Green groups in New Zealand are furious and have called on the government to urgently step in and protect the nation’s freshwater springs and lakes from plans to extract millions of litres of water out of a Unesco world heritage site for bottling for foreign markets.
Export company Alpine Pure, has proposed collecting 800m litres of the “untapped” glacial waters of Lake Greaney and Lake Minim Mere per month then send it by pipe to the coast, from where it will be shipped to foreign markets for bottling.
The company would pump the water 20km downhill through an underground pipeline to a reservoir at Jackson Bay on the West Coast where it would be processed before being sent through a two-kilometre pipeline laid on the seafloor to a mooring where 100,000-tonne tanker ships would be waiting to transport it in bulk to overseas markets in India, China, and the Middle East.
The mountainous dams are fed by rainfall on the Southern Alps, and the company already has permission to extract the water, which it calls “untouched by man,” and is currently going through the process of getting resource consent from the Westland District Council for the pipeline.
Environmentalists are furious and have warned that New Zealand is giving away its most precious natural resource for free, at a time when domestic water supplies are increasingly subject to contamination scares.
Alpine Pure claims that it would only be taking a fraction of the water that falls as rain on the Southern Alps.
Bruce Nisbet, managing director, had this to say: “We’ve had a lot of interest in this proposal from overseas companies, and a couple of times we’ve started chilling the champagne. Pristine water has been falling on the Southern Alps for a million years, and it would usually be wasted by flowing directly out to sea. The amount we want to take is very small.”
Amid growing anger globally that multinational companies are drawing millions of litres of water from ancient underground aquifers for next to nothing, environmentalists set up a petition calling for an immediate halt to bottled water exports that was signed by 15,000 people and delivered to parliament.
Jen Branje, the founder of protest group Bung the Bore which initiated the petition to parliament, said the government must halt the practice. “We want a ban on all bottled water exports until we have legislation in place to protect this resource. Currently it is being given away willy-nilly for free and it is depleting our own reserves and that shouldn’t be happening.”
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