Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Spotlight | Resilient Infrastructure for Northern Ireland | New Civil Engineer

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Brenda O’Loan

With the recent return of the Northern Ireland Executive (NI Executive), a focus on infrastructure resilience is urgently needed.

The February 2024 return of the NI Executive after another hiatus has been greeted with cautious optimism. All our new ministers have huge challenges to face and difficult decisions ahead against the backdrop of significant budgetary pressures and wider economic issues, which apply globally.

The return of government has seen a renewed drive to lead improvements across all the devolved departments to deliver Northern Ireland’s ambitious goals and wide ranging opportunities.

However, impacts of ongoing economic challenges are felt here as around the world.
There are numerous compelling and competing priorities to be considered by the NI Executive but, even with immediate pressures to be relieved, action is needed now to address the huge challenges in front of us – particularly climate change.
This cannot be ignored in the immediate term, especially with the worst impacts of climate change yet to come.

Resources are scarce, so there is a need for smart thinking, and the expertise exists to support our decision makers.
Within this landscape, it is vital that our infrastructure investment is prioritised on the understanding that delivering on obligations and realising ambitions will rely heavily on resilient and quality infrastructure into the future.
Impacts of climate change continue to be felt, with the storm season of 2023/24 yet again battering many places with extreme weather.

Like many places, Northern Ireland is not immune to summer season challenges; reservoir levels have dropped significantly in some years and hose pipe bans have been imposed. Achieving net zero carbon emissions must go hand in hand with a focus on infrastructure resilience.

Northern Ireland is unique in size and scale, with strength and depth of expertise. Collaborating more to drive collective action should be well within our grasp

ICE Northern Ireland (ICE NI), alongside many of its peers in infrastructure, has continued to work hard to provide independent expertise to decision makers and shine a light on key issues.

It is in this spirit that ICE NI has recently published Resilient infrastructure for Northern Ireland: Planning, delivering, operating and maintaining infrastructure for our future.

This report examines infrastructure progress and takes stock of the impacts of extreme weather events in recent years.

It also looks at good practice and summarises the input and advice of a wide range of consultees with six recommendations.

A clear message throughout the consultation process for the report is that there is opportunity to be leveraged – Northern Ireland is unique in size and scale, with strength and depth of expertise.

Collaborating more to drive collective action should be well within our grasp. Universally, behaviours must change and we must all come up with innovative solutions to help us face the future.

There is a lot to do and action must be accelerated. The message in the report is one that is applicable everywhere – the time to act is now.

  • Brenda O’Loan is ICE Northern Ireland chair

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