Great Barrier Reef may be at risk from fossil fuels

Melbourne, February 16: Indian conglomerate Adani Group’s plans to build Australia’s biggest coal mine, although portrayed as harbinger for jobs and local economy, yet is entering the fiercest round of its fight ‘against coal’ faction.

As researchers, revealed that they had discovered more evidence on the degradation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) issued a statement today, about Adani’s history of environmental destruction.

It “could lead to irreversible damage to our Great Barrier Reef and disrupt local communities down the Reef coastline”, the statement said.

As water temperatures continue to rise, coral bleaching grows as a threat to the Reef –shallow water reefs stand a far greater risk compared to their deeper water counterparts.

The study conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute revealed that any hopes for the Reef “reseeding” itself have been quashed.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef ‘won’t heal on its own’

“We argue that this concept of deep coral populations reseeding their shallow-water counterparts may be relevant to some species, but is ultimately unlikely to aid more broadly in the recovery of shallow reefs,” author of the study, Pim Bongaerts, said.

“Instead, the responsibility for their future lies with us.

“If we want to have any chance of preserving these unique and diverse ecosystems, it is crucial that we start curbing our emissions and divest from fossil fuels.”

Armed with this ARC research paper and an investigation report released by Environmental Justice Australia, AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director Imogen Zethoven said that “after the severe coral bleaching event in 2016, it is beyond belief that governments could approve this mine in full knowledge that it will accelerate the destruction of the Reef, and the 70,000 jobs that depend on it”.

 ‘The Adani Brief reveals an alarming history of failure to comply with environmental laws by the mining giant, according to AMCS.

“Adani is seeking to build one of the world’s biggest new coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

“Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project will hugely increase threats to our Reef from deadly coal spills, toxic pollution, dredging the seafloor, and more.

“Most significantly, it is also set to produce 60 million tons of coal a year for 60 years – which when burnt will measuredly exacerbate global warming leading to the warming of our oceans, more frequent and severe coral bleaching and mortality and ocean acidification”, Ms Zethoven said.

However, the federal and Queensland governments are not backing down.

The Queensland Labor government is relying on the Adani project to produce jobs in the local community and thus garner success in the 2018 election.

Based on Adani Group’s projections, the Queensland government has promised that the project would deliver thousands of jobs during its construction phase – later levelling to off to 1500 or more employees in the operational mine.

The movers and shakers in the Senate and the Parliament, Queenslander Pauline Hanson, local LNP member George Christensen has both supported the mine, broadly.

Federal LNP members are also barracking for the mine and it is highly likely that federal government’s $1 billion concessional loan to the Adani Group will go ahead.

Coal extracted from the mine in Rockhampton will be rail transported to the Abbot Point in Townsville, before being shipped to India for its power plants.

In townships like Townsville and Rockhampton, the mine has been largely welcomed and is perceived as prosperity for the locals.

Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said she had come under fire from those opposed to coal “for my vocal support of this project, but I won’t take a backward step”.

The Adani Group headed by billionaire Gautam Adani, itself believes that it is ‘fighting the for-coal industry war against the anti-coal faction’.

The company believes that the project is the most regulated, yet facing the brunt of environmental ‘jurists’ – with environmental activists even infiltrating the firm by posing as job seekers.

Quarry loaded ships have been working for other big miners for many years, navigating the Great Barrier Reef to very little protest. Queensland has exported more than 200 million tonnes of coal per year in recent times, majority of which has travelled through the reef.

protests against Adani Carmichael mine to protect the Reef (550x352)
protests against Adani Carmichael mine to protect the Reef

“Any protests by environmental activists against Adani coal ships only, negates their concerns”, according to Rockhampton Support Group.

But activist group GetUp has also weighed in on the anti-coal movement.

With $1 million at their disposal, including social media experts and hundreds of volunteers, all these groups are working overtime to ensure the demise of the Adani project in Australia.

They will also look to lobby all major banks into pulling away from funding the $22 billion Carmichael project.

As environmental groups continue to frustrate both government and Adani Group from any progress, AMCS called on both the federal and Queensland governments to protect the Australia and its Great Barrier Reef by cancelling the project.

Nidhi Mehta

feature image: Abbot Point which is surrounded by wetlands and the coral reef

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