independent

Thursday 31 July 2014

Farmers reject notion of fencing off rivers

Cillian Walsh

Published 21/08/2013|05:36

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Lounging by the riverbank will become a thing of the past for cattle if the Friends of the Irish Environment ‘buffer zone’ proposal is adopted.

THE demand by an environmental group for 'buffer zones' around waterways to prevent them being polluted by cow dung and slurry is "a very blank solution to the problem", according to the IFA's Kerry Chairman Sean Brosnan.

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THE demand by an environmental group for 'buffer zones' around waterways to prevent them being polluted by cow dung and slurry is "a very blank solution to the problem", according to the IFA's Kerry Chairman Sean Brosnan.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) have proposed that buffer zones of 10 metres be put in place along rivers, lakes and streams in order to keep cattle away from them, thereby preventing pollution.

However, farmers don't think much of the proposal. "We don't agree with it; we are meeting all the environmental standards," said Mr Brosnan. "They are saying that cattle are in the water and this is not the case. All rivers and lakes are already fenced off so there is no need for a buffer zone."

Cow dung is blamed for pollution along our coastline and the loss of Blue Flag status on beaches. An example is Ballybunion, where continuous heavy rain washing cow dung into the sea during the spring was blamed for the loss of a Blue Flag this year. A bathing area in Ballyheigue was also given a poor water quality rating by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year after high levels of E. Coli were found in the water. The EPA has said that they believe the high volume of rain from last year's wet weather is to blame for this, and that low levels of pollution were caused due to run-off from farms where animals were gazing and manure was spread.

Kerry has 12 Blue Flag beaches, the second highest number in Ireland, and maintaining this valuable status is of huge concern to areas that are dependent on tourism. On top of this there are concerns for the environment for its own sake and for the potential threat to human health. Either way, farmers are under fire yet again over the impact of agriculture on the environment.

The proposed buffer zones would take large areas of land out of productive use. In any event Mr Brosnan believes that there are simply too many streams running through the mountains and lowlands of Kerry to cordon them all off. "If you accept it on one level, you accept it on all. If they were to cordon off the rivers to start off and that didn't work, they would blame the streams," he said.

The FIE pointed out that that Denmark successfully introduced similar buffer zones in 2011. However, Mr Brosnan says that you cannot draw comparisons with Ireland from this.

"The Denmark comment is unjust," he said. "Take Holland for example - cattle are in the lakes and rivers there and they are far more polluted than Ireland. All rivers are already fenced off here," he added.

Kerryman

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