Rivers of despair, polluted from Basel to Shanghai and Melbourne

By Paul Robinson - 11 Jan 2016 10:50:0 GMT
Rivers of despair, polluted from Basel to Shanghai and Melbourne

The Murray Rivercod, Maccullochella peelii, still survives at a small size in Melbourne’s Yarra River. The loss of many large fish (weighing in at 1.3m or 130kg at their maximum) is down to overfishing, but pollution such as this example could kill more trees, people and innumerable unique fish species, either slowly or rapidly! Maccullochella peelii image; Credit: © fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au

The latest revelation about the Yarra River of Melbourne fame is simply one of a series of exposés that have involved almost every major river in any city wherever. In this tragic case, people and trees have been exposed to a poisonous mixture of chemicals, but there have been severe cases where actual known chemicals have been casually released to cause direct consequences. Hopefully, the dead trees will be the limit of this latest tragedy. It has however been proposed that a certain Jacinta Allan (Senior Minister in Victoria State) could, go jump in the river, just to test it.

The State of Victoria is relatively pollution free, like much of the Australian continent. This toxic mix was formed by reactions around a wash-down facility at Warrandyte state park, at the natural swimming pool know as Pound Bend. Vehicles washed there (several times over) sometimes included chemical containers and the Park’s herbicide supplies. Legal restrictions therefore did not come into play as no large-scale release occurred at any one time. However, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) could probably fine the facility if measurements were taken, even at this point

The pollution took place between January and October 2015, but was sadly notified only under the national freedom of information laws. The washing down did stop, but the reasons were never given, leaving the necessary transparency very obviously lacking. The reasons are apparently very political, as the Liberal government cut A$88m from the Parks Victoria budget. Significantly, the present State government is that of Daniel Andrews Labour Party.

Lessons for the rest of us? OFC., since the recovery of major rivers in certain nations to the west, we have had quite serious surveillance by every organisation from local groups of neighbours to this current opposition party intervention. and multinational organisations. Even New Yorks Hudson River has had a mere 200 years of dire stress! While the Thames (in the UK) entertains various repopulations of fish species, the Rhine also recovered from millennia of misuse quite well, especially after a disaster in 1986, and can boast water purity checks every 6 minutes in southern Germany. Upriver at the source of the 1986 leakage, in Basel, many fish species have returned to delight fishermen as well as ecological minds.

One problem with some freshwater fish, such as salmon in the Rhine, and many species in the Congo and Yangtse, is very large hydropower dams. That is down to the huge influence of business interest over true assessment of species needs. Almost every riverine African and Asian country, along with South America, must face the same consequences as the more citified continents. We all need more energy from renewable resources, but if the price for hydropower is similar to many other renewables, the environmental assessments must be clear, accurate and unbiased. Maybe it is no longer the awesome results of chemical pollutions but the inability to adapt giant hydropower installations that challenges us more. Ask the Aussies; they could well offer an opposite argument.