[Photo Galleries ][Polls Discussion ]
Posted by AA on September 23, 2003 at 21:37:27:
In Reply to: Re: Pollatomish Landslide - Great article posted by MD on September 23, 2003 at 18:44:59:
The damage is permanent for sure and your mechanism may or may not be correct - the mountainside certainly floated away down the hill. I'm merely saying that the reason it floated away in the first place was a lack of soil protection by vegetation. Bare soil is an easy target for erosion and slippage. But the vegetation that has been eaten by the SHEEP over the years.
Sheep overgrazing is the main underlying cause of this tragedy. Of course it wouldn't have happened without a good thunderstorm. But by the same token with a good covering of vegetation and good root structure binding the soil together the mountain would have stayed in place. This mountain was there, intact, for years, thousands of years in fact, during wet dry months and years in terms of rainfall but it stayed in place.
September has been reasonably normal month so far - according to Met Eireann Belmullet (10 miles away) has had 76% of mean monthly September 40-year rainfall so far with just 74% of the month gone. How normal can you get? Most of the rain happened early in the month. In fact it's probably a much wetter month than September last year and the rain in early October last year was much worse than anything seen yet in 2003.
Of course there have been bog bursts in North Mayo before - I seem to remember one along the Ceide Fields road. But the sheep population started to increase dramatically in the mid 80s. Someone referred to the Achill slippage too more recently but that was definitely a sheep-overgrazing problem too.
By 1990 all peat was gone from some parts of North Mayo exposing glacial till. There's no doubt that DOA dragged their feet on this over the years resisting all attempts to reduce sheep numbers. Teagasc too resisted all efforts to do something about overgrazing even to the extent that they refused to use the 'o' word. They preferred some other euphemism and attributed the damage to normal environmental variation or some other ridiculous excuse in order simply to let the 'lads' - the poor farmers - keep on claiming the premia and headage from Europe.
But they are reaping the whirlwind now I'm afraid.
All you have to do is look around and see the most remarkable feature of the North Mayo and West Mayo landscape is that there's no heather worth talking about here. And there’s a hell of a lot of bare soil. No engineer would advise bare soil or as close to bare soil as dammit on a 5 or 10% slope. It's a recipe for erosion, gullying and eventually the kind of slippage that happened on Friday. It's happening on a smaller scale in the upper catchments of virtually every sheep catchment in Mayo and Galway every time it rains. Remember the damage could have been done back as far as 1990, long before any attempt at destocking took place. This has been a disaster waiting to happen for the past 10 years. Recovery is measured in decades so all overgrazed areas are at risk even if all sheep have been taken off by now. A very careful and very urgent survey is needed now of every overgrazed hillside in Mayo and Galway especially.
Of course the first thing O'Cuiv and the IFA boys John Dillon and Brendan O'Mahony and even Teagasc will say is that it is all due to something else - like heavy rain! But this is the West of Ireland where heavy rain is part of what we are!
I'm afraid the buck stops with the greedy farmers.