Hail Mary! Aussie Activists Celebrate Dam Suspension

Mary River Information Center, Kadanga, Queensland
Mary River Information Center, Kadanga, Queensland
Patrick McCully/International Rivers
Communities in the Mary Valley in Queensland, Australia, are celebrating the announcement by state Premier, Anna Bligh, that construction on a bitterly opposed dam would be delayed by up to four years. The Traveston Crossing Dam would displace hundreds of families, flood thousands of acres of rich farmland, and endanger iconic species including the Queensland lungfish and the endangered Mary River turtle and cod.

Proponents claim the dam is needed to increase water storage because of the worsening droughts caused by global warming. Opponents point to studies showing numerous cheaper alternatives for saving and storing water, and the high evaporation and greenhouse gas emissions from the big, shallow reservoir.

An email to supporters from the Save the Mary River campaign group says:

November 25th, 2008, is a day that will always be remembered in the Mary Valley as the first serious cracks started to show in the state government's push to build Traveston Dam. Anna Bligh's shock announcement that the plan would be shelved for a number of years because of environmental & economic concerns was met with jubilance as hard working campaigners flocked to the banks of the Mary River to celebrate.

Whilst enjoying this major victory, campaigners were very clear that they know the fight's not over yet. They vowed to increase the pressure on the state & federal government's until this dam proposal is dead & buried forever!

Within hours of the announcement, the riverbanks at Traveston Crossing were filled with people and media... Check out the new album on www.stoppress.com.au called 'Backdown or Backoff?' and share the joy of the Save the Mary campaign!

I visited the beautiful Mary valley in September 2007 together with Roberto Epple of European Rivers Network. I was amazed at the strength of opposition to the dam, which from the bumper sticks and signs along the roadsides appeared to be almost unanimous in local communities. I was also astonished at the callous and autocratic attitude of the state government which seemed determined to trample on the rights of local people. And deeply impressed at the determination, energy, creativity - and bloody good humor - of the local activists.

Congratulations to Glenda, Steve, Kevin, Arkin and all the rest of the Mary lovers. As the campaign slogan says, "In Cod We Trust!"

The Mary River announcement comes on a good Thanksgiving week for river lovers with the annoucement of a funding setback for the misleadingly cheerfully named Xalala Dam in Guatemala, and a legal roadblock for the Jirau Dam on the Maderia River in Brazil.

We covered the Traveston Crossing Dam fight in our newsletter World Rivers Review in October 2006.