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Maude Barlow visits the Lower Lakes in Australia

Please see below a wonderfully descriptive media release issued by RLCAG, the River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group in Australia.

“Why would they do that?” asked Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations General Assembly as she looked down on the site of the proposed Wellington Weir where the River Murray flows into Lake Alexandrina. “Can’t they see the devastation?” she asked the helicopter flew over the bund at the Narrows and saw the silty water being pumped into Lake Albert from Lake Alexandrina.

Maude Barlow had been in Sydney to deliver the keynote at the Water Summit (see www.HurrySavetheMurray.com) and had put Adelaide on her schedule for this, her fifth trip to Australia. The River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group Inc. (RLCAG), keen to introduce Maude to the Lower Lakes, had scheduled a full afternoon for their Canadian visitor.

The bus with her husband Andrew and Adelaide-based colleagues, John and Ann Caldecott of Friends of Gulf St Vincent and driver/photographer Ross Young of Wheelie Friendly Tours set off from Adelaide just after 3.00pm.

First stop, Strathalbyn, for a helicopter ride with Henry Jones and Diane Bell of the RLCAG over the site of the proposed Wellington Weir at Pomanda Island, the Bund between the Lakes, the Coorong, Murray Mouth, Hindmarsh Island, Currency Creek, Finniss River and the Langhorne Creek vineyards.

“I was overwhelmed by the extent of the devastation and the resulting loss of habitat and livelihood for humans and species. It is clear the River Murray is dying from the mouth up and shocking that the water that could protect and restore it is not being released for political reasons,” said Maude Barlow.

The bus continued to Milang to visit the Save the Turtle Project. “I was very moved,” said Maude as she helped the willing young experts remove the coral from the backs of the over-burdened turtles. “The children are literally saving the lives of these turtles, one by one. How can we let this generation down? How can we imagine we have the right to destroy these precious wetlands?”

Next stop: Clayton Bay to see the results of the bio-remediation of December 2008 – native plants that have taken hold and are flourishing despite a blisteringly hot summer. The group viewed the empty Dunn’s Lagoon, a site that should be teaming with life. They stood on the bluff, looked across to Hindmarsh Island and heard on the plans to build a weir and to pump more water from Lake Alexandrina to raise the level of the proposed weir pool.

“The construction of weirs, dams and desalination plants is the worst set of solutions possible,” said Maude. “They are energy intensive, expensive and environmentally dangerous. There would be no need for any of this heavy technology if governments would commit to proper management of the rivers, conservation, storm-water capture, and rainwater harvesting. If they had a long-term plan these actions would be well in hand by now. Instead there are only short-term crisis reactions.”

Last stop, the Finniss River, where Maude and her party were welcomed to Ngarrindjeri country by elders Major Sumner and Tom Trevorrow with a traditional smoking ceremony and moving speeches that stressed the way forward was one of shared respect and care for country.

Senators Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens) and Nick Xenophon (Independent) joined the group and pledged their continuing support for the struggle to save the River, Lakes and Coorong.  The emerging coalition of local actions and their supporters is growing apace and now has an international advocate.

“I was so shocked at what I saw and further shocked at the poisonous combination of inaction or the wrong action on the part of both the state and federal governments,” said Maude Barlow.

Last on the agenda, time to eat and what a feast it was: local food, prepared by the local community. And the last word from Maude Barlow: “I hope every Australian will take the tour I took on Saturday and come away as moved to do something about it I was.”