Largest port to kill the Barrier Reef

The “Asian Century” has arrived in Queensland. The world’s largest port will rise soon that will pave the link between the Australian state and Asian market– India in particular.

Aerial view Abbot Point T2 and T3

Aerial view Abbot Point T2 and T3

The Federal government gave the green light to the massive expansion of three major port terminals at Abbot Point, 26 km north of Bowen in Central Queensland– positioned to become one of the world’s largest industrial sea ports.

The approval gives Adani Enterprises Pty. Ltd. and GVK, among other mining companies, a breakthrough in the multi-billion coal industry which will exploit the potential of the coal-rich Galilee Basin.

Adani’s most recent performance at T0

Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced the decision on Tuesday after a ”rigid assessment” and the project’s environmental impacts. After a long delay, the minister approved four Queensland projects under the National Environmental Law, including the capital dredging program for the proposed Terminals 0, 2 and 3 at the Port of Abbot Point, the Adani T0 project, the Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island, and the Arrow Gas Transmission Pipeline to Curtis Island. The terminals will provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the ”bullish” coal industry within the Galilee Basin.

The approval of Terminal 0 (T0) is sure to boost Adani’s ambitious prospect to ship the coal to India. “Coal from this project will predominantly service the Indian market,”  Adani admitted. The group acquired the terminal for about two billion Australian dollars under a 99-year lease in 2011. T0 is estimated to have a 70 metric tonnes per annum mtpa (35 mtpa x two stages) handling capacity. T2 will be built by an Australian-own company, while T3 will be undertaken by GVK.

But the New York Times reported Adani bought the port in 2011 for 1.8 billion Australian dollars taking advantage of the area still recovering from a series of floods.

 “Abbott Point is our contribution to India’s global ambitions,” said Gautam Adani, chair of Adani. Adani. “An Indian billionaire and real estate magnate, runs the largest private sector coal importer in India, a country hungry for energy resources. He already has other investments in Queensland….”

The T0 alone is projected to generate  a financial value of A$ 1.4 – 2.8 billion annually in gross revenue which will contribute significantly to the Queensland and Australian economy. It will directly benefit Bowen locality and the wider Whitsunday region, Adani said in its presentation paper earlier this year.

Estimated employment stands at 500 jobs in construction and 200-250 jobs in operation, while it provides opportunity for expansion of permanent working population at the Port of Abbot Point. This projection, however, is based on the estimated export of thermal coal from Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine and Abbot Point Coal Terminal 0 projects.

GVK, on the other hand, will undertake the expansion of  T3  port facilities and Galilee Basin coal assets including the Alpha, Alpha West and Kevin’s Corner coal projects. It will also construct a rail connection to the Abbot Point Port. “Together with the previously received clearances for the Alpha mine, the rail to Abbot Point ,GVK Hancock has solidified its leading position in the Galilee Basin of Queensland, Australia, ” the company said in a press release.

GV Sanjay Reddy, Vice Chairman  of the GVK Power & Infrastructure Limited, said the approval will enable the “provision of billions of tonnes of high quality, low sulphur, low ash, and cleaner burning coal for consumption in the Indian and Asian market.” He added, “this approval takes our projects in to the final stageof project development and we look forward to successfully developing and consolidating our position as the leading Indian infrastructure development company.”

The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation  (NQBC) has been commissioned as the port authority responsible for managing the project.

The extensive industrial projects along the eastern coast of Queensland. The darker blue line sketches the boundary of the world heritage area (Image: Fight for the Reef)

State Premier strengthens economic ties with India

The Galilee Basin is strengthening the economic ties between Queensland and India. Premier Campbell Newman admitted the potential of the region which could be a bigger contributor to Queensland’s economy than the coal seam gas industry.

Newman had visited Adani’s operation in India and believes in the export potential of the region. Further, he considers a long-term strategic business partnership with Indian companies. Mining Australia quoted him as saying, “They want coal to come for their thermal power stations day in, day out, week in, week out, month after month, for not 10 years or 20 years or 50 years; they want it to come for 70 to 100 years” .

On Gautam Adani, Newman is mesmerized with his business empire-building enthusiasm: “He owns the power lines, he owns the retail, he wants that coal. Now, the current coal price is not really a big thing in his calculations,” Newman said. “What he wants is supply security, and he wants to get that supply chain cost down as low as possible.”

Environmental concerns

Greenpeace lambasts the dredging and dumping of industrial waste into the vicinity of the reef.

Environmental groups, however, are enraged with the developments.

The terminals will require dredging of about three million cubic meters of sediments from the bottom of the sea. Local communities and environmental groups are outraged on how and where would the dredging spoils be dumped. The long-term effect after the area after the mining projects is also a matter of concern.

Hunt said he made an agreement with the Gladstone Ports Authority that they will not dispose of up to 12 million cubic metres of spoil within the Marine Park, but will instead use the material for land infill.

Hunt and Newman are already under fire from Green groups. The WWF, for one, is now pressing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park not to issue a permit to the NQBPC to dump the dredge spoil into the reef waters.

The WWF-Australia, in partnership with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, has also launched a nationwide and international campaign, Fight for the Reef, that educates people about the implication of the large-scale industrialization of Australia’s east coast- more significantly its impact on the world-listed heritage site – the Great Barrier Reef.

PETA lauds India, UK and the finale of animal circus

Baby boomers and Gen Xs may remember the fond memories of going to the circus to see elephants, lions, and bears do their tricks. Gone are those days and, now, new generations may never see such entertainment again. Animal activists say the industry has to close shop soon.

Animal advocates worldwide are crying “enough!” and are calling for a more compassionate world where animals must be treated more sensibly — without violence, pain, and suffering.

Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson promote their movie, Water for Elephants, in Sydney.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia lauds the landmark victories of UK and India, which announced the ban of exotic circus animals.

The UK Government recommended the total ban of wild animals in circuses by 2015, and further review on the classification of circus animals will continue. The government committee said wild animal circuses have become a sunset industry. PETA Australia said this “is a sure indicator that we’re moving closer to an end to the abuse of animals by cruel circuses around the globe.”

A scene from the box office hit, Water for Elephants

Earlier this year, PETA India and Animal Rahat released the results of a nine-month undercover investigation of more than a dozen circuses that travelled across India. PETA Australia described the findings as “shocking”.

Authorised by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), the investigation documented cruelty to elephants. According to the AWBI report, many of the circus operators kept elephants in lamentable conditions: almost constantly chained, routinely and violently abused with bull hooks and other weapons. The Board has produced photographs of animals with open wounds, eye and foot conditions, and other severe medical problems.

The report added that trainers were sometimes drunk while interacting with the animals, and none of the circuses had permanent full-time veterinarians present on the days of inspection as required by Indian law.

An elephant is getting ready to perform at an Indian circus. (Photo: AFP/ News Ltd)

Following headlines of abuse around the world and pressure from animal rights groups, the AWBI confirmed it has “decided to stop registration of elephants for performance … in view of huge cruelties and abuse”. PETA India said this is a move that will effectively mean an end to the captivity of elephants in India’s circuses. It also indicate support for an eventual ban on the use of all animals in circuses in India.

The AWBI is now preparing to seize old and injured elephants named in PETA India’s report for possible rehabilitation.

“This tremendous victory for elephants in India – along with the recent British decision to ban all wild animals in circuses by 2015 – is a sure indicator that we’re moving closer to an end to the abuse of animals by cruel circuses around the globe,” PETA Australia said.

In Australia, there is a strong advocacy against entertainment animals, both nationwide and all across states. One of the studies on Australia’s performing arts industry also confirmed that traditional circuses are part of the dying nomadic settlers’ industry.  ”Australia’s last nomadic settler community and the only travelling entertainment continued its cultural role unabated for over 150 years”, the study said. However, it is time for the industry to give way to the rise of animal activism, as well as to the changes in financial, social and environmental conditions of the time.

Part of the activism is caused by a list of incidents involving Australian circus animals as well as sad tales of elephants in circuses around the world.

At the forefront of the advocacy also include: Animals Australia; Human Society International Australia; RSCPA (Victoria) and other states; and Animal Justice Party, to name a few.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent