ARE we in the middle of an illegal dumping epidemic?
That would seem to be the case, judging by the amount of photographs The Southern Star received after our recent article ‘Illegal dumping is once again threatening our tourism product’ on the prevalence of local dumping.
Within days of the article being published, we began to receive photos of illegal dumps all around the backroads of West Cork.
While there are many instances of small scale littering along every road now – even the busy N71 – photographs of single items don’t leave much impact.
Maybe we are all too used to seeing the discarded coffee cups and plastic bottles every few feet along every ditch.
The Marsh Road out of Skibbereen this week is a prime example – one short stretch past the Cork County Council yard and you will start to see what appears like colourful plastic kerbing, as bottle after plastic bottle lies on the edge of the grassy verge, over several metres.
Thereafter, there are gaps of a only a few feet between the items of rubbish which we can only assume are dropped out of vehicle windows or discarded by pedestrians – though there are very few walkers on this relatively narrow road.
But what really horrified us at the Star was the proliferation of large-scale offending so easily captured on camera.
Several items of rubbish, including paint cans, had been seemingly abandoned at the Dunmanway Community Garden and another spot, just a few metres from a busy roundabout in Skibbereen, saw several bags of domestic rubbish dumped into the ditch.
But the most disgusting and offensive of all the photos we received were the images which one reader took of a picturesque forest area off the Skeagh Road between Ballydehob and Skibbereen, where several black bags – up to 13 – were dumped.
What is really disturbing is that these bags were mostly stuffed with used babies’ nappies, and the nappies – whether disturbed by humans or animals – were strewn all over the ground.
The bags also contained some general domestic waste, but they were almost exclusively packed with filthy nappies.
A few days later, the reader returned, and found they were still there, and had again been disturbed and strewn further around the ground. We have now informed Cork County Council’s litter warden.
There were several more examples of our filthy ways, which were truly shocking. Juanita Graham posted a picture on social media of a dead calf simply dumped over wall in Ring and left dangling on a bush.
Tens of cans, partly burned, have been sitting on the side of the road near the busy historical village of Beal na Bláth for several weeks, as one motorist pointed out this week.
Another dump was found close to the historical archaeological site of Drombeg – one of the most important megalithic sites in Europe and one of Ireland’s most visited stone circles.
Here a reader found another illegal dump of partly construction waste, and partly domestic rubbish.
‘I am very, very cross,’ this reader wrote. ‘It is about 500m from this famous stone circle – in two separate places on the road, just in the ditch. I despair. About seven years ago my father and some local Tidy Towns volunteers cleared a huge dump area on the Drombeg road, and now here we are again.’
Most of the people who sent in photographs said they were not just angry because of the illegal dumping, but because of the obvious lack of pride we have in our tourist attractions and surrounds.
The increasing size of these little ‘mini dumps’ – which are almost all close to major scenic areas in the tourist region of West Cork – should really start to worry the tourism industry here.
Surely those who have an interest, or a career, in tourism in West Cork must now realise that if this plague of illegal dumping is left to continue, then their livelihoods and the livelihoods of many hundreds of people in this region will be put at risk.
Imagine the reaction if a cycling tourist or a motorist were to come upon sites like those shown in our photographs here this week?
What exactly would they think of the Irish then? No matter how friendly or cheerful we may be in a pub or when asked for directions, or in a shop or restaurant, if the other side of the coin is that out in the open we are filthy, dirty and uncaring individuals, our ‘happy’ reputation won’t go very far.
Think for a second about the pristine shores of the French Riviera, the beautifully manicured parks of Austria, or the perfect cycle paths of Denmark. If our equivalents are mired in dirt, filth and our own waste, why bother to try and market Ireland as a tourism destination? Why encourage others to come and see the dirt for themselves?
Isn’t it time we started to take this problem seriously?