Thirst turns to anger as Australia's mighty river runs dry

Updated: Oct 24, 2019, 03:46 PM(IST)

Reduced to a string of stagnant mustard-coloured pools, fouled in places with pesticide runoff and stinking with the rotting carcasses of cattle and fish, the Darling River is running dry. The parched earth of Australia's longest waterway, if tributaries are included, is in the grip of the continent's most severe drought in a century.

Residents blame the government

At Menindee, 830 km west of Sydney, despair has turned to anger as residents blame the government for exacerbating the drought by drawing down river water in 2017 for irrigation and other uses downstream.


Consumption of tap water is being avoided

Locals now avoid using tap water for drinking and washing babies and children, saying it has caused skin irritation, and prefer boxed and bottled water instead.


No source of livelihood

The river was the food and water source of the people living near it, which was their source of livelihood. It's the lack of maintenance that has led to such a miserable condition.


Situation worsened in last two years

The past two years have been the driest in the catchment area of the Darling, which flows 2,844 km over the outback to the sea, and adjoining Murray river since records began in 1900.

Last summer was the hottest on record, and in Menindee, where temperatures regularly top 38 Celsius, another scorching season is expected.


Impact on economy

Drought is weighing on economic growth, and the dire conditions have prompted Australia, a major wheat exporter, to import the grain for the first time in 12 years.


Steps taken by government

The government has set up a panel to evaluate water management and ordered its anti-trust watchdog to investigate trading in irrigation rights.


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