The Rivers in Trouble

BELO MONTE: a complex of dams built in defiance of Human Rights

BELO MONTE: a complex of dams built in defiance of Human Rights
The Belo Monte dam will be the third largest in the world. It follows that the construction of the Jirau built on the Madeira River. Belo Monte will inundate 668 km2 of which 400 km2 of primary forest in indigenous territories. 20,000 people will be displaced and at least 24 people will undergo a change in lifestyle associated with the depletion of their food resources.
Belo Monte paves the way for other infringements of the green lung of our planet as it is for Brazil not only a source of domestic energy, but also a source of supply for new mines, for example gold mine Belo Sun has announced its opening in late 2012.
Its construction has been the subject of numerous complaints nationally and internationally, and has been condemned repeatedly.
Among the human rights violations perpetrated by the consortium in charge of the construction of Belo Monte, arethe lack of free, prior and informed consent of local indigenous communities and not taking into account the presence, near the site of dam of uncontacted tribes extremely vulnerable to external contacts that will be directly affected by the impacts of the project. In addition, the environmental destruction that will generate the Jirau dam has a significant impact on the communities along the Madeira Basin - shared by Brazil, Bolivia and Peru - by flooding the forests, destroying fish stocks and irreversibly destroying the livelihoods of local populations.
The lack of consultation is one of the main points that the activist Azelene Kaingang had hoped to address the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2011 in New York. Kaingang is a sociologist accredited by the forum, Vice-Chair of Aboriginal OAS and was an official of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) for several years. A few days before leaving for the event Kaingang learned she would not be sent to the Forum. In an interview on June 6, she explained why FUNAI prevented his departure and why she opposes the construction of the Belo Monte dam."FUNAI is an agency of government," "Who's afraid of the truth ... who does not want the truth about Belo Monte "she said. "I am opposed to this, (...) because the Brazilian state violates an important component of its international commitment to work which states that indigenous peoples have the right to be consulted once affected by this type of project. I oppose this because I'm Aboriginal, because I am opposed to violence committed against indigenous peoples ... I am opposed to this because indigenous peoples are part of the Brazilian state and as such should be properly consulted and must participate in the development of the country, which is also ours. I oppose this because the state endangers the lives and cultures of indigenous peoples, while causing unprecedented environmental destruction. '

Kaingang also noted that it was ironic that while the government began a national campaign against poverty "... it impoverishes Aboriginal forcing them to leave their land and their traditional lifestyles. '

The same critics are now issued by the international community vis-à-vis the Brazilian government on the Belo Monte dam . He is accused by the Federal Justice of Para, the Brazilian Supreme Court, the IACHR by the UN and the ILO to finally act against the Constitution of Brazil, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Convention No. 169 of the ILO and the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indeed, no consultation worthy of the name, or no consent was obtained from the indigenous peoples affected by the dam, no preventive measures were taken for a dozen tribes some of whom live in autarky in the basin Xingu River and environmental impact studies have been botched.

- By Valerie Sheds - 

Threatening the heart of the Amazon rainforest, BELO MONTE dam is our future. 

Sign the petition Cacique Raoni


'The Last Bit of Paradise': Giant Dam Threatens Brazilian Rainforest
By Jonathan Stock in Altamira, Brazil

Representatives from indigenous tribes and environmental groups protest the...

The construction of a giant dam in the Amazon region of Brazil is threatening parts of the world's largest rainforest. But the indigenous tribes living here are keeping quiet in return for millions of dollars in promises.

They search for dead meat, and rummage through the trash. They come from the forest and live on the city's waste. They're called "urubus" in northern Brazil, black vultures with curved beaks and lizard-like heads.

The old people say the birds bring bad luck. There are now thousands in the city of Altamira, more than ever before. They blacken the sky when seen from a distance, and at closer range their silence is unsettling. Black vultures, lacking the vocal organ found in birds, the syrinx, rarely make any noise at all.
"The urubus," says Bishop Erwin Kräutler, "are an unmistakable sign that the city is in chaos." Kräutler, a native Austrian, is the bishop of one of the world's large prelatures, which is larger than Germany. He talks about chaos, speaking into every camera that's pointed at him, and he speaks loudly -- too loudly for the big landowners, the corporations and the government. His enemies have placed a bounty on the bishop's head for the equivalent of almost €400,000 ($543,000), and even the largest newspaper in northern Brazil wrote that it was time to "eliminate" him.
Bishop Kräutler is now 73. He's been living in Altamira, on the edge of the rainforest and in the middle of the Amazon region, for almost 50 years. For the last 30 years, he has been fighting the construction of the dam directly adjacent to the city, a project that is financially lucrative for many in the area.
He and his friends from environmental organizations advise the victims, file lawsuits against government agencies and plan rallies. He has spoken with prosecutors and the country's supreme court, has met with the president twice and was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize, but all to little avail.

Hydro dams could jeopardise 'Grand Canyon of the east', say green groups
Dams on China's last free-flowing river could harm ecosystems, displace people, and cause catastrophic seismic events

 in Beijing

Spring view of the Nujiang River (Nu river or Salween River)near Liuku in Lisu, Yunnan, China

Scientists warn that building new dams in seismically active south-west China could expose residents to increased risks of landslides, mudslides and earthquakes. Photograph: Qin Qing/Corbis
Chinese environmental groups warn that government plans for a slew of hydroelectric dams on the pristine Salween (Nu) river – often called the Grand Canyon of the east for its deep valleys and sweeping views – could jeopardise biodiverse ecosystems and indigenous cultures, and lead to potentially catastrophic seismic events.

China's state council released a notice last week revealing plans to proceed with over 60 new hydroelectric projects on three major rivers under the government's 12th five-year plan, from 2011 to 2015. Four of the projects lie on the upper reaches of the Salween.

Plans to build a cascade of 13 dams on the Salween – China's last free-flowing river – stalled nearly a decade ago under opposition from environmental groups and outgoing premier Wen Jiabao, an ostensible populist and trained geologist.

Five projects are being developed by the state-owned Huadian Group, according to the California-based NGO International Rivers. The company produces about 10% of China's power and is directly administered by a state council commission. Chinese environmental authorities have long considered hydropower an antidote to the country's overwhelming reliance on coal.

Fish unable to pass through dams in U.S. presents 'cautionary tale' for developing world

Jeremy Hance
January 17, 2013

Aerial view of Merrimack river system. Photo by: Doc Searls.
Aerial view of Merrimack river system. Photo by: Doc Searls.

Dams create a largely impenetrable barrier for fish even when the dams were installed with specially-built passages, according to a new study inConservation Letters. The scientists found that migrating fish largely failed to use the passages in the U.S., resulting in far fewer moving through the state-of-the-art hydroelectric dams than had been promised. The researchers say that their findings are a "cautionary tale" for developing nations.

"It may be time to admit failure of fish passage and hatchery-based restoration programs and acknowledge that ecologically and economically significant diadromous species restoration is not possible without dam removals," the scientists write, dealing a large blow to the idea that hydroelectric projects can be fish-friendly. Diadromous fish refer to species that migrate between salt and fresh water, such as salmon, sturgeon, shad, river herring and eel. Many diadromous have seen historic declines worldwide, in part due to rapidly multiplying hydropower projects, many of which are now being constructed across the developing world.

The researchers looked at three river systems—the Merrimack, Connecticut and Susquehanna—in the northeastern U.S. After over a century of dam-building, these systems contain hundreds of dams, including several on the main stems, but the fish passageways built into the dams aren't working.

The scientists found that some fish—such as sturgeon—don't use the fish passageways at all. Others, such as American shad, have dwindled down to 2 percent of the conservation target on the Merrimack river system and zero percent on the other two rivers.

"These dams are contributing to reduced resilience of not only shad, but all diadromous species," said co-author Adrian Jordaan of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. "The result is that other factors including climate change will have a greater impact on these populations that are at fractions of their historical levels."

The result has been a decimation of U.S. fisheries, food production, and wildlife across the river systems.

"Once these rivers supported tens of millions of pounds of biomass of these species and provided valuable protein to a growing nation," noted another co-author, Karin Limburg, with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

The researchers write that the plummeting of fish in America's rivers provide "a cautionary tale for developing nations intent on hydropower development, suggesting that lasting ecosystem-wide impacts cannot be compensated for through fish passage and hatchery technology." Mega dams are going up worldwide—from Brazil to China to Borneo—with governments and corporations often promising that fish will be little impacted.

Solutions to the problem in the U.S. may be dam removal—many of the dams generate little electricity—or more creative methods.

"The approach being employed on the Penobscot River, where dams are being removed or provided the opportunity to increase power generation within a plan to provide increased access to habitat, offers a good model for restoration," the researchers conclude.

CITATION: J. Jed Brown, Karin E. Limburg, John R. Waldman, Kurt Stephenson, Edward P. Glenn, Francis Juanes, Adrian Jordaan. Fish and hydropower on the U.S. Atlantic coast: failed fisheries policies from half-way technologies. Conservation Letters. 2013.

Dams are rapidly damning the Amazon

Rhett A. Butler,

Construction of a canal for the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira taken by Daniel Beltrá for Greenpeace. Once completed, the Belo Monte Dam will be the third largest in the world. It will submerge up to 400,000 hectares and displace 20,000 people. Image © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace.

Dam-builders seeking to unlock the hydroelectric potential of the Amazon are putting the world's mightiest river and rainforest at risk, suggests a new assessment that charts the rapid expansion of dams in the region.
The report, published as an atlas by 11 NGOs and research institutions that form the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG), shows that Amazon counties have built or are planning to develop more than 400 dams in the Amazon Basin. 171 dams have already been built, while 246 are under construction or planned. Of the 246 new dams, 67 would have a capacity exceeding 30 megawatts.
With 231, Brazil has the most dams in the works. The South American giant estimates the hydroelectric potential of its share of the Amazon at 260,000 MW, or enough to power a quarter of a billion American homes.
Brazil's engineering firms are also building many of the dams in neighboring Amazon countries. Peru has 11 planned dams, while Bolivia has four, according to the report.
The lower and middle parts of the Amazon is the most targeted river for dams, with 79. 16 of the dams would be larger than 30 megawatts. The lower and middle Amazon already has 34 dams. Major hydropower development is also planned for the Tocantins River in Brazil's southern Amazon, where 20 large-capacity dams are on track. The upper reaches of the Amazon may see 13 large dams.

Number of hydropower by country of the Amazon, by type and phase

Country< 30MW> 30MWTotal< 30MW> 30MWTotalTotal



Guyane Française



Ecologists say there are myriad problems with large dams in tropical ecosystems, especially when built on the scale envisioned in the Amazon. Large dams interfere with the hydrological cycle and nutrient flows through an ecosystem, while restricting or blocking access to breeding and feeding grounds for migratory fish species. Meanwhile areas inundated with water can generate substantial greenhouse gas emissions. Design flaws in some tropical dams, which draw methane from the base of their reservoirs, can exacerbate climate impacts. Finally flooding in the reservoir area can displace communities traditionally dependent on rivers, while creating hardship downstream from reduce fisheries.
But the atlas says many of these issues are typically part of the dialog around dam projects. In fact the understanding of dam impacts of often very poor. For example, politicians have asserted that the controversial 11,233 MW Belo Monte dam in the Southern Amazon isn't part of the Amazon and won't flood any rainforests, when in fact the project will indeed inundate tens of thousands of hectares. According to analysts, in order for the project to be financially viable, two additional dams will need to be built upstream from Belo Monte, an issue that has barely registered in the public debate over the dam. Yet dam supporters claim that giant Amazon dams are a form of "clean energy".
"Dams are a centerpiece of greenwashing here in the Amazon," said Philip Fearnside of Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia in Manaus during a symposium in June 2012 in Bonito, Brazil. "Dams release methane, a gas with a much higher impact on global warming per ton than carbon dioxide, especially during the first decades after construction."
Beyond dams, the atlas reviews other potential threats to the Amazon, including deforestation, a mining boom, expansion of oil and gas exploration and extraction, a proliferation in hydroelectric projects, expanding road networks, and rising incidence of fire.

Dams Impact Carbon Dynamics in U.S. Rivers

 Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) -- which leaches into freshwater systems from plants, soils, and sediments, and from other detritus present in the water itself -- is the major food supplement for microorganisms and plays an important role in several environmental processes and in the global carbon cycle. In some aquatic systems such as estuaries the optically measurable colored component of dissolved organic matter (CDOM) is often proportional to the concentration of DOC.

CDOM forms when light-absorbing compounds are released into the water by decaying organic material and through photochemical degradation of certain organic compounds. Hence, CDOM reflects not just the environment and ecosystem, which is the source of the detritus, but also processes that deliver the organic matter into aquatic systems. Human activities, such as logging, agriculture, and waste water treatment, also affect CDOM levels in aquatic systems. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to measure the CDOM content in small volumes of water.
To examine the circumstances under which CDOM reflects DOC concentration, Spencer et al. measured CDOM and DOC concentrations in water collected from 30 rivers across the United States; the rivers represent a wide range of climate, watershed environments, ecosystems, and anthropogenic influence. Overall, the authors find that the CDOM level reflects the DOC concentration in the river water, except in four large rivers, namely, the Colorado, Columbia, Rio Grande, and St. Lawrence rivers.
These four rivers either drain from the Great Lakes or have significant restrictions within their watersheds such as dam building and other similar modifications. These activities result in long residence times of water, which may increase phytoplankton production, the relative contribution from human sources, or degradation of land-derived material by photochemical processes. As a result, there may have been a decoupling of CDOM from DOC, i.e., the amount of CDOM in these four rivers may have decreased without a concomitant decrease in DOC content. On the basis of their findings, the authors suggest that CDOM measurements in rivers are a useful way to investigate water quality and to monitor delivery of DOC into coastal regions as ecosystems respond to human activity and changes in climate in the near future.

Salinization of Rivers: A Global Environmental Problem

Jan. 11, 2013 — The salinisation of rivers is a global problem that affects to countries all over the world and it causes a high environmental and economic cost, and poses a high risk to global health. Climate change and the increasing water consumption can worsen even more the future scene, according to an article published on the journal Environmental Pollution based on the research developed by an international team led by the experts of the Department of Ecology of the University of Barcelona Narcís Prat and Miguel Cañedo-Argüelles.

The salinisation of rivers is a growing problem that affects to countries all over the world. (Credit: Woady creek, Australia / Ben J. Kefford)

Himalayan dam-building threatens endemic species 

Dam-builder's dream - shame about the wildlife <i>(Image: Mark Williamson/OSF/Getty)</i>
Dam-builder's dream - shame about the wildlife (Image: Mark Williamson/OSF/Getty)


The Himalayas, the world's highest mountain range, may soon hold another record: it could become home to the greatest density of dams in the world. More than a thousand are either already operating, under construction or being planned in northern India, Nepal and Bhutan. Besides providing clean energy, they could improve flood control and access to drinking water. But they will also pose a serious threat to indigenous species.
Hydroelectricity supplies about one-fifth of India's power, but even so nearly 300 million of the country's inhabitants have no access to electricity. More dams could help plug the energy shortfall: India's hydropower potential is estimated to be four times its current production of 39 gigawatts.
Maharaj Pandit at the University of Delhi, India, and R Edward Grumbine at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming, have now studied the impact 292 of the planned Himalayan dams will have. They used satellite imagery and published data on Himalayan species richness to estimate how each dam's location would affect forest cover and biodiversity.

Extinctions loom

"We project that about 1700 square kilometres of forests would be submerged or damaged by dams and related activities", says Pandit. He and Grumbine predict that such deforestation will result in the likely extinction of 22 flowering plants and 7 vertebrate species by 2025. This number would rise to 1505 flowering plants and 274 vertebrates by 2100 if construction work continues.
Another recent study suggests the dams will be bad news for many of the Himalayas' 300 species of fish. Jay Bhatt and colleagues at the University of Delhi studied distribution of fish species in 16 Himalayan rivers, and found that those richest in biodiversity, with the greatest number of endemic species, were also those where dams will be concentrated.
"Dozens of dam projects are already caught up in litigation due to faulty environmental impact assessments, displacement of people, inadequate compensation, destruction of traditional water and livelihood sources, and loss of biodiversity," says Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, an informal group of organisations and individuals interested in the impact of dam-building. The combined effect of several hundred new dams would be gargantuan, he adds.
Journal references: Pandit and Grumbine study: Conservation Biology,; Bhatt study: PLoS One,

Reservoirs can make local flooding worse, says study

Puclaro reservoir 
Researchers used measurements from several reservoirs, including this one at Puclaro, northern Chile.
Researchers say that large man-made reservoirs can increase the intensity of rainfall and could affect flood defences.
The scientists found that rain patterns around bodies of water in Chile were much higher than in similar areas without them.
This "lake effect" could overwhelm flood defences which are often built without taking it into account.
The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Hydrology.
Stormy edge
Previous research in this field has focused on the impact of dams on local climates. There is evidence that standing bodies like reservoirs and lakes can alter rain patterns by increasing the amount of water that evaporates.

"The bigger the water body, the greater the effect”
Dr Pablo Garcia-Chevesich University of Arizona
Some experts believe that you also get circulating air patterns in the atmosphere above the boundary between the water and the land and this can initiate thunderstorms and showers.
The impact can be significant. One study showed that extreme precipitation increased by 4% per year after dams were built.
In this latest work, researchers from the University of Talca, Chile, examined data from 50 rain gauges near reservoirs in different parts of the country.
Chile has a large variety of climates ranging from areas that get 0mm of annual rainfall to places that get more that 4,500mm. The scientists found that the most intense rainfall was measured at weather stations located near water bodies, especially in drier climates.
One of the authors, Dr Pablo Garcia-Chevesich from the University of Arizona told BBC News that the work had important implications for flood defences.
"If you install a water reservoir that will change things totally and that will lead to flooding," he said.
"Engineers get fired when there's flooding because they didn't do a good design, but in reality they did good work but someone else installed a water reservoir and the climate changed."
"The bigger the water body, the greater the effect."
Dr Garcia-Chevesich said this area of research was controversial because changing the design of flood defences was very expensive.
Dam boosters
Other scientists took a more measured view of the study.
Three gorges dam  
The huge Three Gorges dam in China is believed to affect weather patterns up to 100km away
Dr Faisal Hossain, from Tennessee Technological University, said the Chilean study was purely observational and that while the lake effect changed rainfall patterns, the jury was still out on whether it increased or decreased the amounts.
However, he said that he was hoping to bring the research to the attention of dam builders around the world. 
"We have modified the weather patterns in such a way that we didn't anticipate before building these reservoirs, and yes in the global context it might have serious ramifications," he said.
Prof Richard Harding from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) said several studies had now pointed to the impact of reservoirs particularly in dry areas.
"The physics says that it will happen, but I'm struggling a little to know how big an impact it is, and quite whether it is strong enough to change the design of flood defences," he said.
Dr Harding suggested that the new study might provide ammunition for those who oppose the building of large-scale new reservoirs.
The authors argue that they want engineers and designers to take this new work into account in planning new flood barriers.
"In the US, they are very rigorous about taking climate change into account when talking about storm water management design," said Dr Garcia-Chevesich, "but this is new and should be taken into account too."

Environmental Impacts of Dams

Low flows below dams killed thousands of salmon on the Klamath in 2002
Low flows below dams killed thousands of salmon on the Klamath in 2002
The environmental consequences of large dams are numerous and varied, and includes direct impacts to the biological, chemical and physical properties of rivers and riparian (or "stream-side") environments.
The dam wall itself blocks fish migrations, which in some cases and with some species completely seperate spawning habitats from rearing habitats.  The dam also traps sediments, which are critical for maintaining physical processes and habitats downstream of the dam (include the maintenance of productive deltas, barrier islands, fertile floodplains and coastal wetlands).
Another significant and obvious impact is the transformation upstream of the dam from a free-flowing river ecosystem to an artificial slack-water reservoir habitat. Changes in temperature, chemical composition, dissolved oxygen levels and the physical properties of a reservoir are often not suitable to the aquatic plants and animals that evolved with a given river system. Indeed, reservoirs often host non-native and invasive species (e.g. snails, algae, predatory fish) that further undermine the river's natural communities of plants and animals. 
The alteration of a river's flow and sediment transport downstream of a dam often causes the greatest sustained environmental impacts. Life in and around a river evolves and is conditioned on the timing and quantities of river flow.  Disrupted and altered water flows can be as severe as completely de-watering river reaches and the life they contain.  Yet even subtle changes in the quantity and timing of water flows impact aquatic and riparian life, which can unravel the ecological web of a river system. 
A dam also holds back sediments that would naturally replenish downstream ecosystems. When a river is deprived of its sediment load, it seeks to recapture it by eroding the downstream river bed and banks (which can undermine bridges and other riverbank structures, as well as riverside woodlands). Riverbeds downstream of dams are typically eroded by several meters within the decade of first closing a dam; the damage can extend for tens or even hundreds of kilometers below a dam.

Riverbed deepening (or "incising") will also lower groundwater tables along a river, lowering the water table accessible to plant roots (and to human communities drawing water from wells) .  Altering the riverbed also reduces habitat for fish that spawn in river bottoms, and for invertebrates.
In aggregate, dammed rivers have also impacted processes in the broader biosphere.  Most reservoirs, especially those in the tropics, are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (a recent study pegged global greenhouse gas emissions from reservoirs on par with that of the aviation industry, about 4% of human-caused GHG emissions).  Recent studies on the Congo River have demonstrated that the sediment and nutrient flow from the Congo drives biological processes far into the Atlantic Ocean, including serving as a carbon sink for atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Large dams have led to the extinction of many fish and other aquatic species, the disappearance of birds in floodplains, huge losses of forest, wetland and farmland, erosion of coastal deltas, and many other unmitigable impacts.

African Rivers Network’s Statement on Climate Change for COP 15, Copenhagen
Climate change is a reality that we as Africans need to take very seriously. Whilst Africa has contributed only a fraction of the global greenhouse gas emissions (of which South Africa contributes the lion’s share), Africa is predicted to suffer the greatest impacts of climate change.
For this reason African Ministers are attending the Climate Change negotiations as a unified group, demanding compensation for the climate-induced changes that the developed world has caused, and continues to cause.
We, the African Rivers Network (ARN), representing 30 diverse civil society organizations from across the continent, do hereby call for justice and equitable global fairness for a speedy and effective and quick respond to climate especially as it affects Africa. 
The following key issues point to the urgency of an evaluation of the damming of our rivers in a time of a changing climate:
·        Basing the electrification of Africa on large hydropower is short sighted as river flow is becoming increasingly unpredictable resulting in droughts which in turn leads to countries such as Uganda and Kenya not only suffering from lack of water but also lack of power.
·        Using rivers for hydropower also contribute to difficult decisions around access to water, and keeping the reservoirs full for hydropower instead of empty enough to catch flood waters. Therefore when floods do come, the dams become dangerously full and have to release large amounts of water that exacerbate floods dangerously.
·        Large dams are by their nature long-term investments causing irreversible changes and damages to rivers and ecosystems. We need to take into consideration that the dams we build now will last for at least 50 to 100 years, and this means that they will have to endure the worst of climate change predictions of increased intensity floods and weather events.  How can we be sure that the dams that we build for today’s conditions are strong enough to deal with unknown weather events of the future?
·        Whilst there are alternatives for energy, there are no alternatives for water, and the swing in emphasis with respect to water management in Africa is to persuade governments to build the water buffer, and to take care of Africa’s aquifers. The goal is to keep the water in the ground to reduce losses from evaporation that typify above-ground storage. Evaporation is a largely under-estimated impact of large dams in Africa. Indeed, the World Commission on Dams stated that 5% of the world’s freshwater evaporates annually from reservoirs, but that in Africa with our hot climate, many of the dams evaporate over 10% of its water every year which represents a significant amount of water. In a warming world, with temperatures increasing by predicted amounts of 1 to 6 degrees C in the next 100 years, this evaporation rate will increase dramatically, alongside increased evapo-transpiration rates.
·        Many large dams seriously harm downstream riverine communities and ecosystems, which is likely to make climate adaptation that much harder for the many millions of Africans who depend directly on rivers and lakes for their livelihoods, food and water supply. 
·        Most Africans won’t ever get the benefits of large dams – their energy or water will never reach the majority of the rural poor.
·        Africa is already witnessing climate refugees, and with about 70% of its population being poor, the consequences may result in social, economic, cultural, political and religious conflicts that will affect the global of peace building efforts and democratic stability of the continent – and indeed the world at large.
Given these critical problems facing rivers, water supply and communities; we put forth the following platform for actions that would help protect our riverine resources:
  • World leaders and concerned stakeholders must work to ensure that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is reduced from the current 390ppm to at most 350ppm as urged by the IPCC and recent NASA studies.
  • The Kyoto Protocol was an important step towards ensuring that industrialized countries commit themselves to legally binding emission reductions to 1990 levels. However, its implementation was hindered because the political commitment of the industrialized nations is absent. We urge the developed countries (Annex 1) to immediately make serious cuts to their emissions (above and beyond Kyoto Protocol commitments), as the world cannot afford to wait for several more years to develop a new binding and integrated protocol before responding to the challenges of climate change.
  • African rivers support millions of people and much of our biodiversity, and must be protected from destructive developments and diversions, and utilized equitably and sustainably for the benefit of all.
  • As climate change is being used to justify many dams, we urge the widespread adoption of the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams to ensure that the problems that usually beset these projects are dealt with in the best and most transparent and sensible way and that directly affected people are not left worse off by their construction.
·        Africa must be equitably compensated by the developed countries for environmental, social and economic loses arising from their historical responsibility of creating the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, and should scale up financing, technology and capacity-building for adaptation and risk management.
  • Global negotiators must ensure that an integrated strategy for disaster reduction, monitoring, observation, preparedness, emergency response and post-disaster recovery are an integral part of any new plans for climate change adaptation.
  • Improved investments in affordable, cleaner energy (including for rural communities now not tied to national grids), must be prioritized. Energy efficiency should be prioritized with appropriate policies and programs.
  • The world community should help establish incentives to reduce emissions through sustainable resource management practices in Africa, including forest conservation, sustainable forest management, and avoidance of deforestation, aforestation, and similarly in sustainable water and agricultural management.
For more information on ARN:  contact ARN Coordinator Robert Kugonza ( )

Economic Impacts of Dams

Large dams have long been promoted as providing "cheap" hydropower and water supply. Today, we know better. The  costs and poor performance of large dams were in the past largely concealed by the public agencies that built and operated the projects. Dams consistently cost more and take longer to build than projected. In general, the larger a hydro project is, the larger its construction cost overrun in percentage terms. The true risks and costs of dams are being forced into the open due to increasing public scrutiny and attempts to attract private investors to existing and new projects.
The World Commission on Dams found that on average, large dams have been at best only marginally economically viable. The average cost overrun of dams is 56%. This means that when a dam is predicted to cost $1 billion, it ends up costing $1.56 billion. In too many cases, the burden of uneconomic dams is shouldered by a nation's citizens, while the project builders walk away with a tidy profit and another project to add to their portfolio. Given that most of the world's large dams are now being built in the world's poorest nations, this is a burden they can ill afford.
Another issue is that large dams are often the largest energy development in many poor countries, which can lead to an unbalanced (and climate-risky) energy supply. While countries generally get richer as they increase their use of modern energy, the trend goes the other way for dependency on hydroelectricity. Of the world’s 40 richest countries, only one is more than 90% hydro-dependent; of the world’s 40 poorest, 15 are more than 90% hydro-dependent. Numerous hydro-dependent countries have suffered drought-induced blackouts and energy rationing in recent years. Energy security means these countries should diversify power generation away from large hydropower, rather than deepening their dependency. Changes in rainfall patterns due to climate change make this especially critical.

Human Impacts of Dams

Ibaloi Women
Ibaloi Women
Toots S., Philipine Daily Inquirer
Large dams have forced some 40-80 million people from their lands in the past six decades, according to theWorld Commission on Dams. Indigenous, tribal, and peasant communities have been particularly hard hit. These legions of dam refugees have, in the great majority of cases, been economically, culturally and psychologically devastated.
Those displaced by reservoirs are only the most visible victims of large dams. Millions more have lost land and homes to the canals, irrigation schemes, roads, power lines and industrial developments that accompany dams. Many more have lost access to clean water, food sources and other natural resources in the dammed area. Millions have suffered from the diseases that dams and large irrigation projects in the tropics bring. And those living downstream of dams have suffered from the hydrological changes dams bring to rivers and ecosystems; an estimated 400-800 million people--roughly 10% of humanity--fall into this category of dam-affected people.
In response to the massive human rights problems and environmental impacts of large dams, affected people and supporting local and international organizations have joined together to fight for change in how and whether dams are planned, designed and built. This movement includes thousands of environmental, human rights, and social activist groups around the world. International dam-affected people’s meetings in BrazilThailand and Mexico in recent years have brought together dam-affected peoples and their allies to network and strategize, and call for better planning of water- and energy-supply projects. And every year, groups from around the world show their solidarity with those dispossessed by dams on the International Day of Action for Rivers, a global event to raise awareness about the impacts of dams and the values of free-flowing rivers.
The mission of International Rivers’s regional campaign work is to focus on the issues of dam-affected peoples. To learn more about dam-affected peoples by region, visit our regional campaign pages.

Fishermen Paralyze Construction of the Belo Monte Dam

Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre
Thursday, September 20, 2012

FIshermen form a line to block access to the construction site of a coffer dam on the Xingu River
                     On Wednesday, a group of about 50 fishermen prevented a ferry from transporting machines and workers to a coffer dam being built for the Belo Monte Dam Complex, setting up a protest camp on one of the main islands of the Xingu River near the construction site.
After assembling, the protesters decided to remain indefinitely in place, and called on Norte Energia and IBAMA to immediately negotiate compensation for the loss of ecologically sensitive fish species that the fishermen have suffered as a result of the coffer dam's construction.
"The fishermen have seen a 50% reduction in fisheries production. The river is drying up. Several species failed to spawn over the last year due to Norte Energia's intervention in the river.  A lot of fish are dying, and in some locations the company wants to impede the fishermen from accessing the river," explained Ana Barbosa Laide of the Movimento Xingu Vivo, who has accompanied the mobilization.
On Wednesday night, a group of fishermen who depend on ornamental fish from the river joined the group, demanding that environmental agency IBAMA guarantee the survival of species that are endemic to the area where the dam is being built, saying that otherwise, the species will go extinct. "They argue that if these species die off, IBAMA should release its population of collected ornamental fish in order to save the economic livelihoods of the fishermen," explained Laide.
According to the movement leaders, the occupation protests the decision of IBAMA to allow Norte Energia to permanently close the river. During this process, the fishermen were not consulted nor informed about how they could continue their economic activities, or how they could continue to transport their boats on the river past the dam. "The river is ours and we came to fish. You can't just prohibit fishing, we have to work, "says Lucio Vale, President of the Fishermen's Colony of Altamira.
On the evening of the 19th, civil police officers, accompanied by members of Norte Energia, were at the demonstration site. According to agents, they were assured that the protest was non-violent.
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