There are a few points I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to clear up before we agree to this Resolution. One is the question of the type of staff that will be employed in connection with this scheme. Take the type of staff that you have in the Board of Works, for instance. They are merely engineers who are concerned with drainage proper, the getting rid of surplus water, and so on, and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, apart from that, there is a very important aspect of drainage in this country that we cannot afford to overlook, and that is the agricultural aspect. A drainage engineer is merely concerned with getting rid of surplus water, with lowering the level of the water table; and the question of the fertility of the soil in the area concerned does not interest him. The lowering of the water table in an area, however, may have a serious result so far as the productive capacity of the soil in that area is concerned, and I should like to have an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that, in connection with this scheme, an agricultural expert will be employed to look after the interests of the agriculturists.
If you take a country like Holland, or a district like the State of Louisiana in the United States of America, where there is extensive flooding periodically, and where it was necessary to ensure the fertility of the soil, the primary consideration in drainage schemes in such cases was the employment of agricultural experts with a view to seeing that the agricultural angle and the agricultural interests would be preserved. Of course, the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that although in an agricultural community the land may suffer from too much water, the position can be just as bad through having too little water, and that if you lower the water table too much it may have a disastrous effect on the land. For that reason, I should like to have an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that, if the matter has not been already considered, he will have it considered now, and perhaps he may be able to tell us something about it on the later stages of the Bill.
Again, I wonder has any consideration been given to, or has any experimental or research work been carried out in connection with, the various soils in this country, such as in Limerick, West Limerick, the Bruree and Newcastlewest areas and the hills of Clare, where colloidal matter has disappeared, where there is no percolation to speak of, and where a process of destruction, so far as soil fertility is concerned, is slowly going on year by year. That is an important aspect of drainage. It may be that it is a wider aspect than the Parliamentary Secretary is concerned with at the moment. It may involve field drainage, but surely this House should be concerned with that problem if we are going to spend, year after year, very substantial sums of money in getting rid of surplus waters of that kind. The natural corollary of that sort of thing is to complete the job by the provision of field drainage and by dealing with difficult soils — soils which are completely impeded and will not drain. That may possibly require mechanical treatment or, at least, treatment by experts, in order to find out what is the proper way of tackling the job of getting water to percolate through that soil.
Another aspect of this question is that so far as the Dáil is concerned there is really no provision as to how priority is going to operate in dealing with national drainage. I do not suggest that there is going to be any political influence as between one county and another — that one county will have a greater political pull than another county — but we want to satisfy ourselves that the machinery will function in such a manner as will ensure that we tackle the right areas first, and tackling the right areas first, in my opinion, does not always mean tackling first the areas that have the biggest water problems. It may happen that we can increase the national income in this country by tackling certain areas that will help to bring into production land that at the moment is in very low production, and I feel that that is the type of scheme that ought to be tackled first.
Another thing that the Parliamentary Secretary might tell us is how exactly the money is to be provided. Does it mean that when the scheme is prepared and approved of by the Minister, the estimate for that particular work will be presented to this House, or does it mean that this House will vote a bulk sum for drainage yearly without being given any details as to how the money is to be expended? I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to clear up those points before we come to the consideration of the Bill itself.