Lower Lakes and the Drought
By Trevor Harden, Clayton resident, 30 July 2009
Some thoughts after considering the facts:
Most of the ‘protest’ noise being made by the ‘action groups’ is about how bad things are down here - and we all agree about that! It is terrible.
But where the protesters depart from logic and the facts, is where they try to blame some government conspiracy for ‘doing this to the environment’ and ‘to them’.
Because the government won’t do what they want, they accuse them of arrogance and stupidity and of not caring for the community or the environment – but maybe what they want just doesn’t make sense.
No-one blamed the government for the 1956 floods (or for Cyclone Tracey) - that would have been ridiculous.
To blame the government for this extremely severe drought is equally ridiculous.
The Murray Darling system is extremely variable with inflow in more than half of all years being either well above average or well below. Occasionally there are extremely high inflow years (big floods) or extremely low inflow years (droughts).
This drought is a record in both severity and length – and it is continuing.
Governments are clearly responding to the situation – not creating it. Why would anyone want to take this action if it wasn’t necessary. Desperate action to save what can be saved in these desperate times.
The environmental crisis is a very obvious fact – emptying lakes – wetlands becoming dry lands – but what has the government actually done to cause this? –and to generate such vehement criticism.
They can’t blame the Wellington Weir – it hasn’t been built yet. They can’t blame the regulator – it has not yet been completed.
They can’t even blame the irrigators upstream because there has not been enough water for them either – only one third of the entitlement cap (which we all agree is too much and needs fixing for the future) was taken out last year – a huge reduction.
They claim that the government is exaggerating the acid threat but the evidence is clear and acid corrosion of structures from windblown lakebed dust is also a fact.
The water shortfall created by the drought has become the overwhelming causal factor for the crisis we see before us – diversion upstream has become minor in comparison – the numbers tell the story – but the protest groups are in drought denial – they want to blame the government.
An (unwarranted?) fixation on fresh water has prevented a natural return to an estuarine wetland system with a varying salinity mix between sea water at the mouth and freshwater at Wellington – it is only the barrages preventing this from happening.
An estuarine wetland at sea level would be a valuable habitat for migrating birds – a grassy exposed lakebed is not a wetland but a dryland habitat – of no value to the birds.
People already distressed and anxious about the drought and its effects are emotionally vulnerable to the ‘action group’ conspiracy accusations – and it winds up the emotion to extreme levels. Depression and anger lead to antisocial behaviour – already evident in our community.
Responsible, objective media treatment is vital - to dampen down the irrational and dysfunctional emotion being generated by the activists and the political opportunists.