The EU nature restoration currently making its way through trilogue negotiations in Brussels will add to the flooding risks faced by homes and businesses, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has warned.

INHFA president Vincent Roddy stated that although media coverage of the proposals has centred so far on the impact on farmers, they will have implications for everyone, including urban dwellers, with an increased risk of flooding.

“It is 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,” Roddy claimed.

Unclear

The INHFA leader warned that it remains unclear if restrictions will apply to carrying out flood mitigation measures in areas set for restoration and that the absence of these measures could “exacerbate” flooding.

“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,” he said.

“Such measures are 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?”

Peatland concerns

Roddy pointed to areas around currently drained peatlands as being areas of particular flooding concern.

“Currently, these drained peatlands are acting as a sponge in relation to flood mitigation,” he went on.

“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.”