24.9°C 03:00 pm

Earth joins water fight

Thursday, 24th January, 2019

Friends of the Earth campaigner for their River Country Campaign, Megan Williams. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Friends of the Earth campaigner for their River Country Campaign, Megan Williams. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

A campaigner for the grassroots environmental organisation Friends of the Earth has called the water situation in Menindee and along the Darling River an “absolute catastrophe” following her trip out to Far West communities during the past week.

Megan Williams said she’d now be working with community members across the region to continue drawing attention to water issues along the Murray Darling Basin, particularly with both state and federal elections looming.

“Friends of the Earth campaign on lots of issues from climate change to protecting forests, but I’m out here because of the recent fish kills in Menindee,” she said.

“I’m a campaigner for the River Country Campaign where we want to see the Murray Darling Basin flow naturally from source to sea.

“We also want to see traditional owners have sovereign rights to country within the Basin and across Australia.

“We’re an anti-hierarchical organisation, so I’d like to build a group of community members who want to work together and see water issues brought into (greater focus during) the electoral cycle this year.

“It’s really important that these issues don’t just get swept under the rug during this year’s state and federal elections.

“It’s a priority to get these rivers fixed and we’ll be (bringing greater attention to that) through social media, community and online actions, letter writing to decision-makers and sharing stories of the people out here.”

She said that trips out to Menindee and Tilpa had highlighted community members strength and resolve even in the midst of a water crisis.

“I’ve met lots of individuals out at Menindee and Tilpa, and seen good people handing out free water,” she said.

“I’ve also seen this amazing community spirit of people banding together through these really tough times.

“(However), I also saw a dead Murray Cod in the Darling and spoke to people complaining about skin-irritation and rashes on their body, that they can’t drink the water and that a million fish have died. 

“Where are the water ministers, Mr Blair and Mr Littleproud, during this crisis? They need to show their faces and meet the people out here, and address the issues that they’re facing.

“It’s just an absolute catastrophe from what I’ve seen. 

“So it’s really important that people who aren’t being given a voice in this debate have a chance to speak about the issues that they’re facing, and I’m out here doing what I can to support those people.”

She said the Wentworth to Broken Hill Pipeline was part of that same problem of poor water management and decision-making related to the Darling River and Menindee Lakes systems.

“My understanding of the pipeline is that it’s all wrapped up in this big scandal that if we’d maintained the Menindee Lakes as a healthy, fresh water system, it (could’ve continued to) supply drinking water to Broken Hill,” said Megan.

“But ultimately, pumping water up from the Murray isn’t going to fix anyone’s problems. 

“There’s huge issues throughout the entire Basin with over-extraction and we need to be dealing with those issues at the source, not taking the water of South Australia and Victoria to supply areas along the Lower Darling.

“So I’d like to see immediate action taken to protect the Darling and the Basin. 

“A royal commission is integral to get to the bottom of the issues and to see justice through the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“But, before that, we need immediate action to make sure that there aren’t more fish kills, to see small and medium flows return to the rivers and to see the communities without drinking water being supplied with fresh, safe, clean drinking water.

“We’d also like either the state or federal government to step in and put an embargo on pumping upstream.”

While Megan said she’d soon be returning to Melbourne, her focus on the region and it’s water issues would continue. 

She said that if anyone wanted to get involved they could follow the River Country Campaign on Facebook or Twitter or email her at megan.williams@foe.org.au 

Individuals can also donate to Friends of the Earth at: www.foe.org.au/land_and_water

© Copyright 2020 Barrier Daily Truth, All Rights Reserved. ABN: 38 684 603 658