AN increase in storms in recent years has led to extensive erosion of sand dunes at many West Cork beaches.
Up to 9m of sloping dunes have disappeared at Inchydoney beach over the last 18 months, while similar problems are evident in Broadstrand, Courtmacsherry, two popular coastal resorts for locals and tourists alike.
An action group called Inchydoney Dunes Conservation Project was recently formed by community members who are worried about the safety hazards it poses and the effect it will have on wildlife.
Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, played a pivotal role in establishing the group. He said he is very worried about the escalating situation.
“Everyone is aware that dunes systems are changeable. They are susceptible to wind and weather. There is a massive rate of erosion occurring at the western dunes in Inchydoney. When there has been a high tide and a bit of a swell, this has often led to over a metre being lost per night.
“It has unfortunately led to the loss of a fantastic amenity.
"We need a lot of scientific input into what is happening. It is as a result of climate change and more frequent extreme weather conditions,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil TD, who is a keen nature enthusiast wants to ensure the natural wildlife and biodiversity will continue to thrive.
“Thankfully the eastern dunes are still in a very good condition. People are actually blown away by the dunes system when they first see them. The biodiversity, the insects, the wildlife, moths, and butterflies are stunning. We really need to protect them. We need to act quickly.”
The action group hopes to replicate the successful project which occurred in Castlegregory, where a local group restored the dunes on the Maharees.
“There has been a huge impact in the last 12 to 18 months. It is crucial we intervene now.
"We have formed a strong committee with good expertise. We will plan a way forward. A soft approach is favoured. We don’t want sea walls as we want to protect the natural beauty of the beach. We hope to follow a similar model to Castlegregory who installed slatted timber fencing to help conserve the dunes. We will try and get funding towards the project,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan said he was disappointed with the lack of a response from the Cork County Council who he feels need to urgently address this gradual decline in dunes in popular tourist locations.
“I wrote to the council and I was disappointed with their response which basically stated that these are natural occurrences. Cork County Council needs to see the value of our coastal amenities. We have underinvested in them for too long. Coastal activities such as whale watching and kayaking are vital in terms of tourism. We need to project what infrastructure we have and always improve our piers and harbours,” he added.