The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have warned that proposals outlined in the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) will add to the risk of flooding and will also increase the impact of flood events on homes and businesses.
Speaking on this INHFA President Vincent Roddy outlined how the media narrative around the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) has primarily focused on the impact it will have on farming and specifically the rewetting of drained peatlands. However, as the European institutions move towards finalising details around this law, it is he stated “vital that we recognise how the impacts from this law will extend well beyond the drained peatlands to include all farmers with peat soils, their wider communities and the larger urban areas in these water basins.”
When you assess the current detail outlined in this law there is he maintained “a clear requirement to restore and re-establish habitats that will impact on the ability to carry out flood mitigation measures, but critically these actions could exacerbate flooding outcomes especially on our drained peatlands that are targeted for rewetting.”
Currently these drained peatlands are stated Roddy “acting as a sponge in relation to flood mitigation. In times of exceptionally high rainfall these lands absorb water and release it at a slower rate through their drainage networks. However, if we rewet these lands then like a sponge that is full, they will not be able to absorb any more water which will increase the flood risk in towns and communities in the immediate area and in the wider water basin.“
Beyond the impact of rewetting our drained peatlands the Nature Restoration Law could further increase flood risks by reducing the impact of mitigation measures on our hills and other areas subject to this law.
Here the INHFA leader detailed how “the most effective and cost efficient way of reducing the impact of flooding is by implementing measures upstream. The development of natural flood barriers such as ponds can be critical in slowing the flow of water to give the existing river networks time to manage the increased volumes.”
Such measures are, he continued, “essential and should be part of an overall flood prevention strategy but the problem is, on lands subject to this law, will we be allowed to carry out such measures?”
“Unfortunately, the answer to this question seems unclear, but if the experience on the application of the nature directives (SAC and SPA designations) are anything to go by, then the potential of carrying out necessary flood defence works on lands subject to the NRL will be low and possibly non-existent” added the INHFA President.
In concluding Roddy outlined how the NRL must take into account the needs and concerns of the people living in the areas subject to the law and the wider areas that could also be impacted.” In striving to protect nature we need to recognise that those living in these communities should also expect to be protected.”