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Keep calm and dry in the face flooding

5 Dec 2016

This time last year we were all in the throes of Storm Desmond.  On this day, December 5 th , Theresa Mannion made sure we all understood just how treacherous the conditions were with her RTE news broadcast from Galway urging us all not to “make unnecessary journeys, don’t take risks on treacherous roads and DON’T SWIM IN THE SEA!”

Weather conditions are much better this year, in fact it’s hardly rained at all in 6 weeks. But Friends of the Earth is urging that Ireland takes an ecosystems approach to managing flood risk. By working with nature, we can enhance the capacity of our landscape to slow the flow of water during flood events and to reduce flood risk.

 

In recent decades urban and agricultural expansion and intensification, often onto historic floodplains, has resulted in the loss of capacity of floodplains and wetlands to attenuate flooding.   Now, in response to increasing frequency of extreme rainfall and storm surge events and associated flood events occurring due to climate change, and in order to reverse the decline in natural flood attenuation, Ireland needs to urgently implement a two-fold programme of floodplain and wetland protection and floodplain and wetland restoration.

‘Natural flood management’ (NFM) is when a whole catchment approach is taken to managing flood waters, through managing soil, wetlands, woodlands and floodplains to retain water in the higher reaches of a catchment at times of flood risk.  There are projects across Europe and further afield that have restored peat bogs, planted riparian woodlands, restored and created new wetlands, re-profiled rivers and their floodplains to hold back floodwaters.  Coastal ecosystems such as mudflats, sand dunes, saltmarshes and barrier beaches provide natural shoreline protection from storms and flooding.  

Natural flood management has gained recognition as a viable and cost effective approach to flood risk management.  It is particularly popular because there are additional benefits to biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and water quality, and as such it is seen as a holistic environmental management approach that increases the resilience of landscapes and society to the multiple challenges climate change.   However it is an approach that is virtually unknown in Ireland and has not been trialled, piloted or widely discussed in any relevant spheres here, despite the growing problem of widespread flood damage in recent years. 

In most of the case studies where Natural flood management has been successful citizen involvement has been key to the success, some of the most successful projects have been led from the ground up.  With its natural flood management project, Friends of the Earth is urging pilot projects in Ireland to trial this approach and take more sustainable approach Ireland’s flooding problems.  You can read our submission to the OPW's flood risk management consultation here.  And then watch Teresa's star turn one more time :-).

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