Water and Australia's priorities (letter)by Dr Peter CarterNews Weekly
, April 20, 2002
(February 9, 2002), refers to the calls by Lance Endersbee and Richard Pratt to capture water from northern rivers flowing to the sea and use it on a large scale for agriculture and for population increase.
It is important, however, that one problem is not solved at the expense of another. In river ecosystems with highly variable weather conditions (in arid zones) even minor reductions in average flows can detrimentally impact on flora and fauna.
Also, diversion of water to agriculture may produce food in the short term before soil salinity takes over in areas where high evaporation accelerates the salting process even more so than in the south.
Would we have proceeded with the Snowy scheme had we known of the longer term downside of salinity?
There is talk of rivers "running to waste", but the northern prawn industry alone is valued at $150 million annually to the Australian economy and is entirely dependent for its viability on fresh water outflows from the northern rivers.
While preservation of fauna and flora and biodiversity may not be important to those whose preoccupation is money and personal aggrandisement, it is important to many in our community who regard "nature" as important to their psychological well-being.
What influence has the destruction of the natural environment had on producing the state of hopelessness that exists in much of Australian youth?
While sympathy for people who are fleeing environmental degradation and overpopulation in their own land by growing more food in northern Australia, may be laudable, the fact is that there are now hundreds of millions of people on earth who are in this lamentable situation. So even if Australia imports many millions it will make no significant difference and will eventually reproduce what people are fleeing.
The population of Indonesia is expected to increase by 100 million people over the next 50 years. With this projection, anarchy and social breakdown can be expected.
While a small number of boat people are a non-event now, millions heading for our shores in a few decades' time is quite a different proposition. Australia's best bet would be to assist in family planning programs on the basis that prevention is better than cure.
With the breakdown of the Indonesian economy in 1997, the ability to fund the education and wherewithal to indulge in family planning has disappeared. It is in our mutual interests that Australia should restore it. In this way, we can help make it attractive for people to want to stay in their own lands.
We are presented with too much exhortation for "dumb growth" where taxpayer pays for private profit in the building of infrastructure and housing instead of R&D, education and high tech value-added products for export.Dr Peter Carter,