The following letter to the editor from Rivers SOS was published in the Lithgow Mercury, 4th Dec 2010:
Last weekend Rivers SOS held a quarterly regional meeting in Lithgow. Rivers SOS is an alliance of 46 environment and community groups, as well as many individuals, across NSW, who are all united with the one aim to protect the integrity of river systems and water sources from the impacts of mining and other extractive industries.
Having seen, while we were there, the front page story of the Mercury (Nov. 25), “Mines or Swamps”, we feel compelled to respond. The story implied that it was a bad thing that swamps were getting in the way of coal mining. There was no balance in the article to explain why our governments, both State and Federal, consider swamps important enough to have protected status. The article seemed to be dismissive of swamps as being a nuisance, with no values.
Swamps and other wetlands are threatened nationally and indeed globally. The ecological values of swamps are many but principally, upland swamps serve as the headwaters of river systems. They collect and store rainfall like great sponges and release it slowly and steadily over time to form the base flow for the rivers that they feed. That is why rivers continue to flow, even in dry times. If you value rivers you must value swamps – they are integral parts of the same system.
On Sunday we toured the Lithgow area and witnessed some shocking examples of past and current mining impacts, including gaping crevasses, massive cliff falls and cracked pagodas. Many of these past impacts were also to the unique local upland swamps known as Newnes Plateau Shrub Swamps which are now protected under Federal legislation.
Whilst on the one hand being shocked and saddened by the damage, we were at the same time amazed and excited by the natural beauty of the area. It would seem that Lithgow has much to offer with its wealth of history and its fortunate situation, surrounded by a natural wonderland.
We sincerely hope that in the future, when coal mining has gone the way of other obsolete industries, the natural wonders of the Lithgow area will still be there, to sustain the town and the environment for a very long time.