Three Days Trip to Deniliquin NSW

Farm view from the bus

On Sunday, 14 August, 2011; our bus left Melbourne at 10:30 am, with 20 Cambodian participants, three facilitators and organizer. It is time for us to see the Australian landscape along the way. I have made many photos since everything is new to me. We made a short break by stopping to see one canal of the irrigation scheme. We had lunch along the way in Echuca, at around 13:30pm. We visited the historical town at Murray River and port, former timber/wood cutting area and regional trade hub between rivers residents (three rivers). Finally, we arrived in the small town Deniliquin at 17:30pm. After
check-in and a short break, we went for dinner at 18:30pm, at RSL Club/restaurant.

We could observe that there are large farms, with cattle and sheep rising since there are lots of grasses. The landscape is quite similar to the one in Mondulkiri province. In some places, it is rain fed and plain area with small mountains. Our facilitator informed us, that 100-130 years ago, there were thick forests in these areas, but it was then cleared by the first Europeans to gain land for agriculture, to grow crops or to just own it. In addition, the red gum trees were cut for commercial purposes. Australian farmer owns huge land, 600 to 800 ha, per family.

Large farm land

In some areas, the weather condition is similar to Europe, cold and dry, with some rains and some snow only on the tops of the mountains. The water will be usually harvested in the reservoirs using dams and irrigation canals to bring water to the fields. We are told that water becomes very scarce now. 30-40 years ago it was still o.k. There is a very strong water law in Australia. Farmers need to get license to dig ponds or extract ground water. It is very strictly controlled. Ponds, wells and canals are registered in centralized GIS systems. Our facilitator describes this country as “a land with drought and rain without stop”. From 2002 to 2009, there was a long period of serious drought. Then, in 2010-11 there were rains without stop which caused severe flooding in some of the states.

Irrigation canal

Since Australia has lost a lot forests and trees; some 30-40 years, the government, the people and the community have begun to rethink about the environment and its protection. Organization such as Landcare starts to work with local people and local government to replant trees and put forward initiatives to preserve the natural environment and its water resources. Some of the initiatives are as follows:

– Government funds programs to raise awareness of people relating to the sustainability of the environment

– Local people are encouraged to plant more trees and it will be protected at the farm level, the state level and at the federal level

– Farmers need to get permission to cut trees on own farms. It is though quite difficult to get permission

– Rice is not allowed to grow in Victoria, since rice needs a lot of water to grow. In NSW it would be ok

– Programs to enlarge the population of native fishes, wild birds and the native vegetation etc

The situation of irrigation in the state of Victoria:

– Around 10% of land surfaces is irrigated

Irrigated land produces around 40% agricultural products

– 1 ML costs normally around 50 $A, 1 ML=1,000 cubic meter

Recently, there are efforts by state are federal government to renew irrigation schemes
to ensure effective water flow by:

  • Using solar energy to operate gate and water flume
  • Farmer can order water by using lap top/PC to the dam/reservoir committee. The request will be detected by the central computer (60 Km away). The water release will be done automatically via remote control
  • The amount of water is calculated by the meter operated by the solar power. The precision is up to 0.1 ml
  • Secondary canal is several hundred kilometers
  • Company invented the new technology by working in China and now it hast installed around 10,000 systems
  • Farmers build quaternary canal by themselves, but do need permission to do so
  • Farmers organized in cooperative
  • Farmers use three sources of water for irrigation: Rain on his farm, ground water and river basin water
  • Farmers pay land taxes which go to the local government. Income taxes are collected by the federal government, which will be redistributed to state and local
    government.

High tech regulated outlet

Deniliquin is a very Australian city, with very flat housing and large city roads. It is a quite quiet town with very few shops along the (main) road, one or two opened on Sunday. The first settlement was dated back to 1859. I took the opportunity to walk and jog in the early morning, from 6:15 to 7:30 am. It is quite cold and I need to dress warm and walk very fast. After the exercise, I have shower, coffee, breakfast and proceed to meet at 8:45 in group before going by bus to meet concerned authorities and visit the fields. We have spent three nights in this small and beautiful city. We heard three presentations and went to visit the fields of the Murray Catchment Authority (MCA), the Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL) and the Rice Research Australia (RRA). It was a joyful time and memorable experiences with insight information concerning integrated water resource management (IWRM), especially what we should consider to be applicable in the Cambodian context.

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