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River Murray & the IPA « Previous | |Next »
February 14, 2004

I notice that the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has published a booklet on the River Murray. I have yet to read this contribution to the public debate.

The summary of their Myth & the Murray booklet makes two points. It says that things are not that bad and it criticizes the environmental movement:

"We have all heard about the declining health of the Murray River, including poor water quality, dying red gums and threats to the continued survival of the Murray cod---this is the popular view in urban Australia. Along the river, communities believe that the end of commercial fishing, a substantial restocking effort, improvements in on-farm practices and the construction of salt-interception schemes have resulted in a healthier river. The available evidence supports the local view and suggests that, with the possible exception of native fish stocks, the river environment is healthy.

Many of the scientific reports that have led to the perception that the Murray River is in poor health make their comparisons with a natural river, which is one without dams and locks, one that gushes and then runs dry. Such comparisons are misplaced. If the ultimate objective of the conservation movement is a natural river, then we must reject the cultural heritage and economic wealth created by the engineering works, including the Snowy Mountains Scheme. In its natural state, the Murray River could not provide for Adelaide's water needs and it could not support the irrigation industries that have made the region the food bowl of Australia."

I have commented on the anti-environmental flow irrigators here; on the three pronged water reform here; and on the IPA here.

Two comments. The environmental movement, along with most government agencies and ecological scientists, has suported the idea of a healthy working river not a return to a natural--- ie., a pre-Snowy Mountains Hydro-electricity Scheme----River Murray. The IPA is fighting fictions on this in their attempt to roll back the public policy consensus that the River Murray needs 1500 gigalites of environmental flows to ensure its health as a working river.

In so fighting the fictional enemy, the IPA plays the 'enlightenment card' when they construct the ngo environmental movement as a religion in contrast to their market-driven and empirically based science. Jennifer Marohasy says:

"Indeed, environmentalism is emerging as a new religion, with Greenpeace, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Wildlife Fund representing the new church, complete with charity status and tax exemptions for their multimillion-dollar earnings."

This representation of green ngo's conveniently ignores the way these think tanks are involved in the public policy process through their reports and advocacy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:34 AM | | Comments (0)