PROPOSALS TO spread development in Ireland away from the major urban centres was the theme of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland annual conference held in Killarney.
Vibrant discussion at the conference entitled 'Engineering an Island for Six Million People' gained front-page newspaper and television coverage.
The population of the north and the Republic is expected to reach 6M by 2009, an increase of 400,000 on this year.
However, sustaining population growth and the fastest continuous rate of economic growth in the EU during the 1990s has brought the country's infrastructure to breaking point.
Institution president Liam Connellan told the conference:
'If growth is concentrated in too small an area, it often leads to traffic congestion, infrastructure deficiencies, and a poorer quality of life even for those who benefit economically. Overheating in some regions will limit the capacity for expansion of the whole economy.'
The government has allocated £16bn to a National Development Plan (NDP) to include major spending on infrastructure. But delegates were told that the country could face shortages in electricity, gas and water over the next 18 months.
Encouraging industrial development away from major urban centres such as Dublin and Cork has been hampered because of this lack of services.
Politicians were criticised by one speaker for failing to agree policies on waste disposal. Proposals for new landfill sites and incinerators have met with vociferous opposition from local communities with the support of local councillors. Only 9% of Ireland's waste is recycled, with 90% going to landfill.
Consultant MC O'Sullivan director PJ Rudden referred to a policy of NIMTOO, or 'not in my term of office'.
'The political system has failed the people of Ireland, ' he said, advocating that the government must remove control of waste management strategies from local councillors.
Delegates were also addressed by Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who said that despite fears of a recession, the government would not reduce spending on the NDP.
The IEI is to present the conference papers to the government.