Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was in New Delhi recently on a state visit but he didn’t lose the opportunity to catch up with Gautam Adani on the sidelines. The head of Adani Group, Gautam Adani is facing flak for allegedly caring little for the health of The Great Barrier Reef. The Carmichael Mine project in Queensland is being criticized for posing grave danger to the coral reefs owing to the carbon emission rate expected through the project’s tenure.
Malcolm Turnbull assured Gautam Adani of his Government’s continued support till the end. However, the voices against the coal project will not die down anytime soon. I am all for the safety of the environment and earth’s natural resources, but what confounds me is the ‘on the surface’ nature of this activism.
The Great Barrier Reef has been under threat long before the Adani Group entered the scene. But there were very little, if any, campaign to help save the UNESCO Heritage site. It has already been dying a slow death. Instead of looking at it only from a destructive point of view, we’d do well to think differently. The Adani Group may possibly be a great hope for the preservation of the reefs in the coming years because of the economic growth that the project promises. Considering the fact that the project aims at introducing an enormous economical reform in Australia, the resulting resources can be used for the repair and preservation of the reef.
The death of corals in the Great Barrier Reef was first noticed in 2011 and since then, it has continually been a matter of great concern. The Adani Group’s vision of restoring Australia’s economy could be used as a productive step towards preserving the dying reefs and aquatic life. Why not?
On discovering that the reef is experiencing slow burn, divers conducted an eye-opening survey. A phenomenon called ‘coral bleaching’ was found to be the cause behind the 50 percent mortality of the reef (2016). Coral bleaching occurs when the corals are stressed by the warm ocean water, to an extent that they expel the tiny algae called ‘zooxanthellae’. These algae live inside the tissues of the corals and are a major source of food and color to them. Once stressed, the algae leave the tissue, causing the corals to become lifeless and colorless.
Scientifically, bleaching can only kill corals if the temperatures persistently remain high for too long. Efforts, if put in the direction of dropping the temperature, may allow the algae to return to the corals, preventing them from dying of malnutrition.
Despite being approved in December 2016, the project awaited a green signal from the Australian government. The nation’s activists and environmentalists condemned the move, stating that the emission of carbon from the mine is catastrophic to the ground water and the Great Barrier Reef, putting at risk the people of Queensland and aquatic life of the reef.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and a team of experts considered all scientific and economic factors before shaking hands with Gautam Adani and giving it a go-ahead.
Taking effective measures to prevent and control carbon emission rates, and hiring local workers instead of using ‘visa 457’ to hire overseas workers, were two of the major decisions taken by the business group. The project is expected to provide employment to over 10, 000 locals.
The coal mine is estimated to produce 60 million tons of coal per year and create mine produces of 2.3 billion tons for the next 60 years. The entire project is worth $21.7 billion.
Blaming one single act for what has been caused over a period of decades would be short-sighted. There are a number of factors that needs paying attention to for a possible solution.
Warming oceans in 2016 have caused the largest die-off of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists have said. The governments of Australia and Queensland have already updated the UNESCO World Heritage Center on progress being made to protect and improve the reef, including their response to coral bleaching. This is a step in the right direction.
It suffered a significant bleaching event, caused by the El Nino weather effect and climate change. The Governments plan to spend 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.5 billion) over the next decade on improving the reef’s health. And they are the same Governments that have given clean chit to the project by Gautam Adani. It would not have done so with due diligence and extensive research into the outcomes of the project. The Australian Government couldn’t possibly be destroying its own heritage.
While it’s important to ensure that the Carmichael Mine does no harm to the already suffering reef, it is equally crucial to look at the problem in a holistic manner.