Review Of Documentary "Muddy Waters" On Sedimentation On The Great Barrier Reef In Australia.

1001 words - 4 pages

MUDDY WATERS by Sally Ingleton(Shown 20th May on SBS)The documentary Muddy Waters provides an insight into the sedimentation on the Great Barrier Reef between Cairns and Townsville and how it is destroying the reef. However, though the movie does try to portray opposing sides of the debate as to what is causing this sedimentation, many fundamental issues to the problem have been avoided or underplayed.The video stated heavy metals as one of the causes of the sedimentation and "marine snow" on the Great Barrier Reef but failed to mention what heavy metals are or which heavy metals are thought to be contaminating the reef. This heavy metals argument was used a lot in attacking cane farmers but very little information was actually given on the subject. Contaminant heavy metals may enter the environment by a variety of human activities, not only cane farming. Such things as land fills or even galvanized roofing can contribute to a rise in levels of heavy metals in sediments.Heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, copper, and zinc occur naturally in sediment. The problem is distinguishing what are the expected natural levels of the substances, what is from human sources and what, if any, are risks to the environment. CRC research has shown that some naturally occurring metals, such as cadmium, build up higher levels of concentration over time by natural processes. This means that the natural levels of metals in some sediments may even be higher than levels measured in contaminated sediments, a situation that makes it more complicated for environmental managers to recognise and evaluate risks to the environment.Despite the documentary it has been shown that the Great Barrier Reef itself is not under the most threat of heavy metal contamination derived from Townsville. The areas most prone to contamination are estuarine and intertidal zones, which act as a trap for muddy sediments and pollutants. Refuse tips, storm water runoff from built up areas, and industrial sites close to these vulnerable areas are typical sources for heavy metals, points which were entirely omitted from the film.The documentary also focussed on cane farms as the sole perpetrators of adding fertilisers and pesticides to the reef through runoff and soil erosion through their irrigation drains. However thousands of tonnes of nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilisers, used on banana and cotton farms, were also being washed into the sea and poisoning marine life. Banana farms were only briefly and ineffectually brought up and cotton farms were not even mentioned in the film. Beef and dairy cattle grazing farms were also not discussed as possible causes of flood plumes and pollution. Cattle grazing accounts for 83 percent of land use in catchment regions draining into or near the Great Barrier Reef area and farms with some 4.9 million cattle depositing 18 million tonnes of sediment a year. Despite the impression given in the video, crops accounted for only 1.13 percent of land use in...

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