Thursday, June 24, 2010

Plans for Ireland's first Climate Change Park in Skibbereen

A new proposal speadheaded by Declan Waugh founder of a not-for-profit climate change initiative
Partnership for Change and Director of EnviroManagement Services is set to influence how Ireland responds to the treat of climate change and flood risk management.

Mr Waugh an Environmental Scientist and Chartered Water and Environmental Manager has prepared a draft design for the creation of Irelands first climate change park to be created in the town of Skibbereen.

The proposal could see the creation of a climate change park that would create a floodplain to increase flood water storage and the resilience of the Ilen River to floods. The proposal would also see the creation of new amenities for the town that would be transformational in their design, supporting the principles of sustainability, increasing biodiversity and enhancing the urban built environment by providing an inspirational green space for the community.

The project designer Mr Waugh said “the park can provide an example of how green spaces can be enhanced to cope with climate change providing sustainable drainage systems that can help deliver natural flood management while also offering much needed tourism and amenity benefits to the town of Skibbereen”

Mr Waugh, recipient of the 2009 Cork Environmental Forum environmental person of the year award is a member of the Bandon Flood Task Group and Environmental pillar representative on the Cork County Council’s Strategic Planning Committee. He recently prepared and funded a detailed socio-economic assessment template for Bandon town to examine the impacts of the recent floods in addition to presenting a comprehensive examination to Engineers Ireland and Cork Environmental Forum on the Bandon River Catchment and flood risk management. The presentation included a review of the planning history, recent developments on floodplains, water catchment management and the role of professionals in particular engineers in planning cases and is available to view freely on the

Declan said “following on from this presentation I also wished to provide whatever assistance I could to the community of Skibbereen which suffered devastating floods on two occasions last year. The climate change environmental park was something that was always on my mind and following discussions with some members of the community I decided to put these ideas down on paper for circulation and wider consultation”.

Since preparing the draft he has circulated the proposal and design to the head of flood risk management of the OPW, the County Manager Mr. Martin Riordan, Minister for Environment John Gormley, Minister for Sustainability Ciaran Cuffe, the EPA, An Taisce, Skibbereen Business Association, West Cork Development Partnership, West Cork Tourism, Skibbereen lions Club, the River Ilen planning project liason executive, local TD’s and elected officials.

While Declan is still waiting on responses from various parties the head of the OPW Flood Risk Management Division Mark Adamson observed that "this is an excellent proposal, well aligned with the catchment-based approach to flood risk management, the concepts of managing flood risk (rather than solely relying on flood prevention) and the principles of the Guidelines on the Planning System and Flood Risk Management" and has forwarded it through his offices to the OPW engineers addressing the current flood management plans for Skibbereen.

While last years flooding may have been exceptional recent extreme weather experiences in West Cork, particularly in Skibbereen and Bandon, have highlighted the urgency to plan and prepare for future risk scenarios, especially the management of water and urban flooding. “We must not become complacent, the issue of flood risk management has not gone away” said Mr Waugh. “While we have enjoyed some wonderful weather this past month we must be reminded that other communities across Europe and worldwide have suffered catastrophic flooding and loss of life during the same period”

While thankfully no lives were lost in Ireland during the flooding of last November last month 20 people drowned as a consequence of flash flooding in France. In May 20 people drowned in Poland and a state of emergency was declared with flood waters up to 10 feet recorded as far as 3 miles from the banks of some rivers. Similar devastation was experienced in Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. In the past week flash floods in China have killed up to 200 people and more than 10 million people have also lost property, been injured or suffered a cut in power or water supplies as a result of the week of torrential rain. The flooding also raising concerns on food security with 1.24m acres of crops affected in China alone. This week in Brazil torrential rain devastated towns and cities in the north east where up to 1000 people are missing now presumed drowned and 120,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes due to flash flooding.

According to Mr Waugh “it is imperative that as a society we learn from our experiences and act now to protect our communities from future flooding. The needs of individuals and communities such as Skibbereen who have suffered flooding and continue to be a high risk of future flooding must be urgently assessed”

This proposal if adopted could make a real difference on the ground, improving the quality of people’s lives and helping to sustain the vitality and vibrancy of the Skibbereen town. Mr. Waugh has acted expeditiously and generously to provide assistance for the towns of Skibbereen and Bandon, it is now up to the public to come bring these proposals to the next stage. It is intended that a public meeting will take place in the West Cork Hotel over the summer months to build support around the Climate Change and Environmental Park only by working together as a community can we deliver long-term, sustainable flood risk protection for Skibbereen and West Cork.