Twelve months ago, John Corboy, co-convenor of Foodbowl Unlimited (www.foodbowl.com.au), ex-Chairman of SPC and strong proponent of the Victoria’s north-south pipeline, went on record as stating that the future for agriculture in the Goulburn Valley was “not all gloom and doom” as Australian farmers stand to benefit from the impact of two ecological time-bombs: the impending collapse of the largely ground-water irrigated agricultural sector in Northern China, home to around half of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, and the ever-worsening degradation and pollution of river systems in India and China.
In his speech to the Foodbowl Unlimited forum in September 2007, Mr Corboy also welcomed the reduction of global agricultural output as a result of increased biofuel production, saying this will “bring supply and demand into balance”. He indicated that by 2040 there would be 3 billion more mouths to feed on this planet and urged that agribusiness take “full advantage” of such opportunities: a degree of economic rationalism that would be hard to surpass.
Fair Water Use will leave it to others to comment on the moral calibre of such statements, but would like to inform Mr Corboy, and all those who seek to exploit the dwindling resource that is Murray-Darling water, that there is no need for him to travel as far as China or the Indian subcontinent to see rivers whose waters are unfit for human consumption as a result of mismanagement. A trip to the lower Murray will provide him with the opportunity to sample water with salinity levels in the region of 20,000 e.c., around eight times higher than the maximum salt content of potable water, and view large areas of what is described by the CSIRO as “monosulfidic black ooze”, acidic mud with a pH often less than 4.
There are great concerns that, under the terms of the Victorian Water Plan strongly supported by Mr Corboy, the Brumby Government will be able to “borrow” billions of litres of water from the environment and redirect it for industrial and domestic use.
Unless all those currently driving the water-privatisation agenda are called to account, the Murray-Darling Basin risks experiencing socio-ecological collapse similar to that anticipated by Mr Corboy in Northern China and India.