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One million tonnes of waste to be deposited near Great Barrier Reef

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The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has given permission for one million tonnes of 'sludge' to be deposited near the precious coral.

Amazing Great Barrier Reef

Image Credit: Studio Sarah Lou from Flickr

According to the BBCalthough there are tough laws surrounding the deposit of waste around the reef, 'a loophole was found- the laws don't apply to materials generated from port maintenance works'. 

The sludge is a product of coal mining by Hay Point, which is 'one of the largest coal export ports in the world'. The dumping would take place in installments 'every three to five years'.

SBS News reported that 'the permit allows 756,553 cubic metres of maintenance dredge sludge to be disposed of in the marine park and a further 200,000 cubic metres for sediments deposited by extreme weather reports'.

This follows the introdcution of the 2050 Reef Plan, which 'outlines concrete management measures for 35 years to ensure the Outstanding Universal Value of the Reef is preserved now and for generations to come'. Surely such steps that have been made by such a plan would quickly be undone by the dumping of the sludge?

bleached and damaged corals

The Reef has already been damaged by bleaching and pollution/ Image Credit: Futurism from The Ocean Agency

The Senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters, who is urging for the decision to be reversed, spoke to The Guardian, saying, "the last thing that reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently". She added that the dumping of the waste would reduce the reef to 'a rubbish tip'. 

The floods, which Waters mentions, refer to the events of last week when floodwaters from Queensland were swept towards the reef. These waters could be detrimental to the life of the coral, with scientists warning they could 'smother' it.

On their website, North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP) claim that 'the reef's protection is an integral factor in our planning and development'. However, their recent decision would suggest that this is not the case. 

The NQBP defended their future actions, saying, "our assessment reports have found the risks to protected areas including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and sensitive habitats are predominantly low with some temporary, short-term impacts to (bottom-dwelling) habitat possible."

Read more about how we are harming our environment from The National Student

Lead Image: Kyle Taylor from Flickr.

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