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The Spectre at the Feast: The Emergence of Salt in Victoria's Irrigated Districts

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Salinity in Victoria's irrigated districts can be understood as the result not only of environmental predisposition and technological inadequacies, but of a prevailing political philosophy which considered irrigation as a social and economic good per se. Victorian authorities (governments and water institutions), anxious to secure the state's economic prosperity and to encourage the establishment of independent family smallholdings, tended to underestimate the actual and potential severity of salinity problems, and to blame their development on the farming practices of individual landholders rather than on systemic failure. Their dismissal of farmers' concerns as 'ignorance' and their tardiness in implementing remedial measures in salt-affected areas were indicative not only of the restrictions imposed by insufficient knowledge, primitive technologies, and limited finances, but also of official resistance to the challenging of 'progress-through-irrigation' narratives. The salinity problems experienced today in many of Victoria's irrigated districts therefore reflect the long-term consequences of a broadly progress-oriented philosophy of natural resource management.
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Keywords: Victoria Australia; irrigation; natural resource management; progress; salinity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 0.698. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.806.
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