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The new Great Barrier Reef pollution plan is better, but still not good enough

Jon Brodie and colleagues write in The Conversation (1.9.17) that the updated joint government plan for improving water quality on the Great Barrier Reef still doesn’t address the need to curb intensively farmed crops such as sugar cane, and to enforce existing environmental laws.

‘The draft water quality improvement plan, released by the federal and Queensland governments this week, aims to reduce the pollution flowing from water catchments to the Great Barrier Reef over the next five years. It is part of the overarching Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan to protect and manage the reef until mid-century.

‘Water quality is one of the biggest threats to the reef’s health, but the new guidelines still fall short of what’s required, given the available scientific evidence.

‘The draft plan, which is open for comment until October, presents several important and commendable advances in the management of water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. It addresses all land-based sources of water pollution (agricultural, urban, public lands and industrial) and includes social, cultural and economic values for the first time.

‘The principal sources of pollution are nitrogen loss from fertiliser use on sugar cane lands, fine sediment loss from erosion on grazing lands, and pesticide losses from cropping lands. These are all major risk factors for the Great Barrier Reef.’

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