great barrier reef adani

Written by Muskan Moazzam 11:47 am

The Destruction of the Great Barrier Reef by India’s Adani Group

The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a World Heritage-listed site, is witnessing the destruction of its reefs by the Australian government and India’s Adani Group. Protests and movements by various NGOs and international institutions are spurring the need for conservation initiatives and projects.

Adani Group Targets the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and the biggest coral reef situated in Queensland, Australia; these corals are Australia’s identity. There is scientific research that 50% of the coral reefs have been lost, with the major cause being Adani Group’s coal project at Abbot Point terminal in Queensland.

Countries like Maldives and Fiji have destroyed up to 90% of their coral reefs, while Australia still has at least 50% of their corals left. Adani Group is an Indian multinational conglomerate company that has a history of destroying the environment. In Mundra Island, Adani Coal Company destroyed 75 hectares of mangroves in just 15 years.

They destroyed these mangroves at a place that was declared as a conservation zone by the environmental ministry. The company adopted a non-serious attitude towards its fly ash disposal. In December 2020, Adani breached a federal environmental approval for failing to implement its species management plan.

The shipping of coal by the Adani Group through the Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be up to 242 million tonnes, which will affect the corals of the Great Barrier Reef. The resulted spilling of coal and chemicals and oil is destructive to the life of corals; the addition of coal and carbon in the water causes water pollution, especially the formation of carbon carbonates.

Operations Continue to Pollute the Reef

Oil has devastating impacts on corals, destroying their outer shells. The Adani coal project will add around 120 million tonnes of CO2 to the environment. This large amount of carbon in the marine ecosystem will increase the temperature of the ocean which is the biggest cause of heatwaves. The heatwaves of 2016-17 destroyed around 25 to 30% of corals.

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Hence, if this rise of temperature continues with the addition of carbon in the ocean then the world must prepare to lose another natural wonder. Excessive carbon in the Great Barrier Reef will cause bleaching, which is the whitening of corals, and causes death in a few days. Another hazardous effect of excess carbon and coal is acidification, making it difficult for organisms to survive.

The Adani Group’s mining ventures in the Great Barrier Reef will pave way for more companies to start their operations in the Galilee Basin which is one of the largest coal reserves of the world. The Australian government is hesitating between anthropocentric and eco-centric approaches to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Government’s Dilemma

The government wonders whether the economy should be given priority over the environment, but it is clear that neglecting one will cause a disastrous and hazardous impact on the other. The Climate Council estimates that the coal mines could lead to an additional 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per year, which would be more than 1.3 times the annual emissions of Australia.

Bravus, a subsidiary of the Adani Group, was fined and had to pay a fine of $26,000 for “misinterpreting” environmental approval conditions at its Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland. Protests against the funding of coal projects were even organized at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the opening day of India vs Australia cricket tour last year. Moreover, movements and initiatives have taken place such as the #stopAdani movements.

The people of Australia will have to take a step to stop this destruction of their national heritage. Media, too, can play a significant role in this revolution, initiating awareness programs and inviting environmental scientists for speaker sessions on the hazardous effects of Adani Group’s coal project on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Response by Actors

The Australian Government

The Australian government is working on the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan from 2015-2050 for the preservation and management of the Great Barrier Reef. When the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) showed conservations on losing the Great Barrier Reef, this plan was the response of the Australian Government. 

The Australian government also formed a reef trust which works on improving the water quality and habitat in Queensland. Australian government has also announced around $700 million for the protection of GBR.

UNESCO

UNESCO reported around 60 projects between the Australian government and oil companies that will harm the Great Barrier Reef. Thereafter, the Australian government made a pledge to UNESCO and the World Heritage community that it would put the Great Barrier Reef as its main concern.

NGOs

Greenpeace is an NGO working on the Great Barrier Reef. It works under international law and has called many foreign experts to cooperate in research and activities to protect this natural wonder. Another NGO named The Australian Conservation Foundation is working to protect the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem from harmful impacts of coal mining, trawling, limestone mining, and petroleum extraction.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has also asked the Great Barrier Reef Park Authority to make restrictions on fishing and recreational activities in certain areas. Another NGO, the Special conservation unit of the Great Barrier Reef Park Authority, is working to protect species of the Great Barrier Reef especially fishes, turtles, and other vertebrae species which are important for the growth and survival of corals reefs.

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Conclusion

As mentioned above, the government and other organizations are initiating many plans for conservations of the Great Barrier Reef Park Authority, but the implementation of these programs is lacking. Therefore, UNESCO must not only just respond to threats, but also make the Australian government take effective measures for tackling the challenges.

A major actor’s involvement like UNESCO can compel the Australian government to review its decision or devise a mechanism to halt the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef by Adani Group’s coal project.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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About the Author(s)

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Ms Muskan Moazzam is currently studying IR at National Defence University, Islamabad.

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