The Citizen’s Assembly on Biodiversity Loss issued its final report this week. Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháín, who chaired the Assembly, stated in her foreword that ‘To protect ourselves, we must protect nature. There is a place for all creatures, plants and wildlife to exist and, when they do, a healthy balance for all ensues’.
99 citizens selected randomly met on 7 occasions, where they received information on the state of biodiversity in Ireland from academics, stakeholders and pubic submissions. They were give time to question and to discuss this information and in a process known as deliberative democracy they made policy recommendations .
The report summarises the presentations made to the members of the Assembly and reports on the policy questions and voting outcomes. The members formed an agreed position on a total of 159 recommendations that are to be presented to the Oireachtas to inform the future management of biodiversity and nature in Ireland.
14 of the 159 recommendations relate to the protection of freshwater resources and a further 7 recommendations for the marine environment with another 6 relating to wetlands and peatlands. The report states that ‘the poor condition of our freshwater systems is an urgent problem that requires an immediate and coordinated national response. Suitable actions must be taken to reduce the impact of nutrients, particularly nitrates, on our freshwater systems’.
Recommendations include higher levels of ambition to protect water and biodiversity, with clear roles and responsibilities and accountability to achieve outcomes and a single authority responsible for the implementation of water regulations. Increased investment is needed to address wastewater issues and landowners need to be incentivised to protect waterways with high quality buffer zones. Farmers should have training on land management practice to protect freshwater biodiversity. The 1945 Arterial Drainage Act is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be reviewed and a new national Hydromorphology Plan needs to be developed.
Many of these recommendations are in line with the recommendations made by the Water Forum in our submission to the draft River Basin Management Plan, lets hope that plan, due in the coming weeks, address these issues adequately.