, representing the Public Participation Network (PPN) on the Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) supported the suggestion.
“Biodiversity is for all,” Councillor Patrick O’Gorman pointed out, “especially during the lockdowns and we should be promoting walking for people’s mental health and fitness.”
Councillor Clare Colleran-Molloy also supported Councillor O’Callaghan’s call. “If the SPC and the director could take immediate short-term action on illegal dumping, it is a real concern throughout the county,” she said. “It definitely adversely affects our enjoyment of nature and we have all come back to nature because of the pandemic and I would like some action taken on it.”
Councillor Joe Cooney agreed that illegal dumping has become a major problem. “The council has put so much time, effort and money into tackling the issues,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t see it improving, unfortunately. It is something we will have to look at, going forward, to try to cut out the illegal dumping. In fairness, it isn’t for want of trying, but unfortunately, the problem is continuing and it’s very disappointing. In fairness of the director [of services], I know she has a big effort put in over the last couple of years as well.
Director of Services Carmel Kirby said part of the response to dumping has to come from the public. “I think the people who can most help us are the public themselves,” she said. “As long as the public are retaining unauthorised waste collection services who are, in turn, dumping illegally across our landscape, that’s where the primary problem lies.
“Certainly, we’ve been doing spot checks with An Garda Síochána. We’re prohibited from putting out CCTV because of GDPR issues, but if we could encourage the public to stop using unauthorised refuse collectors, that would have a huge impact on the situation. Maybe a major public campaign might be something that’s needed. We need to first of all ask people to stop throwing their litter about. There’s a lot of behavioural change that’s required here, that’s ultimately going to solve this problem. We are sending people out. We are taking people to court. There are big fines, but when we get into court, it’s not always looked on favourably to give out the big fines, so I think we need a behavioural change campaign that’s ultimately going to solve that problem.”