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Australia's Controversial Adani Coal Mine Now One Approval Away From Construction

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Supporters hold signs aloft as part of the 'Stop Adani Convoy' event on April 18 in Melbourne, Australia. Scott Barbour / Getty Images

Australia's controversial Adani coal mine is one step closer to being built as the Queensland Government approved the company's plan to protect the black-throated finch Friday, The Guardian reported.


The Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) said it accepted an updated plan that Adani had submitted May 28 which complied with requests made by the department to ensure the protection of the endangered species. The mine now needs one more environmental approval to begin construction.

"Assessment of this plan has been a rigorous process, informed by the best available science," a DES spokesperson said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "DES has met regularly with Adani to ensure that the plan is robust and is well-placed to deliver the best outcomes for the protection of the black-throated finch."

However, conservationists are concerned the plan will not do enough to protect the finch, whose most significant known population lives on the mine site in the Galilee Basin.

"The obliteration of the bird's stronghold in the Galilee Basin is the same as shooting them," Former Greens leader and Stop Adani campaigner Bob Brown said in a statement reported by SBS News.

Adani has said it will preserve an area for the species next to the mine site, but Melbourne University Conservation Ecology Professor Brendan Wintle explained to The Guardian why that might not work.

"They currently don't exist there and they don't currently occupy that habitat," Wintle said. "They need particular grass species to feed. There doesn't appear to be the appropriate grasses on the site. It's the wrong ecology. They've had the opportunity to breed there for 10,000 years and they haven't. This project will significantly increase the risk of extinction for the finch."

Adani must now earn approval on its plans for managing groundwater, and then it can begin construction. It will still need environmental approvals from the federal government before it can start mining coal.

The groundwater decision is due June 13, SBS News reported.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had insisted on approval deadlines after Labor was defeated during federal elections this month in regions that are anxious for the jobs Adani has promised.

"We're obviously encouraged to have that in our hands," Adani's mining CEO Lucas Dow said of the finch plan approval, as Australia's ABC News reported. "We obviously appreciate that the Queensland Department of Environment and Science has met their self imposed timing to be able to conclude this.'

However, environmental groups raised concerns about the approval process.

"Adani's Carmichael project is an instrument of destruction and climate disaster that the Australian legal and regulatory system isn't designed to see for what it is," Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said in a Twitter thread.

Christian Slattery of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) agreed.

"This process is the result of Adani and their mates in the mining industry pressuring the State Government, and rather than stand up to these corporate bullies, the Queensland Government has rolled out the red carpet for them," he told ABC News. "Frankly, the whole process of approvals for this mine stinks."

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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