I spoke at considerable length on this previously and if everybody takes as long as I did, the debate could go on for a very long time. I have a special concern in this area and for half a lifetime I have been giving advice on a national scale with regard to energy conservation, in particular, the fireplace in society and in the home. Developments over the last 20 years have been of major importance in this area. There have been improvements with regard to refinements in the fireplace, the details of the flue, under floor ventilation and provision of air for combustion. Originally according to the specification, invariably the flue had two or more bends; now the theory is that the flue should be straight, to give one illustration. There have been many refinements in regard to the fireplace and the efficiency of the fire. Suddenly, a question mark is placed after the fire in the home, which is unfortunate.
Some people believe this Bill is a smokescreen. I do not necessarily go all the way with that belief. Nevertheless, the Bill is reacting to EC pressure. The Government do not believe there is an inherent necessity for it.
In introducing the Bill the Minister said that heretofore implementation of EC directives was by administrative means. Through this Bill we will now have statutory provision to comply with the directives. That will not work miracles although there are those who seem to think it will. We have sufficient legislation to deal with the problem of air pollution, except in the area of traffic pollution.
I mentioned before the different areas where we have statutory control but do not seem to have solved the problems. One of these areas is with regard to the Local Government (Water Pollution) (No. 1) Act, 1977. That legislation is very comprehensive and many people felt when it was introduced that water pollution problems were over and done with, but, in fact, as the House would agree, even this year we have had many serious water pollution problems. Indeed, in many cases local authorities whom we expect to oversee the working of this Act and carry it through, are the culprits. The Factories Acts are very comprehensive, yet the number of accidents continues to increase. The Litter Control Act has done very little for our problem as those who travel through rural areas would admit. Earlier in the year it was proposed to increase the fines for litter control but this will not solve the problem. I could quote many other cases where legislation will not deal with the problems. In effect, what I am saying is that those who think that this Bill is the answer to all our pollution problems will be very disappointed.
We have missed out with regard to administrative means. Over the year the problems as they arose could have been dealt with in various ways. For example, with regard to heating, and home heating in particular, everybody is now aware that enclosed stoves are far more efficient than the open fireplace. Yet there was never any attempt at departmental level to encourage the use of enclosed stoves. Grants would have been a very effective way of doing this. We have new house grants and house improvement grants, but there should have been a special grant for the provision of enclosed stoves in houses. It was very shortsighted not to have provided such a grant. Even with the introduction of the last house improvement grant by the Government which was very worth while and welcomed by everybody, this problem was not dealt with. That was the one area where people could have been enticed to get away from the open fireplace and use enclosed stoves. The provision of advisory services would have helped in this regard. I know it is very expensive to consult heating engineers but in the long term it is well worth while.
The IIRS do a very worth while job in this regard and I must commend Hotline for the help they give. It is unfortunate that this service is closed for a considerable part of the year. The service is needed all year round. Many people would be building or rebuilding houses in the summertime which is a period when they would want information. Hotline should be available, too, on free phone. This might be considered as another area where help could be given.
Solid fuel has become very popular on a national scale. On page 84 of the latest statistics from An Foras Forbartha, Private House Building in Ireland, 1976-1983, with regard to central heating details in estate houses it states that solid fuel usage with radiator systems increased from 13 per cent in 1976, to 31 per cent in 1978, to 37 per cent in 1979, to 52 per cent in 1980, to 60 per cent in 1981, to 69 per cent in 1982 and to 75 per cent in 1983. There was a steady increase all the way.
On the last occasion, I spoke about natural gas. It appears that the sulphur dioxide problem is decreasing because of the increased use of natural gas. I understand from the newspapers that the life expectancy of Kinsale Gas is 20 years. I would appreciate if the Minister of State would give some indication as to what is expected to happen after that 20 year period. Will we be hoping for the miracle of another find and if none materialises, what will then be the situation? From my experience natural gas is very commendable from the point of view of efficiency. We know that no fuel is absolutely free from having some polluting effect. It is nihilistic to argue that we can have absolutely clean air. We can have clean air if we have no industry, no transport, no fireplaces and, above all, if we have no people. All of these cause pollution, people especially. There are many who express the view that this would be a far better country for tourism and for the environment if we had fewer people but we should realise that the country, the environment, the land and everything we have is for the people. It is from that point of view we should proceed.
Industry is the great pollutor. One cause of the decline in pollution levels in England is the decline in industrial production. As I said on the last occasion, we have the same situation in Dublin. Dublin port is almost free of pollution and has been so for a long time precisely because it is free of industry. I visited the site and examined the situation there when we were dealing with the legislation for the development of Dublin port.
The Irish coal industry accept that there should be research and that where the conclusions are that coal is a problem, appropriate action should be taken. There should have been a White Paper to allow interested individuals and groups to participate in drafting the legislation.
The Government as a corollary have a duty to consult these people. There was not even a Green Paper in regard to this important matter and the Bill, in reality, was sprung on the people. The coal industry is an important one and it has spent much money. As I said on the last occasion, I appreciate the help I received from the coal industry representatives when they made representations to us.
I mentioned before the problem regarding car fumes. In this city and all urban areas, cars that are not properly serviced are spewing out poison at a level which is dangerous to those of us breathing in the air. The Bill does nothing regarding this problem. This is unfortunate and it is a serious defect in the Bill. People who do not ensure that their vehicle is in good mechanical condition are polluting our streets. This is a criminal act and yet they remain scot free while a person lighting a fire in a smokeless zone will be committing an offence and will be criminalised for it.
I also mentioned before that this Bill does not deal with noise control, which is another serious defect. For enjoyment of the environment it is most important that statutory provision be made to control the problem of noise. This is dealt with in "The State of the Environment". I shall quote one short paragraph from page 159 in the introduction to the chapter on noise:
While all noise is sound, not all sound is noise. Sound becomes noise only when the listener finds it objectionable. Noise is a major environmental factor adversely affecting the quality of people's lives. More than that, noise also poses a threat to health, such as impairment of hearing and interference with sleep or with recovery in hospital.
High urbanisation, high industrialisation and high mobility are major reasons for the continuing increase of noise. Without some controls, noise will increase not only in urban areas, but it will spread to areas where peace and quite are at a premium, such as tourist regions, forests, beaches and residential districts.
In Ireland, noise pollution has not featured prominently in the ongoing environmental debate. This situation is likely to change because noise levels are increasing and affecting more and more people. However, noise is coming to be recognised as an unjustifiable interference with ordinary human comfort and well-being. In this regard international organisations, in particular the EEC and OECD, are promoting a greater awareness among member countries of the growing problems of noise and of the need for effective measures to mitigate it.
It is unfortunate that in framing this Bill noise control was not included and I would welcome the Minister's assurance to the House that such control will be included. We have an overall serious situation with airborne and disco noise. There are complaints about problems consequent on disco attendance and problems are created because these noises seem to drive young people into a frenzy. Many feel that these youngsters are on a "high" from which they do not descend perhaps until the following morning. Something could be done about this problem here.
We also have a problem in some areas with regard to the nuisance caused by smell. In my own town a truck passes by quite regularly loaded with animal products and leaves a smell which is a serious nuisance for hours afterwards. Not alone are tourists affected by this, but also people living and working in the area. It is difficult to have these trucks covered but provision should be made in a Bill of this kind to ensure that trucks transporting products of this nature are properly covered. If necessary grants should be provided for concerns of this kind to have proper trucks.
I have mentioned many times before crude sewage from this city being diverted out to Dublin Bay, causing a serious environmental problem. The Minister could also include some provision in the Bill to deal with this serious problem.
The pollution caused by smoke and so on follow on the energy situation. Conservation is very necessary and the Government are not doing nearly enough in this regard. There is potential from solar energy, wave energy and air energy and we have slipped up in all those areas. Solar energy in this country is negligible. Some years ago kits were available in builders' providers to be erected on the roofs of buildings but due to the low demand I do not think it is possible to get these any more.
I have referred many times in this House to the potential of air energy. Indeed, anybody who visited the energy exhibition at Milton Keynes of a few weeks past would realise the importance of heat conservation and the landscaping of shrubs and trees to give shelter to houses and other developments. A considerable amount of money is being spent on publicity. There should be some attempt to do likewise in this country.
With regard to section 14 of the Bill, the home should be inviolate. Section 14 (1) reads:
Subject to subsection (2), an authorised person shall, for any purpose connected with this Act, be entitled, at all reasonable times, to enter into any premises and to bring therein such other persons or equipment as he may consider necessary for the purpose.
Personal liberty is the great privilege of a democracy, and I do not agree with that section.
Traffic in the Dublin region causes a very serious pollution problem even though it is ameliorated because of the recession and no growth, but with new growth it will become a very urgent problem again. Serious consideration should be given to non-polluting transport such as an underground railway system. This is under serious discussion at present so I will not develop it any further. An underground railway system would give work; it would revitalise the city centre; it would reduce the sense of isolation in suburbs, particularly in Tallaght. From Tallaght to the centre of the city a link could be provided to the DART. CIE have plans for this and are buying up land off Dame Street. All this should be approached in broad terms because there are many benefits.
To single out the domestic hearth as being the cause of the problem is grossly unreasonable. When the Minister introduced the Bill she gave a very balanced speech on it. Those involved in the coal industry have been very open and anxious to co-operate and would still like to talk with environmentalist groups. Perhaps the Minister feels some benefit would be gained from that. A total ban on coal sales in Dublin would cost hundreds of jobs, at least 600 directly in the coal industry, and as many again in selective jobs. It would cause extreme hardship. Hypothermia deaths occur disproportionately in smokeless zone areas. In cold weather more people die from hypothermia than ever died from smoke. I believe coroners are unwilling to report deaths as having been caused by hypothermia because they feel they are making a social comment.
The report on acid rain is very comprehensive and it is appropriate that it should come before the House at this time. Looking at the list of members of the joint committee I see that the late Deputy Cathal Coughlan was a member. I lament his untimely passing and say sincerely, ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I protest that the Department of Energy did not send a representative to a meeting of the sub-committee. There is no reason given but on page 2 a short paragraph reads as follows:
The Department of Energy declined to send representatives to a meeting of the Sub-Committee. The Joint Comittee wishes to express its regret at this development in view of the longstanding mutual working arrangements the Joint Committee has fostered with Government Departments.
Why did the Department of Energy not send a representative to meet the sub-committee? This House is entitled to know the reason. Last week with other Members I deplored the fact that the editor of a Sunday paper would not attend a meeting of the Joint Committee on Women's Rights but it is far more deplorable that Government Department would not co-operate with this important committee. I would like the Minister in replying to this debate to comment on that aspect.
It appears that acid rain is not a major problem here and neither is it a problem to which this country is contributing in any great measure, yet throughout the country I hear reports of ancient monuments, Celtic crosses for example, in exposed areas where serious deterioration has been observed over the last number of years. Many people feel this could be attributed to acid rain, but from my reading of this report it would appear that this is not so.
I agree with the conclusion of the committee that this country should co-operate with the EC directives. In conclusion, I will read out a very brief paragraph from page 58 of the report:
The Joint Committee feels that Ireland has a duty to the citizens of the Community not to contribute to atmospheric pollution. Countries such as Denmark and Germany are making serious efforts to deal with acid rain. Our best protection against the threat of transboundary pollution from mainland Europe is to comply fully with all the Community measures on air pollution when implemented and to insist that all Member States, particularly the UK, do likewise.
In order that we would be in a position to insist that other members play their part, we in turn should play ours.
I welcome this comprehensive Bill, despite the shortcomings I have mentioned. It could be considered major legislation. I hope it will have the effect which some people think it will have. I hope that when we come to Committee Stage, the Minister will agree to include some amendments and to include some other areas which will only enhance the Bill, for example with regard to noise control.