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Australia's mighty river runs dry

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 02:05s - Published < > Embed
Australia's mighty river runs dry

Australia's mighty river runs dry

In the grip of the deepest drought in a century, Australia's longest waterway, if tributaries are included, has run dry.

Despair is turning to anger as residents blame the government for exacerbating the drought by draining the river in 2017 to irrigate farmland downstream.

Michelle Hennessy reports.


Australia's mighty river runs dry

(SOUNDBITE) (English) BARKINDJI ABORIGINAL ELDER, PATRICIA DOYLE, SAYING: "That was our food source, with the river, it was our water source.

It was our livelihood, we need that water and we still need it today." Australia's Darling river is dying.

So too are the animals, and communities that depend on it.

It was once one of Australia's longest waterways.

But this small town of around 500 people, is facing its worst drought since records began.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) BARKINDJI ARTIST, EDDY HARRIS, SAYING: "For thousands of years our people looked after this river and you know, it's alive and to see it like this now -- not running -- it just puts a bad feeling through everyone that lives along the river, black and white." Nearly a third of Menindee's residents are indigenous.

The river is at the heart of their creation stories and cultural life.

It was also essential for agriculture, but now - all sides are suffering.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF THE SUNSET STRIP PROGRESS ASSOCIATION, PETER COX, SAYING: "Before, especially on weekends like this, we would have, sometimes we would have 70 golfers, the place is just humming.

Now we are lucky to get, sort of half a dozen people up here now, and yeah, it has just killed the place." After years of despair, thirst is turning to anger.

Residents blame the government for exacerbating the drought.

The river was drained during 2017's flood season to irrigate farmland.

Authorities set up a panel to review water management.

But the drought is still weighing on economic growth.

Farmers say they're harvesting their last crop.

Some residents pray for the river's health.

The Aboriginal communities hold healing festivals All of them hope to grab lawmakers' attention about their plight.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) BARKINDJI ABORIGINAL ELDER, PATRICIA DOYLE, SAYING: "When you live on a river and you have to have water brought into your town to drink and survive on, what's that saying?

It's saying that, our systems through the government isn't looked after properly.

They just take, take, take, and they are just bleeding Australia for all its natural resources."

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