Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020

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Home   about   contact   travel   food   books   art   the rest   galleries  navigationCry Me a River, Margaret Simons, Quarterly Essay, #77, 2020ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 3 August 2020

Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020: Cry Me a River by Margaret Simons


Introduction

Since I wrote my article The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe, which has attracted attention and good feedback, the problems with the Murray-Darling have become even more prominent.

The issue has risen in the public consciousness because of prosecutions of cotton growers in the northern basin, more evidence of corruption, criticism of government waste of money, many more articles on different aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin in newspapers and more stories on Australian ABC radio and ABC TV.

Publicity that water entitlements in Australia, based on 2018 figures, are 10.4% foreign-owned and that Chinese interests own 1.9% (with the USA about the same and the UK 1.4%) has recently enraged people against China on Facebook. Publicity that most water entitlements are owned by large agribusinesses, those with the deepest pockets, and those whose crops make the highest profits has never gained the same traction.

Concern about the Murray-Darling Basin, however, appears to be growing.

Margaret Simons has written an excellent Quarterly Essay called Cry Me a River in 2020, which has ignited more public debate on the Murray-Darling Basin, even under the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown.

The remainder of this article concentrates on Margaret Simons’ essay. I can’t summarise the essay here and I assume most of you haven’t read it. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find the information contained rewarding. It may also inspire you to buy or borrow a copy of the essay. Cry Me a River is the most current, clear and detailed overview of the Murray-Darling Basin crisis currently available.

I hope you have at least read my article The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe, which is a succinct 3500 word description of the tragedy!


Quarterly Essay Background

We live in an environment, where I’d contend, there has been no clear political direction on a future for Australia in twenty-five years. The political class — particularly the conservatives — tends to obfuscate debate on crucial issues and to obscure prioritising on where the money is spent. The general media, which is in decline (and dominated by News Corp), doesn’t cover broad topics well or in-depth. The ABC, despised by conservatives, struggles on — despite ongoing funding cuts.

In this environment, Morry Schwarz and Black Inc. have introduced the Quarterly Essay (2001), the Monthly Magazine (2005) and the weekly Saturday Paper (2014) as independent commentary on deeper issues concerning Australia.

The Quarterly Essay is printed in a book-like size. Each issue comprises an essay of at least 20,000 words, which is followed by correspondence on the previous essay. Hence the correspondence to Cry Me a River is contained in The Curse of Coal by Judith Brett, Issue 78, 2020.

Continue reading “Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020”

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The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe

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Home   about   contact   travel   food   books   art   the rest   galleries   navigationWC Piguenit Flood in the Darling 1890

Featured Image: WC Piguenit Flood in the Darling 1890, Oil on Canvas, 1895, 123 x 199 cm

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 November 2019


The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe

Don’t sugarcoat it like that, Kid. Tell her straight. (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, 1969)

It is long past time for sugarcoating. We should be sick of the obfuscation and lies of politicians, policy makers, agribusiness and other vested interests in the Murray-Darling Basin and of the dodging of responsibility by those with the power to act. It is time to act decently in the interests of the whole community. It is time to tell it straight.

This is not a large dams issue in particular but it should be linked to my three large dams articles Large Dams 1: An Introduction, Large Dams 2: Aswan High Dam, Large Dams 3: Oustees India, and is the reason for my claim to expertise in this area. There are several large dams and many smaller ones involved in the Murray-Darling Basin, but these are not the main cause of the catastrophe. However, because of the current drought, new dams are mooted which will exacerbate the tragedy.

One must mention the Snowy Mountains Scheme (begun in 1949 and finished in 1974) a series of linked dams and tunnels, which was the largest engineering project ever undertaken in Australia and became a national icon. Its purpose was to divert the waters of the Snowy River into the Murray River for agriculture and to provide hydro-electricity. The latter was successful, but the diversion of water for agriculture never really lived up to expectation. One consequence of dams on the Murray River, however, was that it became in effect a series of long pools and never had its scouring pre-colonial flows and overflows. The Murray provides more water than the other rivers in the basin or river system.


Photographs

The photographs included are part of my involvement in the Murray Darling Basin. They relate exclusively to my favourite areas and are not representative of the basin as a whole. Consequently, the photographs are mostly the semi-arid areas of Western New South Wales around the Darling River. I have other favourite places but not the photographs to go with them. Much of the basin is in the semi-arid zone, but the eastern strip primarily on tablelands receives much higher rainfall. Continue reading “The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe”