Fitzroy River

I was raised by a river. The wonder of that water moving ever on enchanted me. Not surprisingly, in my life’s journey, I have followed many rivers. Each is an individual, emanating from a different source, developing its character as it travels through particular country, finding its way back to the ocean, the mother of all. What could be a more apt metaphor for life? There is great learning to be had in knowing a river. Most great civilisations have developed beside rivers. The water flows as our blood flows. Stop the flow and you’re in trouble, either very ill or dead.

The Fitzroy River is one of the world’s major rivers, flowing from the King Leopold Range, the most ancient range in the world, through vast tracts of bloodwood forest and savannah, into the Indian Ocean through King Sound. The catchment area of this river is a good portion of the Kimberley region of Northwest Australia, an area comparable is size to Great Britain. It is a wild river in a frontier land, a region largely untouched by the ways of man. Indeed, the people who have lived along this river, the indigenous aboriginal people, have lived in harmony with this serpentine stream for aeons. They’ve been sustained and nurtured by this river’s life-giving benefice. Every year, with the monsoons, the mighty Fitzroy River floods, replenishing the land, invigorating the life cycle of all that fills its extensive river valley.

So many of the world’s major rivers have been dammed. They cannot run free and perform the function they have since before man even walked on this earth. They are damned, inflicted with a festering sore that undermines the rivers health. When blood doesn’t flow in our body we are in big trouble. Sluggish blood flow will give rise to cancers and many other sicknesses. If the flow stops altogether, the aneurism or ensuing stroke can cripple, or even kill us. So it is with rivers. So many rivers are languishing with ill health. Many have died.

Recently in Australia we have witnessed many rivers flooding. Some floods have been quite destructive, damaging property and taking lives. There is an old adage warning against setting up camp in a river bed, or anywhere within flood reach. People have tended to ignore this basic wisdom, and must expect to suffer the consequent costs. Politicians and civic leaders have been extremely vocal in the wake of Australia’s recent spate of flooding. Many have been spoken about taming the rivers, constructing dams that will curb the damage floods wreak. They have also been mindful to mention that the water dammed can be used as an economic boon, piped to cities that have an ever increasing demand for water, used to irrigate land for agricultural purposes, garnered for the purpose of generating electricity, or utilized by industry.

We have witnessed these opportunists on countless occasions, making a noise about progress at all costs. They ignore a fundamental truth. Where rivers are dammed they die. Where land is irrigated the soils are rapidly depleted and the curse of salinity arises. Yes, we need water, food, and power, but we also need to work in harmony with nature and its life giving rivers. Should we send water to the cities where people pour it on grass lawns, given the most common time people engage with their lawn is when they mow it? In Australia’s two most populated states, the amount of water lost through evaporation in the open irrigation channels in the main agricultural area along the Murray River is estimated to be equivalent to the amount used for domestic purposes in these state’s capital cities, cities with a combined population of roughly ten million people. What cost a pipe instead of a channel? What cost is a dead Murray River, overtaxed by irrigators who waste so much water? What cost the fact that half the food they produce is tossed away because it isn’t the right size for supermarket chains, or possesses a blemish? Nature provides power from the sun, wind, and tides, yet our leaders ignore this, addicted to burning fossil fuels and harnessing rivers. Industry is wasteful of all resources, including water, and will always be so as long as they intentionally produce products that have limited lives, a toss away mentally so that profits can be increased.

We need to be more sensible. Our current way of living is unsustainable. Our leaders are leading us on a manic dance towards doom. We need good leaders, sensible people who can espouse a creed for the community that reflects our real needs, not the needs of the foolhardy and greedy. We need plans that will guarantee our environment is protected, that our way of life is in harmony with that of all living things. Otherwise we will die.

Once again we are hearing from those who wish to dam the Fitzroy River. We have seen them off before, but we must be vigilant. They are like demons in the dark, whispering lies when we sleep, turning our dreams into nightmares. Here, in the Kimberley, the Ord River has been dammed since 1971, creating the huge Lake Argyle. Given the perennial case put forth by those who want more rivers dammed, one has to ask why this huge dam is not being effectively utilized. Where is the hydro power generation? The associated irrigation scheme is paltry. Why are there not plans afoot to pipe this abundant water resource to locations supposedly in need?

Let our rivers flow.

Best Regards,
Russell Roberts

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 at 10:21 am and is filed under Russells Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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