The abuse of Lough Ree and other outrages

From time to time it is worth taking just a little time to stand back and take stock of what is happening around us.    Most anglers are among the true guardians of our waterways. Every true angler I know is committed to not only what is happening to our rivers and lakes but also to the surrounding countryside.    What is taking place currently in Ireland reminds me of what took place in the UK in the 1950s and early 1960s.    The so-called Celtic Tiger has seen vast changes over recent years. Much of this country is unrecognisable to the Ireland I new thirty years ago.    Everyone should applaud progress. However the problem is that not all that accompanies it is beneficial to everything that goes with it.    As a youth I was reared in Sheffield, which is situated in South Yorkshire in England. My home was set in a row of terraces set in the heart of the city’s major industry, the production of millions of tons of steel every year.    It was boom time for all concerned. Jobs were there for the taking and although the area in which I lived was, to say the least, a little rough and ready, anyone who was prepared to work prospered and lived very well. As all this took place, the knock-on effect was horrendous.    The ‘I’ word never came into the equation as factory owners became millionaires and their employees turned a blind eye to what was really taking place.    The ‘I’ word to which I refer is the infrastructure that should have been put in place to support the raging progress that was being made at the time. The River Don that flows through the city had become a vast open sewer. The Sheffield to Keadby canal suffered the same fate and so did rivers like the Rother, Aire and Calder.     At this stage my readers are probably wondering if I’ve lost the plot and what the hell  this has got to do with modern-day Ireland.    Firstly, consider the plight of the poor old Shannon, the river regarded by many as probably Ireland’s greatest asset. There is now a plan afoot which has been granted planning permission to make the river navigable between Lough Allen and Upper Annagh. This would mean straightening and dredging the natural meanderings of the upper river and building a 16-berth marina at Upper Annagh.    Lough Allen is NOT popular with the hire cruiser fraternity and is already served well by Spencer Harbour and the mooring close to Drumshanbo. The damage to the natural flora and fauna if this development takes place will be unimaginable.    Lower down the river we have antiquated water treatment facilities serving a major town. It is widely accepted that the plant cannot cope and some untreated sewage often enters the river.    A facility lower down river has been granted, by the Environmental Protection Agency an I.P.C. License which, in short, is a license to pollute.    To say these licenses are granted by the body who are supposedly set up to protect our natural environment is a contradiction in terms within itself. The building of literally thousands of domestic dwellings almost upon the rivers banks, once again in many cases without the infrastructure to support them, is unbelievable.    I recently fished close to a new development. There was lots of used toilet paper floating at my feet and the stench was almost unbearable.    Recently Minister John Gormley introduced new penalties aimed at local authorities that pollute. Let’s hope this is not just a paper exercise and something will at last be done. Tarmonbarry weir, which for years was a major tourist attraction, is now a shattered ruin. Huge steel shorings now replace part of the old weir and stand as a monument to what in my opinion is bad planning and a serious modern day misjudgement.    The latest suggestion by Dublin City council to remove 350 million litres of water per day from Lough Ree also highlights what is tantamount to the abuse and rape of our magnificent river.    The knock-on effect of this outrage would not only affect Lough Ree and the immediate area but also for many miles both up and down stream. In short, the grand old lady cannot take anymore and I now see a parallel of what took place in 1950’s England. I have stated many times before that the river’s bio mass of fish has been reduced in some areas to almost nothing.    The millions of euro that visitors brought with them has disappeared like shifting sands as the anglers from overseas moved to pastures new.    Finally, I am fully supportive of progress and the wealth and security that it has brought to this country. As an angler and ecologist I am also fully aware of some of the price that is being paid not only in this area but on a national basis.    Like most anglers I am very passionate about the protection of our once-sparkling rivers and lakes. The English rivers of which I mentioned above are now once again abundant in all forms of aquatic life.    The massive clean-up campaign which began in the 1970’s has breathed life back into these once barren waterways. I pray Ireland takes heed before it is too late.