Million dead fish cause stench in Australia
Due to drought, millions of fish died in Australia
It is believed that as many as a million fish have died along the banks of a large river system in the drought-damaged East of Australia, and the authorities warned Monday for even more deaths.
The banks of the Murray-Darling Rivers are dotted with rotten fish, with civil servants putting the number of deaths in hundreds of thousands and saying that the toll is probably closer to a million.
Further predicted high temperatures for this week could make the situation worse, the New South Wales government warned.
Low water conditions and heat may also have promoted algae blooms that starve the oxygen of the fish and produce toxins.
"We expect to kill more fish this week in parts of the far west and the northern plateaus," said State Secretary Niall Blair.
The deaths have become a national issue, giving rise to angry accusations about the cause and which is responsible.
"It's a devastating ecological event," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday, pointing to apocalyptic scenes. "The pure visual image of this is just terribly shocking," he said.
The Morrison government has blamed the fishing mortality due to droughts and defended policies that some locals say have caused the systemic exhaustion and pollution of the river system.
"There is drought and this is one of the effects of drought, there are many and my focus on drought is not shifted an inch," Morrison said.
But for years, scientists have been warning people who are extracting huge amounts of water without checking for irrigation or other applications, thereby undermining billions of dollars in investment.
"Dead fish and dying rivers are not because of the drought, but because we get too much water from our river," says John Williams, an expert in water economics at the Australian National University.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten called on the government to set up an "emergency team" to tackle the problem.
"You can not ignore a million dead fish, that is a shocking development," Shorten said.
Morrison stressed that the management plan for the Murray-Darling Basin was twofold, adding that his government only followed the policy of the opposition Labor government.
"I am worried today that some may want to play politics," he said.
"There were reports done by scientists under the Labor contribution to that plan in 2012 and the plan functioned according to that advice."
Scientists demand that politicians be called to account.
"Billions have been spent on upgrading the irrigation infrastructure," said Quentin Grafton, also from the Australian National University, "but without public utility."
"It is a disgrace and it is time that those responsible are held responsible for this unfolding disaster."
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