The Murray-Darling Basin in inland south-east of Australia is home to the largest river system in the country, covering a seventh of the continent. As well as providing drinking water for 3.2 million Australians, this huge network of streams, creeks and rivers is the habitat for a vast range of plants and animals, including many endangered species.
But a combination of prolonged drought, over-grazing and diversion of water for irrigation has left much of the area's agricultural land arid and unusable. This was the situation for farmer Peter Morton, whose property, Dundomallee Station, is a nine-hour drive west of Sydney. Faced with areas of land that were essentially useless, he took the decision to return one-fifth of the farm to wetlands. With the help of the Australian government, he and his neighbours re-flooded the land with 20 million litres of water.
Paiki Lake, which spans two properties, had been cut off by the river system for 100 years by a levee. Now the lake is teeming with wildlife. Peter has recorded 87 bird species, including 35 wetland birds and five endangered species. Along with his family, Peter is also replanting vegetation such as phragmites (wetland reeds), which in a few years' time will create ideal nesting areas for birds.
Yaara Bou Melhem travels to Dundomallee Station to meet Peter Morton, and finds out what inspired this pragmatic farmer to become an environmentalist.
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