Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 31 May 2016

No cure to flooding problem, says rivers agency boss Porter

By Linda Stewart

Published 13/01/2016

Flooded fields near Dungannon, which was among the areas affected by the rising water levels in Lough Neagh
Flooded fields near Dungannon, which was among the areas affected by the rising water levels in Lough Neagh

The head of the Rivers Agency has warned that it will be "fighting a losing battle" against flooding if the climate change predictions turn out to be true.

David Porter told Stormont's Agriculture Committee there is no engineering solution to the kind of floods seen across Northern Ireland in the past six weeks.

Instead, he advised people to look at their flood risk and draw up contingency plans for what to do if the floods hit.

He called for communities to make sure that vulnerable people are protected, saying: "We don't want a situation where you have a flood event and some vulnerable person is forgotten about in the middle of that."

Mr Porter cited reports from Armagh Observatory that the floods took place in the wettest December since its records began in 1838 and said dredging rivers could have done nothing to solve the flooding.

"There is no solution to the flooding. We will not be able to engineer a solution for the Erne system or Lough Neagh system that stops flooding," he said.

He said the sluice gates at Toome have been fully open since November and it was the sheer volume of rainwater that has caused Lough Neagh levels to rise to a 30-year high.

"We need people to realise that when there are high water levels, some places could suffer and they need to put contingency plans in place," he said.

He said the biggest fear is that somebody vulnerable who is cut off by the floods will run out of medicine or food.

"It's a real concern we face and that is why we are putting so much effort into engagement with communities," he said.

"If the predictions of climate change are true and we are going to have more water in our systems, we are fighting a losing battle."

Climate change predictions have suggested that Northern Ireland could face wetter winters and drier summers, with an increasing frequency of extreme weather events.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) published by the Department of the Environment in 2013, warned that flooding could become the greatest single climate change concern for businesses, causing disruption to trade, threats to securing mortgages and financial losses to tourist assets.

Flooding also poses a major threat to buildings and built heritage, as well as transport, energy supply, water and ICT infrastructure, according to the report.

The Rivers Agency has come under fire from farmers and householders, who believe that the sluice gates haven't been fully opened and that removing silt from the Upper Bann would relieve the flooding.

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