Conservationists have today issued a warning to the cotton industry that large-scale cotton operations in the Northern Territory will be met with strong community opposition.

“Big Cotton has been rejected by Territorians for many years because it failed to make money, presents major risks to the environment and degrades our everyday enjoyment of our iconic rivers,” said Jason Fowler from the Environment Centre NT.

“We know that the cotton industry wants to establish large-scale operations in the Northern Territory.  If this is allowed to proceed, we’ll see bushland bulldozed and water extracted from already stretched supplies.  A recent consultant’s report flagged the industry wants to create nearly 150,000 hectares of cotton, including 22,000 hectares of irrigated cotton. ”

“With every swimming pool full of water you take out of a Territory river or floodplain, there is less breeding of Barra and prawns.  Territory fishers know that the big catches come after big wet seasons, because those big flows inundate the floodplains and bring down important nutrients and freshwater.”

“An independent assessment by the prestigious Australian Academy of Science assessed that the horrific mass fish kills along the Darling River last year were caused by over-extraction of water by irrigation upstream, stripping water from the river which was already impacted by drought.  Many of these fish were decades old, and had obviously survived previous droughts.”

“As organised now this is an unsustainable industry that benefits very few and does not create large numbers of local jobs. Big cotton companies have already outlined in reports to the government that they are looking for large subsidies. For these industries to survive, they need large crops and huge infrastructure.”

“If large-scale cotton is allowed to take a foothold in the Top End, our fishing lifestyle, tourism jobs and cultural heritage will be at risk. The facts are simple – more irrigation from massive crops like cotton results in fewer fish, unhealthy rivers and destroyed ecosystems.”

“We can’t let our iconic rivers like the Daly, Adelaide and Roper be degraded and destroyed as has happened to the Darling River, and other rivers in southern Australia.  Until the cotton industry can make the Darling and Murray Rivers healthy again they shouldn’t be allowed to move into our rivers in the Territory,” said Mr. Fowler.

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