The Fiji Times

Australia to invest $1.49b in dams


MELBOURNE - Australia will invest $A1 billion ($F1.49b) to revamp water infrastruc­ture in rural and regional communitie­s in the drought-stricken New South Wales.

The federal and the New South Wales government­s will spend A$650 million ($F971.37m) to upgrade the Wyangala Dam in the state’s central west and $A480 million ($F717.32m) to build new Dungowan Dam near Tamworth, the government said in a statement on Sunday.

“Our response to the ongoing drought impacting rural and regional communitie­s is comprehens­ive and committed,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in the statement.

“It deals with immediate needs for financial assistance in and longerterm investment­s to build drought resilience for the future.”

Australia, which has enjoyed economic growth for a generation, has its livelihood­s now at a growing risk from drought, worsened by climate change, a predicamen­t more familiar to developing countries.

New South Wales, a southeaste­rn state with Sydney as its capital, has grappled with drought since mid-2017, according to the government estimates.

Nearly the whole state, which has an area more than three times the size of the United Kingdom, remains in some drought category.

The state also has been hit by spring fires, further straining the communitie­s in the region. Two people were killed and more than 50 homes were destroyed in the latest bushfires, which are yet to be contained.

Australia’s conservati­ve government has been slow in addressing the country’s increasing climate challenges, arguing often that stronger environmen­tal action would cripple the economy.

The Nature Conservati­on Council, an environmen­tal advocacy group in New South Wales, criticised the government’s slow actions and the dam plans, saying they don’t provide water security as they deprive people downstream of water.

“Building new dams is like paying off your house loan with a credit card, we’re just getting deeper and deeper into water debt,” Nature Conservati­on Council spokesman James Tremain told Reuters.

“It’s not addressing the fundamenta­l issue and that is that we extract too much water from our rivers and we have done nothing to acknowledg­e or address climate change, which is exacerbati­ng the problem.”

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