Dáil Éireann - Volume 595 - 14 December, 2004

Written Answers - Environmental Policy.

  256. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her attention has been drawn to the growing concerns of the forestation programme in the catchment area of the Great Western Lakes and that this is the alleged cause of serious pollution in the lakes; her plans for the cessation of all conifer forestry within the catchment area of the Great Western Lakes; if all EU grant aid for conifer forestry will be suspended on peat lands in the censored areas surrounding the Great Western Lakes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33154/04]

  Mary Coughlan:I am aware of the concerns expressed about the alleged impact of forestry on the lakes mentioned. A delegation from the Carra, Mask and Corrib Water Protection Group met on 24 November 2004 with the responsible Ministers, including myself and the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The group expressed their views as to the algal problem in Lough Corrib. Following the meeting, arrangements were put in place for officials from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, my Department and Coillte Teoranta to meet the local group to discuss their concerns and proposals in more detail. I understand a date of 17 January 2005 has now been agreed for this meeting.

Until the true cause of the problems on these lakes is known, it is premature to talk in terms of a blanket ban on afforestation. I have no scientific evidence available to me to justify the cessation of all conifer planting in the area. As regards my policy on the afforestation of peat lands, my Department has very strict procedures in place. These procedures effectively rule out grant aid for planting on intact raised bogs of the midlands, or the impoverished, oligotrophic deep blanket peats of the west. In addition, areas protected, or listed for protection, under the habitats directive are not considered for grant aid without the prior agreement of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.