Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dredging, what's it all about?

If you need to get around the big country of Australia you need some sort of infrastructure. We have roads that crisscross the continent that emanate from the country towns and interstate to the cities from the cities and ports to overseas destinations. 

On the land the transport is usually by train or by road. On the sea transport uses port channels to pick up and move goods and people. 

Whether they are made from sand, dirt, rubble, asphalt or metal these connecting pathways need to first be built and then maintained. In both sorts, land and sea, there is a major change to the landscape and the environment. The most dramatic change is at the start of new projects however they must also be progressively maintained with subsequent collateral impacts. 

Rail and roads plow through forests and cut through mountain passes disrupting wildlife corridors. Although hats are off to the few states that build the occasional wildlife bridge over or underpass. 

We don't seem to pay a great deal of attention to what is being transported on land eg. logs, minerals, gas or crops, unless they cause traffic congestion for other users. However we all care about our beautiful land and sea and need to be more aware of how big changes to our landscape can have a rolling effect, including dredging.

With the current low environmental effect of shipping (2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions) including the statistically low numbers of infrequent but distressing events like oil spills and new port infrastructure, dredging is largely merely a maintenance issue.

Ports Australia give insights in two reports that should be taken into account within any dredging debate:

2. Temperate ports 

Largely overlooked in the dredging debate is that new ports are built as a result of demand for goods. New ports are built closest to their market place. The big question, in respect of dredging, may relate to whether the products being imported or exported are justified in a triple bottom line context (environment/social/economic balance).

For instance Australia exports non-renewable fossil fuels by sea. Do we have other export choices that may not require new ports near vulnerable sea areas. The real cost of energy article (relying on renewable energy or non-renewable) by Huffpost can be viewed as an information resource here.

Through all of these reports and debate one primary underlying question remains...does the environment hold an equal weight in the triple bottom line equation?

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