Thursday, April 19, 2007
"It is a grim situation and there is no point in pretending to Australia otherwise. We must all hope and pray there is rain." That is Australian Prime Minister John Howard speaking at a press conference in Canberra yesterday, addressing the issue of water scarcity in his country after 10 years of persistent drought. The worst dry spell in at least a century has left the Murray-Darling River Basin, which normally provides 85 percent of the country's irrigation supply and 41 percent of its agriculture, with only enough water for critical use in cities and towns. Howard said that, unless rains come soon, there will be no irrigation supply for much of the country's farmland. Many crops, including cotton and rice, have already collapsed under the strain and more sectors, such as wine grapes and dairy, face potential catastrophe. "This is very much in the lap of the gods," Mr. Howard said.