Politicians and bureaucrats have launched endless inquiries in an effort to appear to be dealing with the water crisis in New South Wales, where a blue-green algal bloom has deprived a 40-kilometre stretch of the Darling River of oxygen and a million fish died as a result. Rural communities, wildlife, graziers and stock are also running out of water.
Yet these same bureaucrats have been very slow to implement any of the recommended reforms and few steps have been taken to deal with the mismanagement, water theft and corruption that led to this crisis, writes Elena Garcia.
Federal drought envoy Barnaby Joyce has rubbished claims that corruption within the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is to blame for the crisis and that big irrigators have been given unfair access to water.
“It’s not corruption. That’s a load of garbage,” Joyce told 2GB’s Steve Price on January 11. “What we have is a massive drought. This is one of the worst on record.”
Federal agriculture and water minister David Littleproud agrees. On January 23, he announced that an independent panel would carry out a “fair dinkum” inquiry into what he dubbed was a “natural event” in the Menindee region.
Littleproud has repeatedly asserted that human consumption and environmental water are top priorities and that only after these needs are met is water allocated to irrigation.
But he could not explain to ABC Radio National’s Fran Kelly why residents of the NSW town of Walgett are being forced to drink bottled water while cotton is still being irrigated. Nor could he explain why so many Murray cod, which have survived more than 50 years of droughts, died in the recent fish kill.
Meanwhile, the Menindee region continues to be hit by severe heatwave conditions, with temperatures in the high 40os celsius, and blue-green algal blooms and fish kills are ongoing.
Read more on the website of GreenLeft Weekly