Today, Australia's Labor government used the occasion of World Wetlands Day to slam the former Liberal government for its treatment of the country's 65 wetlands that are officially designated under the Ramsar treaty.
World Wetlands Day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The Ramsar Snapshot Study Report looks at the status and management of all 65 Australian Ramsar sites and assesses the completeness and currency of Ramsar site documentation for Australian Ramsar sites.
The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region is a national park and lagoon ecosystem in South Australia, 156 kilometers southeast of Adelaide. This wetland forms at the terminus of the longest and largest river in Australia, the River Murray. The park is characterized by a complex interaction of sea water, the river water, rainfall and groundwater.
The Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar site and many other Australian wetlands are increasingly drying. The two year period to the end of November 2007 is the lowest Murray System two year inflow period on record, according to a federal government report.
Experts are blaming the drought on climate change. In May 2008, Murray-Darling Basin Commission Chief Executive Dr. Wendy Craik announced the Australian government's conclusion that, "There is growing evidence that lower rainfall and reduced runoff in southeast Australia is linked to climate change."
The federal and South Australia governments have proposed to allow saltwater to flow into the freshwater wetlands through the lower lakes.
In October 2008, the Greens' Senate Inquiry into water management in the Coorong and Lower Lakes found that, "contrary to the federal government's pessimistic view," a total of 60 gigalitres of fresh water by September 2009 is all that is required to provide enough environmental flow to stop Lakes Alexandrina and Albert from drying up and acidifying in the short term.
The Coorong crisis has been building over a long time. In 2005, Nick Roberts of the Victorian National Parks Association said, "Australia has signed the Ramsar treaty to say we would maintain the ecological character of the Coorong as it was in 1985. We are failing this promise."
In his World Wetlands Day message, Environment Minister Garrett blamed the previous government. Of the Snapshot Report, he said, "Page after page highlights the serious ecological and management issues and challenges regarding Australia's Ramsar Convention administration, the failures of the past and suggests a number of areas where implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Australia can be improved."