How EU susbisides are wasted on environmentally harmful activities
In 2002, Ireland was held to be in breach by the EU of the Birds and Habitats Directives by failing to take sufficient steps to curb upland overgrazing of heather in the Owenduff-Nephin Beg complex (the largest Special Protections Areas (SPA) in Ireland). In 2007, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Irish Government had failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law in relation to the designation and classification of SPAs for wild birds and that it had failed to adequately protect some of Ireland’s most threatened bird species.
On the east coast, in Dublin Bay, an internationally important wintering site for migratory waders including Oystercatcher and Redshank, small parts of the mudflats were excluded from the Sandymount Strand and Tolka Estuary SPA, as these areas had already been earmarked for development – the expansion of Dublin Port and building of the Dublin Port road tunnel. The Irish Government failed to comply with basic wildlife legislation, and failed to support important ecosystems, which deliver economic value to society, and instead destroyed them without any regard to the environmental impact.
How EU funds can be invested into future benefits
An integrated approach has been developed in the wetlands of Anne Valley with the support of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in 2005. The purpose was to develop a natural approach to wastewater treatment instead of constructing a traditional technology-based facility. This approach has not only been much more cost-effective but has also delivered multiple environmental services, such as water purification, fresh water, climate regulation and carbon sequestration, flood control, recreational opportunities, soil formation and nutrient cycling, and biodiversity enhancement while at the same time stimulating local farming businesses and increasing aesthetic value of the area. Costs were EUR 715,000 for the project; half of what an equivalent traditional facility was estimated to cost, at EUR 1,530,000. In addition EUR 220,000 was spent on new tourism facilities which created further economic value (impossible with a traditional plant).
EU LIFE Nature Programme has also funded a project where farmers, scientists and conservationists worked proactively together for sustainable farming in the Burren. Innovative ideas such as the development of new grazing and feeding systems were launched to improve habitat health without further compromising the financial viability of the farming system. The success of this project led to a pioneering ‘Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP)’ funded through the Irish Rural Development Programme. Massively oversubscribed, the BFCP continued to work with 120 Burren farmers managing 12,887 hectares within Natura 2000.