PROTESTERS LIVING in the Shannon river's catchment yesterday marched on the Dáil to oppose proposals to draw huge volumes of water from two Shannon lakes to supply Dublin.
Members of the Shannon Protection Alliance, which was founded to oppose the proposal to extract as much as 350 million litres a day from the Shannon to supply the capital, gathered outside the Dáil to seek political support.
Alliance spokesman PJ Walsh, who completed a 100-mile four-day protest march from Lough Ree, was joined by supporters from the Shannon region outside the Dáil. They called on the Minister for the Environment John Gormley to block any move to take water from the Shannon.
"We do not deny the right of Dublin citizens to have water, but we do object to the method by which Dublin City Council proposes to supply that water," said Mr Walsh. Dublin City Council has deemed that a new water source will be required for the capital by 2015 and that up to 350 million litres a day from this new source will be needed by 2031.
The chairman of the Save Our Lough Derg group, Joe O'Donoghue, said the focus on sourcing the supply for Dublin had switched from Lough Ree to Lough Derg over the past few months due to a vocal campaign spearheaded by communities in the Lough Ree catchment.
Mr O'Donoghue said they believed there were at least four locations on Lough Derg being looked at as extraction points. "If we get very dry summers, as is predicted by the experts, then extracting millions of gallons of water could cause major environmental hazards for fish and other aquatic life. Economically and ecologically, this would be a disaster for the whole midwest region."
The chairman of the Lough Derg Anglers' Association, Kevin Grimes, said there was a total absence of a national strategy for water extraction from rivers and lakes and no figures were available to indicate the possible profound consequences for the rich wildlife and fishhabitat of Loughs Derg and Ree and their tributaries.
"We are already trying very hard to save endangered fish species on Lough Derg such as pollan and gilaroo trout.
"Extracting such a huge volume of water from the lake could finally wipe out these species forever and threaten spawning conditions for trout and salmon in local rivers if waters went very low," said Mr Grimes.