WATER SCHEME: The Suttor River. Picture: Coast and Country
WATER SCHEME: The Suttor River. Picture: Coast and Country

FEARS TRIGGERED: Adani water scheme up for approval

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have slammed a decision they claim has allowed Adani's water scheme to reach the environmental approval stage without scrutiny.

The Australian Conservation Foundation claims the Federal Government had referred Adani's North Galilee Water Scheme for environmental approval without applying the federal water trigger.

The foundation also claims the Indian miner "plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water each year out of the Suttor River".

But the Environment Department said the trigger did not apply to this scheme and there were safeguards to protect the Suttor River in the Queensland Government's water licence granted in 2017.

The foundation's senior campaigner, Christian Slattery, said the move represented a "disregard for our natural environment and a failure to protect our rural communities" which rely on healthy rivers.

The water trigger was established in federal environmental law to ensure large coal mining and coal seam gas projects that affected water resources were subjected to proper scrutiny.

Mackay Conservation Group community organiser Michael Kane described the decision as having made a "mockery of federal environment laws".

"The water trigger was put in place for exactly this type of project," Mr Kane said.

WATER SCHEME: Mackay Conservation Group community organiser Michael Kane.
WATER SCHEME: Mackay Conservation Group community organiser Michael Kane.

"The government is failing to follow the safeguards that were put in place to protect rural communities, farmers and the environment from water-guzzling mining projects."

A department spokesman said there would be opportunities for public comment before a decision was made as to whether it could proceed.

"On December 9, a delegate determined Adani's proposed North Galilee Water Scheme Water Infrastructure project is a 'controlled action' under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), therefore requiring a thorough assessment before it can proceed," he said.

"The delegate decided that the project will be assessed by 'preliminary documentation'. This is consistent with the requirements of the EPBC Act.

"For this project, the number and complexity of potential impacts are low and locally confined, with potential impacts on a small number of nationally listed plants and animals, including the Ornamental Snake."

The Adani water scheme comprises a water pipeline, pump station infrastructure and the expansion of an existing dam in the Belyando/Suttor River catchment, to supply water to the Carmichael mine in central Queensland.

WATER SCHEME: Groups says Indian miner plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water annually from the Suttor River. Pictured is the Suttor River. Picture: Christine Carlisle
WATER SCHEME: Groups says Indian miner plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water annually from the Suttor River. Pictured is the Suttor River. Picture: Christine Carlisle

An Adani spokeswoman said the extraction of flood water to be pumped from the catchment was originally assessed and approved as part of the Environmental Impact Statement process in 2015, and then through the granting of a water licence by the State Government in 2017.

"It equates to 12.5GL of water or less than 1 per cent of the annual water flow available in the Belyando/Suttor River catchment," she said.

"This water can only be taken when the river system is in flood, after other users, like farmers, have taken their share, and only when the river is flowing at a rate of 2592 mega litres per day."

The spokeswoman said Adani would continue to work with the Federal Government to meet environmental obligations and requirements.

In June, the Australian Conservation Foundation won its Federal Court appeal against the assessment of the North Galilee Water Scheme.

The Federal Government was forced to concede the case, admitting it failed to consider public submissions and even lost some submissions.

Despite the case being considered a win by environmentalists, Adani said the Carmichael mine and rail project would be unaffected.


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