INDISCRIMINATE dumping of litter throughout the countryside can only be described as a scourge on rural Ireland that the authorities cannot seem to get to grips with. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the remedial actions of concerned community groups and citizens, parts of Ireland would be totally awash with rubbish dumped by irresponsible people.
In this week’s news pages, we document just some of the litter blackspots that readers have brought to our attention and, no doubt, there are countless others throughout the West Cork region and beyond that are similarly blighted by the problem. Illegal dumping seems to happen in more remote areas where there is less chance of those carrying out such odious deeds being caught in the act and areas that suffer most are often the very scenic ones, including some beaches.
As well as damaging the environment that people live in, litter louts are spoiling the countryside for tourists also. Apart from it reflecting badly on us as a people, such indiscriminate dumping has the potential to damage our tourism industry, which has been one of the shining lights of our economic recovery with one in every three new jobs created being in that sector.
In our towns and villages, there is great work being carried out by Tidy Towns committees in conjunction with local authorities on keeping them as litter-free as possible. This work will be stepping up now with the launch of the 2015 National Tidy Towns Competition by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, sponsored by SuperValu, which will focus the minds of entrants for the next few months and their efforts will provide a welcome positive boost for the environment.
The month of April is when the National Spring Clean, another voluntary initiative for communities to participate in, co-ordinated by An Taisce in association with the Department and local authorities, takes place and the West Cork launch for 2015 took place in Dunmanway last week. In 2014, an estimated 550 tonnes of litter was collected countrywide by volunteers – of which 35% was recycled.
In West Cork, at the end of March, the Kilmeen and Castleventry Community Development Association organised a ‘meitheal’ of local people to do a litter clean-up around Bealad, which is between Dunmanway and Clonakilty. From this relatively small rural area, these unsung heroes collected a staggering one hundred bags of rubbish which had been strewn around by irresponsible individuals.
On some country roads, especially at weekends, you will see packaging from fast food outlets uncaringly tossed out the windows of vehicles a few miles out of towns after their contents have been consumed. The scale of illegal dumping is quite staggering and not always as noticeable from cars, but get out on a bicycle and you will see, over roadside boundaries, the shocking amount of rubbish – a lot of it big plastic bags full of domestic refuse – that lurks behind them and whose contents are then scattered by scavenging birds and vermin.
Cutting back of hedges by farmers this Spring also helped expose some incidences of roadside dumping of rubbish by unscrupulous people. In the past, when indiscriminately-dumped rubbish was gone through by local authorities, it yielded clues as to the identity of the perpetrators and action was taken against them by way of fines or court appearances, but they now seem to be getting cuter by making greater efforts to conceal their identities, so unless they are actually caught in the act of dumping and reported to the authorities, they can get away with it.
Surely, there is more that local authorities can do to tackle this problem? Covert surveillance, followed by naming and shaming of those caught, should be possible to arrange; the technology is there, but they need to deploy more human resources.
Instead of just reacting by facilitating clean-up initiatives, the authorities need to be a lot more pro-active in tackling the root of the problem by way of a major crackdown on littering and illegal dumping. If they show they are serious about catching and prosecuting perpetrators, it would prove a great deterrent and help curb the incidence of this preventable damage to our environment.