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The truths they don't want you to read....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coastal erosion in Uist

Just why were Oxfam chairing a meeting in South Uist this week about the threat of Coastal Erosion?

The potential threats have been well known for many years, and there are a number of extant reports about the issue, with the Council have commissioned and paid for some major scientific studies. In deed, the Council representatives and the Storas Uibhist representatives were in the audience, of bemused locals, who were unable to ascertain the purpose or outcome of the meeting.

If the reports that reach me are correct, the thrust of the talk (or was it a lecture?) was that volunteers were needed to do some work in planting Maram Grass along the coast as a starting point and that the public would have to be involved in working voluntarily to prevent further erosion and water ingress from occurring.

Neither the Comhairle nor Storas were able to offer any direct input.

Yet they are both able to find large sums of money for large future projects which South Uistmay become white elephants if the sea breaches the sand dunes. Make that WHEN the sea breaches.

We are looking at a situation where large areas of South Uist may become uninhabitable and uninsurable, and where fine crofting land is lost, which will lead - inevitably - to large scale depopulation.

I know this has been discussed by the Council, as I was Chair of some of those meetings, and I know what the reports state, and there is a very serious a major debate to be had about:
  1. Is it cost-effective to prevent all coastal erosion?
  2. What will be the impact of sea breaches?
  3. How are those breaches dealt with?
The answer to question 1 was hugely negative, as the sums involved to try to plug one area were unaffordable, and would simply result in leakage elsewhere.

The answer to question 2 was more nuanced, with specific areas receiving immediate preventative support - Stoneybridge and Stinky Bay are two examples - whilst the cemetery are at Baleshare could not be protected in any conceivable manner, and continues to erode into the sea.

Question 3 remains unanswered, as it is a scenario no-one will discuss - at least not in public - as it will involve almost inevitably sacrificing large areas of land to protect others.

But as the meeting realised, no-one is addressing these issues, and a blind faith that Something Will Be Done (by someone else) and that future developments will be unaffected is leading to a situation where nothing seems to be being done, beyond the bare minimum.

This was a point put eloquently at the meeting by David MacPherson, whose personal experience of family tragedy has spurred the limited and delayed works that have occurred to date.

"Please do anything rather than nothing", was his plea to those who can actually fund and direct the necessary projects, but unless Oxfam are planning a fund raising telethon, it appears that the ball has been passed to them, with a view to it being kicked into the long grass.

Perhaps the new marina at Lochboisdale may come into its own when the sea breaches at Kilphedar and cuts the island and the communications network.

"No roads but somewhere to moor your yacht" isn't much of a marketing slogan, and doesn't hold out much hope for the residents.


Anonymous said...

Have a look at Uist in the event of any rises in sea levels - a further complication.

Anonymous said...

The UK govt has already walked away from large areas of England & wales as they cannot afford to fund the coastal protection battle. The same will happen to the Uists. The Cost Benefit Analysis will come saying no. I dont think it will happen in the short term but it will happen. {:-(

Anonymous said...

Hang on. These guys got funding but SNH, Aberdeen Uni and the Comhairle have spent it on research and modelling but done SFA on the ground.

These guys saw a chance of cash and were in quick as a shot. What have they proved? If the water rises we will flood. Well bugger me, that was worth the cash then.

Anonymous said...

The lack of leadership over this issue since 2005, from both the Comhairle and Storas, is desperately dissapointing but not surprising.

The sums of money that have effectively been squandered by both organisations over the last few years probably now runs into millions. However, the question of micro funding to stimulate some action from within the community to address the issue of erosion - e.g underwriting fuel costs for tractors and machinery - was met with a blank response from both the Welsh git and our well fed councillor.

As David MacPherson said, anything (to tackle erosion) is better than nothing.

Anonymous said...

I hear that, at the request of the Iochdar and Gerenish township clerks, Oxfam have altered the contents of their planned food drop. Beans and rice have been cancelled.
The aircraft will now be bringing in several 200hp Renault tractors, some 8 bladed reversible plows, and boiler suits in assorted colours.

Please tell me that Oxfam are not now active in the Uists: Lady Gordon Cathcart come back, all is forgiven as things could only get worse.

Anonymous said...

It has been thoroughly documented in the national press and by the BBC that Oxfam has been holding meetings and funding "fact-finding" trips to the mainland and Holyrood for representatives of storas, along with reciprocal visits from mainland groups and our MSP. In the last 12 months the most sensitive areas of the South Uist machairs have had more camera crews and minibuses full of self appointed dignitaries grazing over them than sheep.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps after inundation the Kilphedar and Boisdale crofters will retain rights to the land, at which point the Comhairle's 'free fishing nets' will really come into their own.

Anonymous said...

Curious how anything problematic such as townships being under serious threat from erosion can raise no interest from Storas. Particularly when compared to the tens of thousands of pounds they blew away on a legal action in Askernish which has still to be resolved.

Perhaps if the good folks of Kilphedar formed a water polo team, while Boisdale started a fund raising campaign for an outdoor ice hockey rink, Storas would then unleash their lawyers and claim that they hold the development rights over the flooded machair.

Cue a plane load of consultants arriving while Storas fills the return flight for 'important meetings on the mainland'.
And Lo! the unemployment issues vanish instantly and a new erosion industry springs to life.

Anonymous said...

I have it on good authority that Green Angus is just the very devil at water polo.

While I have not personally had the privilege of seeing him in action, I understand that he just carves up and down the swimming pool with completely unbounded energy.

Ah, the sight of this magnificent specimen, clad only in lycra speedos, is just the very inspiration that the slovenly youth of today need.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry 7:38 but you are completely wrong, in fact your assertions could even be called slanderous and I have to rouse myself to the defence of the indefensible.

The only time when the Green man executed a reverse pike and double tuck was when leaving his watering hole, not entering the local swimming pool.

You see (the explanation is shrouded in the black art of local politics) through a magificent effort, aided nobly by wee Ronnie and the assorted woodentops of the local community council, the Green man negotiated away the princely sum of £700k which was available for the construction of a new pool at Daliburgh school. Defeat snatched from the very jaws of victory. Such a valiant effort should not go unrewarded.

The bitter irony being that it was the insurance payout after the 2005 storm which was lost.

Tallyho! the erosion industry bandwagon begins to roll.

Anonymous said...

Who was Chair of Environment committee from 2005 to 2007 and would it be right for that person to question what has been done since they stopped doing nothing?

Anonymous said...

I have to note with some disappointment the tone taken in some of the above posts which appear to cast aspersion on the efforts of certain members of the Lochboisdale Community Council.

I have stood on the sidelines for many years and have gazed in wonder when they borrow a leaf from Drover John and open their monthly cabal with a sombre prayer in gaelic taken from the King James good book. Not being fluent in the native tongue I have admired the inspiration they take from this prayer which opens with the line 'Feumaidh sin stad a chuir air a'seo' and closes with a rousing chorus of 'Chuir sin stad air' (repeat five times). I honestly haven't a clue what it all means but by jove it certainly whips them into a frenzy.

No doubt, with continuing valiant effort on the part of the woodentops, the long list of things not achieved will be added to once the first house is inundated in the next big westerly gale.

Must go as I hear the phone ringing, that'll be Coinneach Mor looking for an in depth interview with the voice of the community.

Glencoe said...

Did the green man not do wonders for the verges when he was in power? That was the gist of his policy. OK he fell asleep most afternoons while waiting for his moment.
If you want to read some real tosh have a look at the Daliburgh School submission on the Storas site. Mind boggling logic as such you have never encountered before.

Anonymous said...

I have it on good authority, from no less a person than the chief executive himself, that while attending meetings in the white house the green man made more sense when he was snoring than when he was talking.

Leadership of such an outstanding nature can be the only explanation of why the southern end of the Uists is positively thriving (not).