The Business Insider reported back in January of this year that the Great Barrier Reef has been opened to dumping of dredge waste inside protected national park areas of the Reef as well as a coal port expansion.
The Reef is already in poor health and faces many challenges. The additional stress of waste being added to the waters and then a coal port expansion on top of that risks major destruction for the animals and plants that depend on the Reef and its unique environment. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has tried to say that the waste dump and port expansion will not harm the Reef in any way:
According to GBRMPA, the dumping will not significantly affect the Reef.
“It’s important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds,” Dr Russell Reichelt, Authority Chairman, said in a . (Source: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/5847/20140201/australian-government-approves-dumping-dredged-waste-great-barrier-reef-marine.htm)
However, this is a very short-term view, and disregards the fact that the Reef is in poor condition as it is. How anyone thinks dumping additional soil and silt into an already fragile environment will not have an impact is beyond logic. The expansion of the coal port also means an increase in shipping traffic along the Reef. The Reef is supposed to be protected, as it is listed as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO has made public statements that condemn the decision and has submitted a report to the World Heritage Committee stating the Reef could potentially be downgraded to a status of “In Danger”. UNESCO has also urged the government of Australia to reconsider. However, as of the time of this post, I have not been able to find any news articles that have the government’s response or any news of a change in the decision.
As if this weren’t enough to cause alarm, there is another project planned to take place in the same rough location. Australia also plans to build a huge natural gas export terminal at Abbot Point, which is in the same region as the coal port expansion project. The dredging for the natural gas terminal would amount to about 800,000 tonnes of dredging–an enormous amount that is certain to have an impact on the Reef and the ecosystem. They plan to dump all of that soil and silt onto land, which is better than dumping it elsewhere in the Reef, but also brings the risk of potential harm to areas on land, depending on where this dredged material is being dumped.
I urge everyone who believes in protecting the environment to take action. Speak out, either in person or online. Sign petitions if you’re able. Work spells, if that is what you do. Write to influential people and demand their action to protect valuable ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.
To sign petitions or contribute money to legal funds organized to fight these decisions, check out the following links: Save the Reef, Reef Fighting Fund through GetUp!, Fight for the Reef legal fund, Sounds for the Reef,
Additional news sources about the decision: