Dingle’s Sustainable Tourism Initiative Applauded by UN

As the world has seemingly come to a standstill in the last year, many of us still remember and yearn for the days we could travel and explore. Tourism and travelling abroad, as well as at home, had become a major business sector and for some – a way of life. 

However, mass tourism has undoubtedly affected the environment in many ways and is becoming a growing issue in tourist destinations around the globe.  Dingle’s Peninsula Tourism Alliance has proposed a plan to implement sustainable tourism in the area in an attempt to transition the peninsula into a more environmental and economical region by 2030.

 

 

The outline of the sustainable tourism initiative, with a focus on sustainable energy, agriculture, marine, transport, and tourism, as well as all the efforts executed to accomplish their goals, have been applauded by the United Nations (UN) as an example for other countries to follow.

Dingle’s Sustainable Tourism Initiative 2030

The western part of the Emerald Isle has always been a favourite amongst tourists in Ireland, with its beautiful, wild, and untamed sceneries and small charming towns. In the southwest nests the beloved Dingle Peninsula extending into the Atlantic Ocean. It is best known for its sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, its rolling hills, and mountains and is recognised as a bastion of the Irish language and culture.

Members of Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance found it their collective and individual responsibility to ensure the landscape, culture, and traditions of this area are protected for future generations to enjoy and experience.

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Marine litter is a problem that is impacting coastal communities around the world. Residents and visitors of Dingle Peninsula have been getting involved in beach cleans throughout the year.  There are over 10 Clean Coasts groups around the Peninsula who are active in taking care of the area’s beautiful coastline.

For Dingle to be able to promote sustainable tourism, it must first become a sustainable society. Dingle’s Peninsula Tourism Alliance plans to transform the area into a low-carbon society, which is important for the health of our planet and any environmental changes or regulations that may occur in the near and far future. This can be accomplished by reducing energy demands and using local renewable sources, which will also save the region €8 million. 

Energy

The Dingle Hub is a community enterprise initiative with the goal of building a sustainable community fostering a diverse ecosystem. To help Dingle transition into a low-carbon society they are encouraging a sustainable energy community through their events, projects and training.

“Our mission is to build a flourishing community, fostering a vibrant and diverse ecosystem of stakeholders to facilitate the creation and maintenance of well-paid, year-round jobs on the Dingle Peninsula,” says Deirdre de Bhailís, manager of Dingle Hub.

Educational talks are being introduced in secondary schools on the subject matter, but students are not the only ones to have acquired new programmes on sustainability.  There has been a huge emphasis on a farm ambassador scheme using soil and water monitors to ensure that the impact from the spreading of fertilisers is minimised.

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The Hub constantly holds community meetings and webinars during lockdowns, where they ask residents to voice their concerns on the environment in the area and encourage people to share new ideas and plans for improving sustainability.

“Climate action and community development are inseparable, particularly in rural areas. We will not have a transition to a low-carbon energy system if we do not have healthy, vibrant communities,” says Connor McGookin, PhD researcher in energy engineering at MaREI.

Energy Master Plan (EMP)

The EMP was completed with the help of MaREI researchers and energy consultants who determined how much energy is currently being used on the peninsula. Using the data they collected, a roadmap has been created to guide the people of Dingle to a more sustainable future on the peninsula. 

As part of an experimental project, ESB Networks retrofitted the homes and businesses of five local ambassadors with a range of technologies including: Solar PVs, Air Source Heat Pumps, and Electric Vehicle Chargers. The idea was to analyse different energy efficiency measures on the peninsula in the journey towards a low carbon society.

The hope is “that they will help inform other members of our community about the different technologies available to improve energy efficiency,” as stated on their website.

Study on Bio-Energy

A study on bio-energy has been funded by Údarás na Gaeltachta through the EU LECo project and by Gas Networks Ireland. It is being undertaken by XD Sustainable Energy Consulting Ltd., a team of experts in biogas systems design and engineering, advanced renewable energy systems and spatial planning. 

The team consists of: Xavier Dubuisson, energy engineer, Tim Clarke, bioenergy expert, Sarah Kandrot, spatial analysis expert, Donncha Ó Ceilleachair, local farmer and community champion, David Wall, UCC lecturer, and Dónal Ó Céilleachair, energy engineering student at UCC.

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The study is based on circular economy, which is the idea of an economic system where waste and resource use are minimised. Organic wastes, agricultural by-products, and feedstocks are seen as valuable resources when turned into biofuel. As well as building more sustainable and renewable energy sources, this would bring new economic opportunities for Dingle’s local community. 

The study is assessing the availability of biodegradable material on the peninsula as a resource to make biogas. There is a possible link from feedstock to energy use for biogas, which needs to be considered and analysed in regards to the impact it would have on the environment, society, and economy. When completed, the study will provide a roadmap for the deployment of anaerobic digestion systems on the peninsula. 

Marine Life

Tralee Bay and all of the rivers and harbours in Dingle are being monitored with Internet of Things (IoT) sensor nodes  to collect data in the hopes of being able to predict environmental changes and events.

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They are also collecting information on the impact that natural events and human interventions have on the environment. This information will be helpful for enterprise, the general community, farmers, aquaculture businesses, local authority and state businesses. It will play a huge role in promoting and achieving sustainable tourism in the area.

Dingle’s Oceanworld Aquarium is helping to preserve marine and freshwater systems and their unique flora and fauna through education and research support. Dingle Ocean World Aquarium is active in promoting awareness of marine litter and conducting regular clean ups. 

Sustainable Transport

Initiating sustainable tourism means improving the sustainability of travel DFaround the peninsula, they are planning to introduce new bus routes and transition all buses to low carbon emission vehicles. 

There are also plans to integrate bus services with other transport systems and provide an online booking engine to encourage public transport.

Suitable bus shelters and charging and parking facilities for electric vehicles (EV’s) are going to be built on the peninsula.

Conclusion

Dingle’s Peninsula Tourism Alliance has recognized the effects of tourism on its environment and the people of Dingle and Ireland have come together to build a more sustainable future. The natural and cultural beauty of the region will be enjoyed by future generations if the Sustainable Tourism Initiative achieves its goals. The structure of the initiative has been acknowledged worldwide as an example to be followed by other countries as mass tourism takes a toll on global tourist destinations. 

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Ugne Aksiutovaite

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