Irelands cool wet climate favours peat formation and our bogs are of international importance both for biodiversity and as a carbon sink and store. Yet unregulated peat development is devastating bogs throughout Ireland. Extensive areas - thousands of hectares - of peat are damaged through drainage, peat extraction, and plantation forestry. Even on the pitifully few protected bogs mechanical extraction by hopper is permitted. Unfortunately Ireland's corrupt political system, light regulation and lack of enforcement make the protection of bogs virtually impossible. FIE wrote to all twenty six County Councils requesting any planing records of the area and amount of peat undergoing extraction. Other than for a number of large Bord na Mona sites this information is not available - they just do not know. And Bord na Mona is exempt from prosecution for environmental pollution under Section 27 of the antiquated Turf Development Act 1945. The Department of the Environment has continued the derogation allowing continued domestic turf cutting with no regulation or assessment. This is despite the latest NPWS raised bog research reports showing continuing significant habitat degradation.
In 2010 FIE filed a Petition with the European Parliament's Petition's Committee which sought to ensure that cutting would end on Ireland's protected bogs and that licensing and planning laws would apply to the unauthorised industrial producers on the raised midland's bogs. FIE is concerned over Commission inaction in the face of their 2012 aerial survey, which showed continued cutting at many of the protected bogs. These photographs were displayed to the Committee in the first hearing of the petition which was held before the European Parliament's Petition's Committee in Brussels in November 2011. A second hearing took place in September 2012. The Petition's Committee will investigate the petition and ensure that E.U. legislation is complied with.
FIE also investigated one case of unregulated extraction of a raised bog adjacent to the Inny River and Lough Derravaragh Special Protection Area (SPA) in County Westmeath (see Case Study). During one hour we saw three large articulated lorry loads of peat soil leave the site. Near the bottom of a very large extraction area was a pump pumping vast quantities of sediment laden water into the River Inny and hence into Lough Derrravargh SPA some 2-3km downstream. In February 2009 this was reported to the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board (SHRFB), National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Westmeath County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA). Despite the EPA and the Local Authority admitting that an IPPC license is required to date no actions have been taken. Meanwhile unregulated extraction continues both in Westmeath and throughout Ireland.
For those concerned about climate change, water quality and biodiversity loss it makes for a very depressing story. No planning permission, no EPA licenses, no environmental impact assessments and significant environmental degradation and pollution. This is the industrialisation of Irelands bogs on a vast and unprecedented scale and goes way beyond the claim that people should be able to continue traditional use. This is the total removal and destruction of vast areas of soil that have taken 10,000 years to form. The destruction of bogs is about as short sighted and unsustainable as it gets.
Even bogs designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) are not spared and industrial scale extraction is still taking place on a significant number. Read our letter appealing to Dail Deputy Luke Ming Flannagan to cease cutting on a protected raised bog. And visit the E.U. Complaints page to read our most recent requests to the E.U.