I dealt with a number of points last evening before the adjournment and I welcome this opportunity to refer to more general areas of the Bill.
I realise that this Bill is primarily concerned with smoke and sulphur dioxide. Indeed it has been claimed that it could be regarded as a smoke screen from the point of view that nothing effective will follow from it, but I have taken it at a more serious level than that. Once again, I would like to emphasise that legislation is not enough in this area. As I mentioned yesterday evening a history of legislation in this regard would not convince anyone that the legislation will achieve what it sets out to do and I refer in particular to the Water Pollution Act, 1977, among many others, and I demonstrated the failure in this area. There is a well known song which has a section that goes like this:
As red as the rose
That in yonder valley grows
As fair as the lily of the valley
As pure as the water that flows in the Boyne
My love is fairer than any.
I have no doubt that the rose is still very red, the lily of the valley, I am sure, will always be fair, but unfortunately and sadly the water that flows in the Boyne is not as pure as it used to be or as pure as it should be. Thomas Hood in that lovely poem "I remember" said:
But 'tis little joy
To know I am further off from heav'n
Than when I was a boy.
It is little joy for me coming from the plains of royal Meath to realise that the waters that flow in the Boyne are not as pure as they might be. The river Black-water has been raped through drainage schemes, unfortunately. My point is that the Water Pollution Act of 1977, which was hailed as a very far-seeing important Act, did nothing as regards pollution of rivers and streams and I am afraid that this Bill will turn out to be the same.
I mentioned the same situation with regard to litter. There is a serious litter problem in the urban and rural areas of Ireland. Recently through regulations the fines for those who contravene the Litter Act were increased but that in itself will not cure the problem. The problem is in the hearts and souls of the people and legislation cannot solve that. It will take a long time to resolve this problem and it will have to be an educational process. I mentioned also the Factories Act and the fact that there has been an increase in serious accidents and indeed in all accidents every year despite the fact that we have these comprehensive Acts. Those who look to this legislation to cure all our ills in the area of air pollution will be very disappointed. There is no finance available for this and, as I said last night, local authorities are in no position to provide financial assistance in this area.
I referred last night to the deficiency in the Bill with regard to the control of traffic pollution. This is a very serious deficiency. With regard to domestic dwellings, terraced housing, densely populated areas, in the winter months and particularly when temperatures are very low, fires are lit and the problem is aggravated.
With regard to traffic pollution, there is emission at breathing level or below that level which is more drastic. We have it at all times of the year. We have it in the centre city area. Anybody who walks by College Green, over O'Connell Bridge into O'Connell Street is well aware of the situation. The traffic spews out poison into the faces of the people on the street. Yet there is no attempt in the Bill to deal with that problem. We will have an opportunity on Committee Stage to table amendments. I am glad that we will have considerable time during the recess to look at all the areas and to table amendments. We do not have the necessary back-up. We do not have the proper facilities. We are not in a position to get the proper briefing. Even with regard to secretarial help, there is only one secretary for every four Senators. Everybody will appreciate how overstretched a secretary would be trying to cope with all the work. It is unfortunate that we do not have sufficient help in this area. As I have already said, I belive that this is a Bill which we will have to deal with in great detail on Committee Stage. I will be tabling many motions and amendments in this regard.
On the question of noise, this was dealt with in that very comprehensive report by Dublin Corporation that I referred to so many times. It is proper that that should be regarded.
With specific regard to the control of traffic pollution, the Minister of State made the point that heretofore an attempt was made to deal with the situation by administrative means and that the Bill is going to change that situation by providing legislative means of complying with the EC Directive. Unfortunately, administrative means would not be adequate to deal with the traffic pollution problem. Therefore, the deficiency in the Bill is more to be deplored. Traffic pollution is not just a question of insisting on proper maintenance of engines, supervision in that area, although that is important. The whole feasibility of traffic diversion and traffic in relation to the central city area comes into question. This is a very complicated area and will not be easy to deal with through amendments on Committee Stage.
This Bill has been welcomed by many people. I pay tribute to Mr. John Reilly who is in the Environmental Health Section of Dublin Corporation and whose reports are so legible and understandable. I should like to quote his Comment in the March Monthly Bulletin:
It is fitting that a new monthly environmental pollution report should begin its life by greeting a new piece of legislation — the Clean Air Bill, 1986.
This will be an important enactment and is intended to form the basis of legal controls on atmospheric pollution for the foreseeable future.
It is comprehensive in that it will apply to all premises, including premises belonging to or occupied by the State.
It provides for controls applicable to both the industrial and domestic sectors; the first by way of licensing provisions and the second by powers to designate special control areas — or smoke free zones.
It is intended that progress will be made in a methodical manner by having air quality management plans and standards.
Its introduction and implementation will benefit every citizen.
It will be welcomed by all who seek to improve the environment and aspire to a better qualilty of life.
With regard to individuals and groups whom I have met and we in the Seanad have met and who had what I regard as a vested interest, they all welcomed the Bill. All are concerned to get a better environment and a better way of life. Nobody wants otherwise. I want to pay tribute to those I met by being so forthcoming and so helpful at all times. It is important to have on the record that everybody welcomes the Bill and welcomes any attempt to improve the environment and to tackle the problem of air pollution.
I should like to quote a small paragraph from Air Quality in Ireland, The Present Position by An Foras Forbartha, which I found very helpful and which was published in 1984. The continuation of this is included in The State of the Environment for the following year. Following is the paragraph:
The domestic sector was found to be the main source of smoke in the area, accounting for 81 per cent (12,900 tonnes/year) of the total with 75 per cent of these emissions originating from the combustion of household coal (Fig. 7). Road vehicles contributed a further 14 per cent, much of it derived from the use of diesel fuel. In regard to sulphur dioxide emissions the ESB power stations contributed about 65 per cent of the sulphur dioxide amount emitted during 1981 with 12 per cent from domestic sources and 20 per cent from commercial/industrial emitters. However, it should be emphasised that the 35,800 tonnes of sulphur dioxide emitted from the power stations are dispersed at a high level and so the 6,400 tonnes/year originating from domestic and also the quantities from the other sources will have a greater impact on ambient ground concentrations.
With regard to that, it is clear from all the reports that I read in this regard that the domestic sector was found to be the main problem in the area. Of course, this would not be the situation if the nettle had been grasped in time. I was very interested to listen to Senator McMahon's contribution on the previous motion. He spoke about the fireplace and the changes which took place in relation to the oil crisis. I was also very interested in what he had to say about double glazing and insulation, but, unfortunately, the Government have never done anything in this regard to change the situation — no Government. I feel that it would have been easy to encourage people through the educational process, through publicity and particularly through financial incentives by way of grants to install stoves or enclosed appliances. It would have been in their individual interests because, as we know, they have much higher efficiency than with the open fire and yet no Government have attempted to do that.
Even in the latest grant scheme in 1985 — the house improvement grant scheme which I have praised on many occasions as a very fine scheme, it has its drawbacks. By and large, it is a generous scheme and even there there is no attempt to influence people to install an enclosed appliance, a stove or a cooker. There is no grant for double glazing which is unfortunate. It would be in line with Senator McMahon's contribution. There is no attempt in any scheme of new house grants or house improvement grants to change that situation.
It is all very well to blame the domestic sector, but at the same time, we must remember that the Government must take a considerable portion of the blame. I have been reading reports from the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards over a very long time with regard to efficiency of fireplaces. I spoke last night about progress in this area where efficiency has increased many times, particularly where boilers are installed, the efficiency is far higher. But there are many areas where boilers are not needed. In this situation a stove or a proper appliance burning fossil fuel, with many of those it is possible to burn smokeless fuel, would not be nearly as bad. It is wrong to blame the domestic sector. This was allowed to get out of hand. If this had been done and if the Government had acted in time, it would not in my view be necessary at this stage to introduce a Bill of this kind.
With regard to what the Minister had to say, this would be strictly within the administrative level. Legislation would not have been necessary. It is interesting, too, that this section I read also dealt with road vehicles and the 14 per cent of pollution which I mentioned last night. In passing, also I could say that many people feel with regard to Moneypoint that it is Dublin and places far away from it that will suffer in the long term. When dealing with acid rain in my contribution I would like to refer briefly to that matter.
I agree with Senator McMahon that the question of energy is very important, apart from conservation which he mentioned and which is most important. It is something that we are only now beginning to grapple with. I could mention any areas in regard to conservation, but I do not think it would be appropriate. I agree with Senator McMahon on that.
I also feel that there is a potential input available from many other sources. The Government have failed to give financial encouragement in this area, for example, solar energy. I remember not too many years ago it was possible to go into a hardware or builders providers store in Dublin to get a package which provided a means of heating the water for domestic purposes by solar energy. It is no longer possible to do that, presumably because there was no demand for it. Yet we know that there is great potential in this area.
Wave energy, I am sure, has potential also and many of us in this House had representations made to us with regard to a particular scheme where experimentation was being carried out regarding wave energy. There was not much that could be done, although, again, I felt that finance should be available from the EC for this kind of experimentation, and particularly for an island nation surrounded by seas, wave energy in the future must have great potential.
Air energy is another area. I remember in the last World War we had many houses with propeller-type schemes to provide electricity. Indeed, near my own town of Kells one of them was in use up to three or four years ago. I feel there should be more research in this area. I know a certain amount has been done but there has been no great breakthrough. As regards water energy some of the small rivers we have have been harnessed satisfactorily. In the area of conservation to which Senator McMahon also referred no grants are available. There is no incentive. Only when the incentive is provided will we make any useful headway.
With regard to natural gas, I am not altogether clear about the position. I know from the reports that sulphur dioxide is decreasing because of the increased use of natural gas, which is a smokeless fuel. According to an editorial in today's Irish Press— and I am not going to quote it; I just simply want to refer to it — natural gas, in the way the Government have dealt with it, is costing the country a lot of money. Many people would be dissatisfied with the arrangements about natural gas.
There is no harm in saying, in passing, that a senior member of the Government resigned honourably in this regard. If some of the money which the country is losing in this area had been spent in the areas that I mentioned by way of grants for enclosed appliances, grants for conservation and for the other sources of energy and for experimentation in this area, it would have been better spent. Remembering, and I stand to be corrected on this, that the Kinsale gas field has a life span of less than 20 years. I am sure, when looking to the future, we will be very hopeful that there will be another gas find.
Also with regard to the situations in estates, I note from the 1976-83 report on private house building in Ireland by An Foras Forbartha that use of solid fuel for central heating increased to a very considerable extent between the years 1976 and 1983. Again, there were many reasons for this, the reasons which Senator McMahon has given and also the reason because the Government by reason of the influence they exercised with grants were determined to achieve this result. It seems strange that having set out deliberately to do that and having achieved the objective, now in relation to this Bill, we seem to be arriving at a situation where we will try to undo all of that. That is rather unfortunate and shows a lack of planning and a lack of foresight.
I found many treatises and books on this subject very helpful: those which had contributions from Professor Frank Convery, the booklet produced by An Foras Forbartha, which I have already referred to, the publications of Dublin Corporation and, indeed, the Department literature. I could also mention, and I will deal with it later on, the publication by the Coal Information Service towards a planned improvement in Dublin's air quality. I found that very helpful. One of the most helpful of these books was the State of the Environment, which was published by An Foras Forbartha. The editor was Mr. David Cabot. This was published last year and dealt with this matter in very great detail, as well as all the aspects of the environment.
I should just like to refer to a few areas covered in this book, The State of the Environment. Under the heading “Air”, it states
air polution is difficult to define.
In one definition air is described as being polluted when a constituent in the air is present to the extent that there is a significant hazard to present or future health, or to the environment.