Expert says Government “cowering” over flooding issue
The fight for Foynes: GFS says they saved town €2 million this weekend.
By Elizabeth Doherty
THE country is yet again counting the cost – human and financial to the flooding in the wake of Storm Desmond’s ire – but shouldn’t the state be proactive to prevent such wide scale effects?
The storm caused road closures, power outages and flooding across the country, with Donegal, Kerry, Mayo, Cork and Galway, all affected.
One flooding expert says the Irish Government is not taking enough action – and is merely “paying lip service,” to the issue.
Photos emerged over the weekend of a pub in Donegal half submerged along with the rest of a village street and of a donkey being rescued from rising flood water in Kerry.
The army was even called to evacuate an elderly couple from their home near Glenflesk, Co Kerry.
And motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles as waters rose.
But floods are not a new phenomenon to Ireland anymore – and in the last decade they have been occurring more often.
Yet it seems the state is not placing enough resources in to addressing, what has now become a national urgency.
Shane Curran, co-founder of Global Flood Solutions, is part of a very successful company defending communities across the world against flooding.
But while former GAA Roscommon goalkeeper Shane, stands at the forefront of building the answer to flooding – it seems the Irish Government is yet to take on board the solution.
GFS has provided flood defence to parts of Africa, Canada, the U.S and UK, but is has only been requested to assist once in Ireland.
“The Government needs to take control, to streamline effective flood control measures. Unfortunately too much lip service is paid to effective mitigating control measures,” Shane said.
“This could be done very effectively by taking a pro active and business like approach to deploy effective barriers.
“Government or agencies of the state have little experience of flooding and its nature,” Shane said.
“Cowering behind reports that will have little or no impact is how they deal with severe flooding issues.
“There is currently no plan to effectively resource councils with the armory to fight flood occurrences.
“There are many ways our company and products could effectively help the state and reduce the issues currently been experienced by people, businesses and infrastructure around the country.
Last year flooding also caused problems in Dublin, across Santry, Malahide, Drumcondra, and in other areas.
And in 2013, flooding also struck the Irish capital and swept across the country. In 2012, Cork and Belfast suffered heavy flooding.
Last year a European Commission report warned that the cost of sea flooding would increase from €996m to almost €3bn in Ireland and the UK.
Figures released last year also showed that flooding had resulted in insurers paying almost €750m in claims since 2000.
“Preparing effectively with products that can alleviate flood issues is the first step and I would also say we need an efficient mechanism to deploy effective barriers to cope with these frequent problems,” Shane said.
The establishment of a “cohesive organisation” with its “primary focus” on flood defence should be “a priority,” the former footballer said.
“Councils simply don’t have manpower or technical expertise to operate a resilience plan,” he said.
Despite his conviction and the company’s track record – it seems strange that the Government has not alerted Shane and co for help.
But the fact is, it hasn’t. However, Canada, the U.S, the UK and Africa, has. This seems even more unusual given that the firm is Irish.
“Our company could put an effective plan in place that would prepare targeted areas in a very short time-frame, with our extensive international operations experience,” Shane said.
“Regretfully it’s only a matter of time before a similar instance occurs here. A person lost their life in the last flood in Dublin – We can’t protect everything but we can prepare and mitigate effectively.
“The major issue is responsibility. There will be frantic calls here in the next few days about defense and the great and the good will come out and talk nonsense.
“Then, like the floods retreat until the next, the talks will too and so it goes on until the next and then it’s some one else’s problem. It’s the hear no evil see no evil scenario.”
The state vowed to spend double on flood defence last year – from €100m by 2019 – but this sum would only be enough to protect one city – Cork.
In 2014, flooding to Cork and Limerick, was estimated to have cost €50m of damage.
Last year the Government’s flood defence coffers spent just €45m.
And again, this year, the country seemed ill-prepared against the storm and rising tide.
“Effective procurement would cost the state a small fraction of what it would save from clean up-operations,” Shane said.
“Figures suggest that every €1 spent on flood defence up to €10 is saved. It would not take a genius to work out from a simple audit how much it would cost to adequately put a plan in place.
“With modern meteorology techniques, it’s possible to predict well in advance storms and possible flooding – indeed Gerry Fleming, an esteemed meteorologist, was predicting this last week.
“Further more it’s been predicted that this week is going to bring more severe rains and further flooding.”
The company has provided flood protection to Canada, the City of Medicine Hat in Alberta, the U.S, Washington. It also worked on a military project in Somalia.
In Ireland, Shane said the company “saved the town of Foynes from flooding.”
The firm estimates it saved the state €2million by providing defence to the town which was at risk of flooding over the weekend.
The mobile concertainer wall, which is filled with sand, is almost a metre high and a metre deep, and runs for 100 metres between the harbour and railways tracks.
The defence was put in place in just six hours. It was put in place to replace a 40 ft block wall breached last year.
That flood surged through the town, flooding homes, shops and bars. Shannon Port Company chose to adopt this system to save money in future.