Green activists are expecting to hear the results of a study of the Great Barrier Reef conducted by the joint mission of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The experts visited Australia from March 4-14 to examine the park’s environmental conditions, including investigate alleged manmade threats posed by seam gas exploration projects.

The Great Barreir Reef in Queensland covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres and more than 2300 kilometres long

Greenpeace has nearly completed a signup campaign of 15,000 people while GetUp! intensifies it drive to gather a 75,000-strong petition to stop developmental aggressions.

“Imagine if the Pyramids were being bulldozed or the Grand Canyon mined – the global community would be furious,” GetUp!, a major group of environmental activists, said  in an email loop accessed by the Asian Correspondent.

Last week, the UN team warned the Great Barrier Reef could “die from a thousand cuts” with various threats including growing population, the mining boom, and gas exploration. The team also intended to re-assess the overall outstanding value of the reefs.

Greenpeace Australia conducts an on-site protest against the ongoing gas exploration

The Australian committee of the IUCN has warned of a tenfold increase in shipping on the World Heritage Site associated with existing and proposed port development projects. Much of it will be going through channels within a marine park far narrower than the English Channel, the Crikey claimed.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) approved the project in 2011 allowing  private contractors “to dredge 46 million cubic metres from within the harbour boundaries,  inside the World Heritage area, over the next 20 years…a volume equivalent to 27 Melbourne Cricket Grounds,” GetUp! argued.

News reports claimed the Federal Government and the Queensland State Government approved the project amid strong protests from local residents. Further, they said the United Nations which holds custody to the Heritage Park was not consulted on the project which is a breach of World Heritage guidelines.

Greenpeace welcomes underwater UN investigation

A private law firm for Gladstone commercial fishing businesses warned that the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project has significant long-term environmental impacts on a national scale.

Ridiculous as it may sound, the lawyer’s group said the massive dredging activities occur 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for about 18 months.  It is estimated that 42,300,000 cubic metres of material is to be dredged over the construction phase which cause turbidity plumes in the Port area. Contaminants are also speculated to spread in the Port area which can destroy the Port’s ecosystems.

The lawyers estimated that dredging will cause the direct loss of around 902 ha of benthic habitat (including 258.8 ha of seagrasses).  An additional 5416 ha of benthic habitat (including 1406 ha of seagrasses) may be indirectly lost in the short to medium term. In summary, the group said close to 1,700 hectares of seagrass will likely be lost and 6,300 hectares of benthic habitat likely to be lost.

There are additional obstructions of the northern Western Basin due to construction and increased vessel traffic, including massive dredges may impede the migratory pathways of marine fauna using The Narrows and the entire Port Curtis region, the lawyers claimed.

In 2011, a three-week fishing ban was imposed around the Gladstone area after sightings of fishes infected by unknown disease. Barramundi, for instance, were reported to have suffered from ‘sore’ and ‘cloudy’ eyes, while other fish appeared deformed and had bruises.

Fishes around the Gladstone port are found sick or dead.

The project is a partnership venture between Santos, Petronas, Total, and KOGAS. Santos is Australia’s largest domestic gas producer while PETRONAS is Malaysia’s national oil and gas company and the second largest LNG producer in the world. French energy major, Total, on the other hand, is the world’s fifth largest publicly traded integrated international oil and gas company; and South Korea’s KOGAS is the world’s largest buyer of LNG.

The partners announced the Gladstone Liquified Natural Gas (GLNG) project creates more than 5000 jobs during construction and about 1000 ongoing positions in the operational phase. They added that the project stimulates businesses and employment opportunities in the Gladstone and Roma regions through increased demand for goods and services.

Santos builds a LNG export facility in Gladstone for commercialised QLD seam gas resources. The facility is expected to  produce 3-4 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of LNG with future potential expansion to nominal 10 Mpta. The project is consists of CSG field development; gas transmission pipeline construction; and LNG liquefaction and export facility development.

Marine lives under threat

The facility – built on Curtis Island (Hamilton Point area) – is close to the industrial deepwater port of Gladstone. The Project sources gas from Santos CSG fields around the Comet Ridge and Roma project areas, with gas being transported to the Gladstone LNG facility via subsurface 425 km gas transmission pipeline. Santos is planned to drill and complete the development wells to supply 53000 petajoules (PJ) (140 billion3) of CSG to the proposed LNG facility. There are about 600 wells to be dug prior to 2015 and 1400 or more wells after 2015 (excluding exploration wells). Installation of related infrastructures are constructed including access roads, accommodation camps, water gathering networks, water management facilities, in-field gas gathering networks (to transport gas from the wells to the field compression stations, gas compression stations and pipeline compressor stations).

The gas transmission corridor is 425 km long underground gas transmission pipeline corridor will accommodate one or more pipelines for the delivery of fas from the CSG resouces to the facilty. Transmission pipelines nominal diametere 650-800 mm.

Comparative size of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres — the equivalent size of Italy or Japan, more than 2300 kilometres long. It extends to the low water mark on the mainland coast along northern Australia. It Includes more than 3000 separate coral reefs, some 900 islands and all the waters within the outer boundaries of the Marine Park.

It is designated as national park in 1975 and listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its invaluable historical and cultural assets in 1981.

The UN report will be presented to the World Heritage Committee in June, which will then decide whether to list the reef as a World Heritage Site in Danger.