A leading nature conservationist has refuted claims by the Department of Infrastructure that an extension to the A6 dual carriageway is the best route for the local environment and communities.
Ornithologist Chris Murphy claims that the £160m project, originally quoted at £34m in 2006, is neither economically nor environmentally efficient and will cause unnecessary disruption and destruction of the best fresh water wetlands in Ireland.
Mr Murphy said: “This wetland has been home for the rare Whooper Swan for generations and the proposed route for the dual carriageway threatens their environment, which is already marked as one of sixteen Special Protected Areas in Northern Ireland. These are areas designated under the European Commission Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.
“All European Community Member States are required to identify internationally important areas for breeding and migrating birds, then designate them as Special Protection Areas. Despite this, the Department for Infrastructure maintains that the selected carriageway route is an appropriate choice.”
Current plans show the development will cut through the hinterland of famed poet Seamus Heaney who, before his passing, had called the proposal to construct the road “a desecration”.
Mr Murphy continued: “This is construction for the sake of destruction. It will cause unnecessary disruption to ecosystems and ruin the habitats of not only the Whooper Swan but other rare birds and animals. The chosen route defies economic and ecological logic.
“The cost has increased by almost five times the original amount and defies all reasonable argument to resolve the bottleneck. There’s potential for severe pollution caused by the unearthing of the peat rich soil, emissions from construction machinery and the 32,000 vehicles estimated to be using the road every day. This is an area that should be protected and proposed as a National Monument, not bulldozed beyond repair and recognition.
“There couldn’t be a more significant time to discuss the preservation of this area than on World Wetlands Day today. I’ve heard the wetland described as “surplus” which I couldn’t disagree with more. I strongly urge department officials to reconsider the proposed route and support the preservation of this unique wetland.”
Director for Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, James Orr has questioned whether the Department for Infrastructure adhered to correct procedures: “There are several things that the government needs to do before a road site is proposed and decided upon.
“Assessments such as the Strategic Environmental Assessment, Environmental Impact Assessment and the Habitats Regulation Assessment need to be carried out. Friends of the Earth can outline some of the assessments have not taken place. Some are so out-of-date they’re meaningless.
“As far as we‘re concerned there have been serious failings in how the government have approached this entire process and there are clear systemic failures which have resulted in the most damaging route being chosen for this road.”