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What lies in the future for Dublin Bay?

Dublin Bay

Through our project partner the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, we will be developing a framework to ensure Dublin Bay is managed in a sustainable way.

Obviously, getting people that use the Bay, whether for work or leisure (or both!) involved in developing the framework is hugely important for producing a framework that gets the buy in and support of the Dublin Bay community.

As a first step for getting people engaged we invited them along to a workshop that we ran with CMRC to consider what it is about Dublin Bay that is important and of great value to them. We used ‘ecosystem services’* thinking as a way of getting people to really consider what it is about the Bay that they value and to think about what should take precedent i.e. is the economy more important that the environment?

Dublin Bay workshopTo begin we asked everyone at the workshop how and where they felt people benefited from the ecosystem services that Dublin Bay provides. Benefits varied greatly and included everything from the provision of food such as Dublin bay prawns to economic benefits such as shipping and social benefits such as views of the coastline.

We then presented three extreme future scenarios for Dublin and Dublin Bay. Looking at what the future would look like under each of these extreme scenarios in 2022.

1. Enhanced economic prosperity:

  • Economic growth is prioritised over environmental protection
  • Intense commercial and residential development activity
  • Significant increase in population
  • Significant growth in marine industries (e.g. Shipping, tourism)and boost to jobs
  • Environment under increasing pressure

2. Pristine Environment:

  • Environmentally focussed approach to Dublin Bay and city region development.
  • Closely managed distribution of population growth is encouraged to ease pressure on protected sites/species
  • Dublin markets itself as the Green City capital of Europe with positive spin-off benefits
  • A robust network of green and blue space emerges
  • Good water status is achieved in the ground waters, rivers lakes, estuaries, coastal and marine waters

3. Societal and well-being:

  • Well-being of citizens who live, work or visit the Bay is prioritised
  • Citizens and community are very involved in decision-making and policy formation with greater local government autonomy over planning decisions and funding development of renewable energies perceived as unsightly or damaging with insufficient jobs prohibited
  • Emphasis is placed on growth of the indigenous and SME sector
  • Socially beneficial infrastructure, such as improved transport links are prioritised over environmental protection

Dublin Bay landscape

We asked people to consider what the impacts of taking such an unbalanced approach to the development of Dublin Bay would be? Thinking particularly about those ecosystem goods and services they had identified as being important to them.

Unsurprisingly, under each extreme scenario there were both positive and negative impacts on the ecosystem services depending on how you looked at it. For example, with the Pristine Environment scenario it was pointed out that the provision of more green space or wetland areas may see birds and species migrate out of areas which are currently protected and providing a safe home and that this would be a negative impact for that area.

The exercise drew out a complicated mishmash of varied opinions, highlighting the challenges of developing a management framework for Dublin Bay that addresses ongoing challenges, represents the varied needs of the community and takes advantage of future opportunities.
The exercise did also bring about some hope – the fact that almost everyone there was able to identify positive impacts for each scenario shows that there is potential to bring different views together.

By using ‘ecosystem services’ thinking we can look holistically at the services that Dublin Bay provides to everyone, either as citizens, interest groups, businesses or regulators. And by doing so it becomes possible to approach planning from the perspective that the future of Dublin Bay is a shared responsibility.

At the end of the day we looked at the existing management of the Bay and made suggestions for ways of making improvements. One thing that featured highly was the need to involve the community early on in the process and for plans to have the flexibility to adapt and evolve.

*Definition of ‘ecosystem services’: the concept of ecosystem services was developed to help us understand how we use and manage the natural resources that our environment provides us with. Our health and wellbeing depends on the services that ecosystems provide including water, soil, nutrients and organisms. Therefore, ecosystem services are the processes by which the environment produces resources used by humans such as clean air, water, food and materials.