A recent report published in Nature Sustainability provides a thorough examination of the approval process for Adani’s underground water licence. The authors are some of Australia's leading water experts. They examine the evidence from all parties and show that there is still significant uncertainty about the water source of the ancient Doongmabulla Springs and 150 associated wetlands.
The assessment process was political from the start. The federal environment minister's approval came just hours before the government went into caretaker mode for the 2019 election. At the time, the Queensland environment minister commented that the decision "reeks of political interference". The federal minister had come under intense pressure from within the government to approve the water plan even though it wasn't complete. Mackay Conservation Group's concern was that the pre-election federal sign off on the water license was a rushed decision that didn't permit a full examination of the scientific evidence.
The Morrison government was subsequently returned, with some commentators insisting that the win could be attributed to the governments support for the Adani project in Central Queensland.
After that the Queensland Government lost its nerve. The Premier said she was "fed up" with waiting for the Queensland Environment Department to sign off on the project and imposed a short deadline for the assessment to be completed. This process failed to account for the scientific merits of documents assessing the impact of the mine and the risk the project would pose to the ancient, environmentally and culturally significant Doongmabulla Springs.
The article is extremely critical of the process saying that the decisions were made for political expedience and disregarded the evidence that the Adani mine is a significant threat to the springs.
Environmentally campaigners have long known that there are no real protection for endangered species or environmentally significant places or ecosystems. The environmental protections too often end up being decided by ministerial discretion, ignoring public opinion, departmental advice or any other protections that legislation or regulation is supposed to afford our natural heritage.