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The Urunga Wetlands is a heartwarming environmental success story where a piece of natural landscape (decimated by careless production and industry) was reclaimed, remediated and released back into the wild to be shared by a local community.
A mineral processing plant in the late 1960s and early 1970s leaked toxic wastewater into the surrounding wetlands habitat. Arsenic, antimony, mercury, lead and cyanide had caused catastrophic devastation to the area and decades later high levels of the chemicals still remained in water and soil.
The released toxins caused the swamp paperbark melaleucas to die as well as wider damage to the entire habitat particularly for native birds, plants and fish.
The wasted land was originally sold privately but it was beyond the capabilities of the new owner to restore the land into something usable and safe. Transferred to the NSW Government for crown land, various government bodies co-ordinated a successful remediation transforming the wetlands into something, not only functional but beautiful too.
Native birds like Jabirus, Black Swans, Cormorants and Swamp Hens are all returning and the wetlands is now open to the public. It’s a lovely place, and only 15 minutes from my hometown so it was a wonderful place to visit during my trip home to Australia.
We humans are so reckless to our natural environment in our pursuit of material wealth and business undertakings. I’m so happy that we are realising the importance of living in harmony with the natural world and these types of projects inspire us all to be more respectful of nature.
PS: I was also particularly inspired by the 2,490,000 plastic bags diverted from landfill and recycled to create the plastic decking on the boardwalk.
© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine
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