As droughts are hot on Australia’s heels, Maude Barlow – the United Nations senior advisor on water issues – heated up the pressure on the country’s government on Tuesday at the 5th Annual Australian Water Summit. She criticized the Australian cabinet for its management of the deepening water crisis, saying that ordinary Australians and farmers are paying the highest price for the chronic water scarcity.
Barlow, who spoke at the three-day summit about the issue of water ownership – blamed the federal and state governments for a “failure of vision” and a lack of an “overall plan” to protect Australia’s drying water resources, The Australian reports.
“The only sectors being asked to make a sacrifice are home owners, who really make up a very small share of the water problem, and small farmers, who cannot compete with their larger competitors,” said Barlow, adding that the construction of big desalination plants, pipelines and weirs has put Australia’s water resources in the hands of foreign corporations.
A spokeswoman for federal Water Minister Penny Wong called Barlow’s assessment “inaccurate” and pointed to the government’s $12.9 billion Water for the Future plan, which outlines investment in water infrastructure but also in “returning water to [Australia’s] rivers to improve [people’s] health,” the spokeswoman said.
But Barlow also listed mining, non-sustainable agriculture and bottled water suppliers as factors in the country’s water problems.
“The devastation caused by long-wall and open-cut mining operations is as horrifying as it is widespread,” Barlow said. “The destruction of aquifers and heavy metal pollution of ground and surface water is nationwide, and a disgrace.”
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Source: The Australian
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.