Sandquarries and motorways
Sand quarries and motorways are a contentious issue. People need shelter and to be able to move about. But extracting sand for building, and building roads for transport, causes massive damage to the environment. Surface destruction is dangerous to animals caught in its path. Destruction below the surface interferes with groundwater and can be devastating.
We require over-land transport so we need motorways
People need to get from place to place and to move goods from place to place. It is hard to imagine how we would maintain our lifestyles without our roads. In fact, people are constantly lobbying for straighter, longer, wider, faster and more roads to deal with our increasing need to move and transport food, raw materials and manufactured goods overland between cities and States.
Our need to make roads safer for people and to reduce travel time demands that the roads be wider, straighter and of better surface quality. We increasingly look to build or widen highways so traffic can bypass towns, replacing existing major roads with freeways. In achieving this we replace more and more natural ground surface with road surface, we cut through natural obstacles instead of going around them, we enable trucks, cars and bikes to drive faster, we get more vehicles on the roads, and we need more sand to build the roads with.
We require sand
Walkabout Park's neighbours are Rocla Quarries and the M1 (F3) Motorway between Sydney and Brisbane.
According to Rocla's website at http://quarry.rocla.com.au/nsw/, Rocla operates significant sand extraction throughout New South Wales. The Calga quarry is a major supplier of fine washed sand, specifically graded for blending in premixed concrete and yellow and off-white brick laying mortar sands. Rocla Quarries supplies sand to its sister company, Rocla Products, to make concrete products for various commercial and residential developments plus major infrastructure projects. However, Rocla is not the only supplier of sand, and sand is not in short supply in Australia. The Calga location in Peats Ridge Road is particularly attractive to Rocla because they can avoid transport costs because it is ideally positioned so they can quickly reach the Sydney and Central Coast markets.
Minimising transport time means maximising profits. Rocla is wholly owned by an international, New Zealand based company called Fletcher New Zealand, so their profits do not benefit ordinary Australians.
In fact, it would be better for ordinary Australians if Rocla did NOT run such a profitable quarry. If they spent more money on their quarrying process and transport, they would be spending it in Australia and Australian individuals and organisations would benefit from being part of the process.
The way we build our houses and roads today, sand is an essential material. There are alternative building techniques available that can reduce our need for sand, and alternative sand extraction techniques that can reduce the impact of sand quarrying on the environment, but because of many reasons including cost, skills, logistics and 'short termism', traditional techniques prevail.
Negative impacts of sand QUARRIEs and MOTORways
Sand quarrying and motorways are essential to meet people's needs for shelter and transport.
Plants, natural ground formations and water sources provide essential habitat for animals to meet their needs for shelter, food and the means to move from place to place displaces animals.
- Surface destruction is dangerous to animals that may be caught in its path.
- Surface destruction destroys plants which interferes with levels of oxygen on which all life is dependent because we need plants for photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.
- Surface destruction through sandmining and freeway construction occurs over a very short period of time so there is no opportunity for animals to evolve to adjust to changes in the environment.
A less obvious but inarguably the most serious consequence of sand quarrying is water consumption. Techniques used to extract and process sand in places like Calga require massive amounts for water for the extraction and crushing and washing of the materials.
- Sand quarries around Calga rely on subterranean water supplies from underground water storage areas - the aquifers.
- Although sand quarries are allowed to tap into aquifers (ancient subterranean collections of water that accumulate over thousands of years) which, to put it colloquially, "is nuts"!
- The consequences of tapping into aquifers has not been well researched but it is not unreasonable to speculate that, in a land like Australia where water supplies are so scarce, the consequence - whether for current or for future generations - must be significant.
- Because these water sources are not visible, people often don't realise the extent of the water consumption.
- Many residents around sand quarries claim reduction in the water table shown by reduced bore water pressure, although it is difficult to prove that any reduction in flows is not coincidental rather than as a direct result of sand quarries consumption.
Cutting off animal corridors and migration paths.
- Motorways especially interrupt animal corridors, cutting off migration paths and access to food, water and shelter.
- Animals attempting to cross-roads are frequently killed as evidenced by the large numbers of dead animals on Australian roads every day.
Balancing our short term requirements with our need to survive in the long term
Sand quarries and roads have become critical to our survival over time. The way we live today, we can't just stop sand quarries, road building and road use.
But, equally, people need a balanced natural environment to ensure our long term survival and quality of life for generations to come - bottom line is we need a world around us for us to survive in.
The argument for nature conservation is seen by some to be too emotional to be credible. But let's just objectively examine some facts.
- We need plants for photosynthesis to maintain oxygen levels.
- We need plants as an essential food source.
- Most people eat meat and rely on animals as a food source.
- We rely on balanced food chains in nature comprising plants and animals to ensure sustainable food sources. The elements in most food chains include animals and plants that most people don't actually eat, like spiders and fungi.
- Cows without grass or a suitable alternative to feed them will not survive.
- Crops without insects or suitable alternatives to pollinate them will not survive.
- And there's not just the food chains to worry about. What about natural predators and balanced populations? Most pests around the world, whether plant or animal, have become pests because they don't have natural predators - whether because the predators have become extinct due to environmental changes, or because people have translocated the animals or plants to an environment where their natural predators can't survive even if they are introduced.
- Causing plants and animals to become extinct potentially removes natural predators from the environment making it likely that currently useful plants and animals may become pests.
Is it reasonable to expect that we can replace all extinct plants and animals or necessary predators that play a role in the cycle of life with some kind of laboratory solution? Common sense says that preserving plants and animals, protecting threatened species, and avoiding rapid changes to our environment which occur too quickly for people, animals and plants to adapt to, is essential for our survival.
Minimising the damage done by sand quarries and motorways
Off-shore sandmining from undersea shelves eg off Sydney's southern beaches are one possible solution to reduce the destructive effects of sandmining, providing it can be determined that this technique will produce lower environmental damage than on-shore mining does (we must make sure that it is not just a case of 'if we can't see it it's not doing any damage').
- One advantage of undersea sandmining is it does not consume water to the extent that surface mining does.
- A disadvantage of undersea sandmining is it is more expensive than surface mining.
Green corridors, bridges and subways
In Canada and other countries, large scale projects to develop green corridor bridges and subways for animals to cross roads safely have been developed, and animals increasingly use these to safely cross from one side to the other. Not all species of animals are able to work out how to use these corridors, but they do save animal lives.
Most Australians know to check the pouches of animals killed on our roads to rescue young joeys. Australian mammals are predominantly marsupials. The young leave the uterus after a very short time and then complete their development in the mother's pouch. Well developed young may survive a road accident which kills the mother and, if rescued and taken to a trained carer, may be hand raised and then successfully rehabilitated into the wild.