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Column: The Dodder is one of Europe's best-preserved city rivers – with huge unexploited potential

Dublin’s Dodder river has a huge amount of unexploited potential, but that’s being overshadowed by pollution and fly-tipping, writes Victoria White.

Victoria White Journalist and chair of Dodder Action

THIS STORY BEGAN with the strong emotions stirred by the sight of the Dodder rising in little brooks on the slopes of Kippure in the Dublin mountains: Cot Brook, Slade Brook, Maureen’s Brook. They tumble together in Gleann na Smol and form the Dodder River.
Dodder means “turbulent” but its waters have given rise to a string of habitation, starting with the village of Tallaght and running through Firhouse, Templeogue, Rathfarnham, Dartry, Milltown, Donnybrook, Ballsbridge and Irishtown.

The river tells the story of a whole section of south Dublin. Its power supplied a huge range of industries from the original mills of Milltown to paper mills and ironworks. But we have found new sources of power and nature has claimed our river back. Seasoned Dodder Anglers have said that the river has never been cleaner.

In Milltown, where I walk daily, I regularly see cormorants, herons, mallard and mandarin ducks, moorhens and the odd Kingfisher, a wonderful gift of electric blue. But every time there’s a flood you have to look away. The waters carry a load of junk down the river, fabric, plastic, balls, beds, shopping trolleys, even cars. The high waters leave the trees swathed like weird installations.

It’s heartbreaking. It’s avoidable. And it was that determination to shout “stop” which led to the founding of Dodder Action by Kevin Dennehy three years ago.

A river community

Then he had a big idea. Why not try to clean the Dodder all at once, from source to sea?
Through the work of a seriously diverse band of volunteers, Dodder Day happened last year when 200 people got out one Saturday and cleaned their stretch of the river.

A river community began to be formed, through local meetings and through the new tool of the internet. This year’s Dodder Day is on Saturday 12 April (tomorrow) and we think it’s going to be a lot bigger. We’ve had the most astonishing response from people passionate about their river: from the Tallaght Community Council to Rathfarnham scouts to employees at Ericssons, to the Irish Underwater Search and Rescue Unit, to two mayors and a plethora of county councillors. We’ve attracted sponsorship from Royal Bank of Canada which will go towards insurance and hiring a truck and a dumper.

Our more long-term aim is to tackle the sources of the pollution. A new bridge and cycle route are being constructed between Tallaght and Firhouse but the river is in a shocking state. The Dodder Anglers tell us a dump was infilled in Firhouse and there is strong evidence of fly-tipping. We want to work with South Dublin County Council to see if dumping could not be better policed.

It doesn’t matter where stuff is dumped into the river, it ends up affecting every river community. An EU water quality directive will force us to take action of pay stiff fines. Dodder Action will be campaigning for South Dublin County Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council and Dublin City Council to have no arguments about whose side of the river a shopping trolley is in. All that matters is getting it out. And what matters more is stopping it being thrown in.

The Dodder’s unexploited potential

The Dodder is one of the best-preserved city rivers in Europe and still has a lot of unexploited potential. Why can’t more of the blockages on the riverbank be removed to create a linear park from source to sea? At the Dyeworks in Dartry, for instance, you have to exit Dodder Park, go onto the road, and then re-enter, when – with a bit of imagination – the parks could be joined.

We would hope to take the example of the Dublin Mountains Partnership and form an alliance with the councils, to join the Dublin mountains to the sea via the Dodder. What an amazing asset that would be to South Dublin, where so many of us live. Why not do it?
Let’s start by having a really big Dodder Day tomorrow. The forecast is good so come on out to one of these locations and help us clean up our river:

Herbert Park 10 am; Templeogue 10 am; Donnybrook 11 am; Milltown/Clonskeagh 11 am; Firhouse Weir 11 am; Dartry/Orwell 2 pm; Rathfarnham 2pm; Old Bawn 2 pm

More information on Facebook and at www.dodderactiondublin.com

Victoria White is a Dublin-based writer and environmental activist.  She lives by the river Dodder and is one of the co-ordinators of Dodder Day.

Follow Opinion & Insight on Twitter: @TJ_Opinions

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About the author:

Victoria White  / Journalist and chair of Dodder Action

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