Keeping it clean

DodderActionCleanUp3 -Dodder with heron

March of this year brought a dramatic turn of events to the River Dodder when a mass die-off of fish was discovered near the Old Bawn area of Tallaght.

A prevailing rumour among concerned fishermen and wildlife lovers the length of the River was that fly-tipping was the reason for the deaths. Fly-tipping is the accidental or deliberate disposal of industrial waste by dumping into rivers. The matter of the specific cause remains uncertain, but within a month, on Saturday April 6th, a happier set of circumstances arose when the Dodder Action Group launched its Dodder Day clean-up.

The Dodder Day, originally scheduled for March 23rd as part of An Taisce’s National Spring Clean initiative, was a co-ordinated effort intended to tackle the entire length of the river at once. Volunteer groups were deployed from Tallaght to Rathfarnham, to Milltown, and on to Donnybrook, Irishtown and Ringsend.

Dodder Action was initiated in 2010 by Dublin South Green Party member Kevin Dennehy. He decided early on that the group should not operate exclusively under the umbrella of a political party but should be a volunteer-based grassroots endeavour in order to be truly effective. He was gradually joined by friends, neighbours and other concerned parties, until eventually it was suggested that a whole river clean-up be organised.

Facebook proved critical in raising awareness of the group and its aims. In 2012, journalist Victoria White was enlisted as a spokesperson and publicity consultant. Her contacts in print media brought word of the group and the planned Dodder Day to an older, less web-literate cross-section of the public.
Speaking to NewsFour by phone, Victoria explained the larger intent behind Dodder Action. “The river is an amazing resource for Dubliners. It’s one of the most beautiful and unique natural features that a European city could have and people love it. The catalyst for the big clean-up in April was really the high waters that occurred in October 2011. A huge amount of refuse was swept down toward the Irishtown and Ringsend areas for all to see. And in Milltown, a car which had floated out of the Dropping Well’s car park had to be hoisted out of the river by crane. Rust and engine oil could have done terrible damage to the ecology near the mouth of the river.”

Dodder Action is an on-going concern, the aims of which have developed over time. “The plan is to establish a Dodder Partnership between members of the public who volunteer and the City Council. The nearer the clean-ups get to the Docklands, the more complicated circumstances become due to the impracticality of reaching certain parts of the river.”

An example of this difficulty might be reaching the river from Fitzwilliam Quay. The only direct access point would be from the headquarters of the Dodder Sea Scouts, who were not involved in the April clean-up. Geraldine Smith, Scout leader, explained to NewsFour that the Dodder Scouts were originally intended to participate but the initial date was postponed due to bad weather. The rescheduled clean-up conflicted with a camping expedition which had been pre-

Victoria White continued, “Those are obstacles but there’s also a need for infrastructure. There are almost no bins along the riverbanks, even for dog mess.”

The other leading concern is, ironically, also infrastructural. The Council have recently completed installation of flood alleviation measures between New Bridge and Ringsend Bridge. Further measures, like flood embankments further upstream, could be implemented in a heavy-handed fashion which could be deleterious to the river’s ecology, for instance by depleting foliage or affecting the water’s pH levels. Signs are hopeful, however, as Dublin Council’s Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study (CFRAMS) was launched in March of this year by Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes. The study strategy includes protocols for assessing environmental risk factors in both the short and long term.

Dodder Action can be found online at the Dodder Action community page on Facebook.

Below: Rubbish collected at Firhouse.

By Ruairi Conneely