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  • 18.09.00 : The 4th International Rhine Conference
  • 08.09.00 : CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT Environmental Flows for River Systems - Cape Town, South Africa, 3-8 March 2002.
  • 07.09.00 : German minister Klimmt should privatise the federal water ways administration. A claim to a moratorium on the building projects on the Elbe, Saale and Havel rivers. (in german)
  • 06.09.00 Spain's Regions Battle Over National Water Plan
  • 06.09.00 : WCD Press Release - "Water Wars"
  • 06.09.00 : Annonce d'un séminaire du Bureau Européen de l'Environnement (EEB) - 3 et 4 novembre 2000
  • 29.08.00 : Romanian smelter in cyanide spill to be upgraded
  • 23.08.00 : Nile basin water shortages
  • older news

Text :

18.09.00 : The 4th International Rhine Conference

The 4th International Rhine Conference is organised by the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) in close co-operation with the Rotterdam Municipal Port Management (RMPM).

he following main questions will be addressed:

- which substances in the river Rhine still create problems for the river, the port or the North Sea environment

- which measures have to be taken to reach the goal of the New Rhine Convention, to help restore the Rhine and the North sea and improve sediment quality so that dredged material may be relocated or beneficially used without adversely affecting the environment

- which will be the resulting challenges for an integrated river catchment

coastal zone management

The conference is split in two parts: a politically oriented part on the first day (23 November 2000) and a scientifically oriented part on the second day (24 November 2000). On this second day generic and technical issues will be discussed in parallel theme sessions. A poster session is planned for both days.

If you want to know more about the programme and hotel accommodations, please surf to the internet-sites of the ICPR ( or the RMPM (

08.09.00 : CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT Environmental Flows for River Systems - Cape Town, South Africa, 3-8 March 2002.

Environmental Flows for River Systems. An international working conference on assessment and implementation Cape Town, South Africa, 3-8 March 2002. incorporating The Fourth International Ecohydraulics Symposium

Environmental flows comprise water that is left in a river system, or released into it, specifically to manage some aspect of river health. The aim of the conference is to bring together water scientists, water managers, engineers, policy makers, resource economists, social scientists working with riparian people, and all those interested in the sustainable use of rivers. Countries addressing environmental flows, and those still to do so, will alike benefit from a global update on progress in this vital field.

To access the First Announcement for this conference, please visit the website The website contains an interactive electronic response form for those wishing to receive the second circular. If you cannot access the website, please contact the Conference Organisers by email: or by fax: ++27-21-6503887.

All submissions received will be acknowledged within one month.

07.09.00 : DUH : German minister Klimmt should privatise the federal water ways administration. A claim to a moratorium on the building projects on the Elbe, Saale and Havel rivers.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German nature protection NGO) is asking for a privatisation of the federal water ways administration . This was also the proposal of one of the member of the experts commission set up by the government, Wilhelm Pällmann, who used to be at the head of the railways and telecom companies. Until then, the bulldozers should remain still. Federal water ways administration is a state within state. " If [it] was privatised, it would be nicer than a dream, for nature and for all tax payers ", said Professor Dr. Gerhard Thielcke, president of the DUH. According to him, the federal water ways administration is a state within state, rigidly organised from transport minister to basic workers, all the policy being dictacted by the needs of the navigation. There are 17 242 civil servants working for this navigation activity, which itself employs only 6 775 persons. The elite of those civil servants does not only want to check the levels of the water but also to build monuments. So official and private nature protectors have to deal again and again with adventurous development plans, which are frequently qualified as measures of maintenance, but which in reality bring substantial negative changes in the structure of rivers. As a consequence of this, numerous habitats of several species have been destroyed since 1990 on the Elbe and Havel rivers. In spite of the 1996 Elbe declaration, and without opposition from the Federal ministers Wissmann and Müntefering, the federal water ways administration enlarged and deepened two parallel water ways: the Elbe parallel channel and the lower central Elbe river. The federal water way administration argues that boat operators should be able to choose whether they want to drive on the Elbe parallel channel or on the Elbe.

A moratorium for current and planned measures.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe hopes that Federal Minister of Transport Reinhard Klimmt will privatise the federal water way administration. It requires a moratorium for all current and planned measures on the Elbe, Saale and Havel rivers, until the federal water way administration is denationalized. This especially concerns ecologically precarious projects like Domfelsen (partial destruction of a famous rock under the water) in Magdeburg and the development project on the Elbe near Wittenberg and on the lower part of the Saale, where an economically senseless barrage weir is to be built.

For further information : Prof. Dr. Gerhard Thielcke, Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V., Güttinger Str. 19, 78315 Radolfzell, Tel.: 07732/1507-0

06.09.00 Spain's Regions Battle Over National Water Plan

MADRID, Spain, September 6, 2000 (ENS) - Publication by the Spanish Environment Ministry of its long awaited national hydrological plan Tuesday has ignited a simmering political battle between different regions over access to scarce water resources. Some details of the plan emerged in July but its most controversial proposal only became clear yesterday on the plan's formal unveiling. This is for construction of a 700 kilometre (434 mile) canal to transfer just over 1,000 cubic hectometres of water per year from the Ebro River basin in the north to the southeastern Mediterranean coast at an estimated cost of euros 4.2 billion (US$3.66 billion).

*The Ebro River arises in the province of Aragon and empties into the Mediterranean Sea on Spain's central east coast. Environmental groups criticised the plan, which include proposals to build up to 118 new dams and widespread irrigation infrastructure at a cost of euros 18 billion (US$15.7 billion).

Regional governments in areas that stand to lose water supplies have reacted angrily. The government of Aragon attacked the transfer plan as "an unjustifiable attempt to take water from the poorest, most under populated parts of Spain and pipe it to the rich, highly developed Mediterranean coast" and called for "alternative solutions more in keeping" with the recently finalized European Union water framework directive. Defending his proposals, Spanish environment minister Jaume Matas promised not to implement any aspects "before achieving a consensus" between all interested parties. He pledged that the Ebro transfer would not result in any expansion of irrigated agriculture, which currently consumes 80 percent of Spain's water supply.

Ebro River Delta

He also announced a euros 0.03 per cubic metre ecotax to be levied on transferred water to compensate donor regions. The proposed eco-tax aside, details were not released of the percentage of environmental and infrastructure costs of the project to be met by farmers, industry and domestic consumers through water bills. Environment ministry sources estimated the average cost of transferred water at euros 0.31 per m3, while environmental group Ecologists in Action said it would be double this amount. Juan Valero of the National Irrigators Federation said "farmers would not generally be able to afford water" if the full costs of transfers were passed on.

Santiago Martín of Ecologists in Action described the plan as "a great victory for the construction companies" and "a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem." .

ENS Environment News Service {Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment

06.09.00 : WCD Press Release - "Water Wars"

World Commission On Dams Chair Challenges "Water War" Rhetoric Winner of 2000 Stockholm Water Prize Asmal takes on global theory that water scarcity leads to conflict

STOCKHOLM, Monday, Aug. 14 -- In a policy address before the Stockholm Water Forum, World Commission on Dams Chair Prof. Kader Asmal today questioned the motivations and basis for a widespread doctrine that drives foreign policies and global aid: Prevention of Water Wars.

After reviewing the bleak facts about water scarcity, and acknowledging how that leads to stress, Asmal argued that there is no basis for spreading alarm, mobilising, strengthening borders or launching unilateral top-down campaign. All of which have been advocated by global experts.

Officials from the US Department of the Defense, CIA, State Department and White House met to consider the international implications of water conflicts. The result, was a multimillion dollar agenda to resolve global water disputes, on grounds, said the Secretary of State, that "As competition for water intensifies, further disagreements over access and use are likely to erupt." "With all due respect to my friends," said Asmal, "have battles ever been fought over water? Is water scarcity a casus belli? Does it divide nations? The answer is no, no and no. Indeed, water, by its nature, tends to induce even hostile co-riparian countries to co-operate, even as disputes rage over other issues. The weight of historical evidence demonstrates that organised political bodies have signed 3600 water related treaties since AD 805. Of seven minor water-related skirmishes, all began over non-water issues." "There is some value to sensational Water War rhetoric," Asmal acknowledged. "Alarmists awaken people to the underlying reality of water scarcity, and rally their troops to become more progressive and interdependent. By contrast, to challenge that rhetoric is to risk making us passive about the status quo, or delay needed innovations or co-operation...

But the Water War rhetoric must not replace the vacuum left by the Cold War's end. If the 'water's-for-fighting' chorus is off key, its disharmony affects lives as well. It shifts energy and resources from local priorities to foreign affairs. It scares off investment where it is most in need. It reshuffles priorities, delays implementation of policy. It is easier to ignore their thirst than to divert attention to potential foreign threats, real or imagined. Easier, not better. To help the poor and weak, let us together reform our unstable, consumptive habits to share limited supplies…"

The full text of Professor Asmal's speech is available at

06.09.00 : Annonce d'un séminaire du Bureau Européen de l'Environnement (EEB) - 3 et 4 novembre 2000

EEB Seminar on Water 3. and 4. of November 2000 Brussels

Dear Colleagues,

After the finalisation of the Water Framework Directive it is time to start the follow up process and to identify key issues for future action.

EEB will organise on the 3. and 4. of November 2000 in Brussels a follow up seminar on the Water Framework Directive.

The efficient and proper implementation of the WFD in Member States will be key in order to make full use of the instruments provided in the directive to better protect and improve our waters.

Several pieces of subsequent legislation are following the WFD and are under preparation: First of all a 'list of priority substances in the field of water policy', which is in the pipeline and will present the future Annex X of the WFD. First reading in Parliament is expected 14-16 of November 2000. For these substances EQSs and ELVs have to be developed and proposed and for certain substances a cessation target will apply. The Commission presented a Communication on Water pricing, which proposes a set of guiding principles of the water pricing article of the WFD. A clear groundwater protection strategy is missing in the WFD. Measures and criteria still have to be prepared and proposed by the Commission to prevent and control pollution to achieve 'good status' of groundwaters.

Our work should not stop with the adoption of the WFD, but should keep on promoting far reaching objectives. It is time now to push Member States to actually achieve the objectives and improve water protection and to support the proper use of the integrative river basin management approach and call for a rapid phase out of hazardous substances.

After summer we will be provide you with a first draft agenda for our seminar.

Best regards and refreshing summer holidays,

Stefan Scheuer

**************************** Stefan Scheuer EU-Policy Assistant Water Campaign European Environmental Bureau Boulevard de Waterloo 34 >B-1000 Brussels Tel: +32 2 2891090 >Tel: +32 2 2891304 Direct >Fax: +32 2 2891099 >E-mail: *****************************

29.08.00 : Romanian smelter in cyanide spill to be upgraded

ROMANIA: August 29, 2000 BUCHAREST

- A joint Romanian-Australian gold smelter, blamed for a big cyanide spill in European rivers in January, will undergo extensive upgrading before becoming fully operational, a Romanian official said yesterday.

"The Task Force visited the Aurul smelter last week and agreed on projects to increase its safety standards. These projects are compulsory technical solutions," the environment official told Reuters from the northwestern city of Baia Mare. The Task Force of environment experts was created by the European Union after 100,000 cubic metres of cyanide-tainted water overflowed the tailings dam at the Aurul gold smelter in Baia Mare in January, poisoning the Tisza and Danube rivers in one of Europe's worst river pollution accidents.

The rivers flow through Romania, Hungary and Serbia.

Officials at the smelter in Baia Mare were unavailable for comment yesterday.

The Romanian government has a 45 percent stake in Aurul and Australian Esmeralda Exploration Ltd owns 50 percent. The remaining five percent is owned by Romanian business interests.

The Baia Mare official, who asked not to be named, said the upgrading projects included the construction of a new dam with a capacity of 250,000 cubic metres to act as an emergency buffer in case of overflows caused by excessive rains, as in January.

"The aim is to build a safety system able to sustain exceptional meteorological conditions," the official said.

Esmeralda was put into administration in Australia in March. The spill embarrassed Bucharest and prompted authorities in the rest of Europe, including Greece and the Czech Republic, to halt mining projects involving cyanide handling.

The installation of a permanent cyanide detoxification unit, independent power generators as well as new pipelines for an open circuit system to bring waste water to "normal quality" were also part of the upgrading package, the official said.

"For the time being, we don't have an estimate for the total cost of the project," the official said.

She said Aurul was now carrying out technological tests by operating at 60 percent of its capacity, with experts closely monitoring the tailings re-treatment operation.

"Reports indicate that the parameters of the smelter are satisfactory. And safety conditions are also good," she said.

The smelter started the first tests in July at some 20 percent capacity after changing part of its equipment.

Budapest voiced concern over the restart of the smelter, saying Bucharest had failed to notify it of the move.

Story by Adrian Dascalu


23.08.00 : Nile basin water shortages

From New Vision (Uganda), 23 Aug 2000

Kajura warns of water shortage

WATER, Lands and Environment Minister Henry Kajura yesterday warned of an impending water shortage in the Nile Basin if countries sharing the river do not plan its use, reports Charles Wendo.

Speaking during the opening of a five-day regional workshop on the Nile Basin in Entebbe, Kajura called for "sustainable and equitable utilisation of the Nile waters

."He said droughts, land degradation, poor farming methods and other circumstances that make water unsafe would aggravate the scarcity.

"As the population in the basin increases, it is evident that the Nile waters will not be adequate to meet all the development needs of these countries in the long term," he said.

The workshop has brought together water experts from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda to discuss joint economic and environmental projects for the basin. The Democratic Republic of Congo is not attending though it belongs to the basin.

Kajura said that despite the great potentials of using the water for economic development, the Nile Basin countries were among the poorest in the world. He said the river could be used for irrigation, electricity generation, tourism and transport.

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), established for harmonious development and use of the Nile water resources for economic development, has its headquarters in Entebbe with members as Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Lori Pottinger, Director, Southern Africa Program, 1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703, USA Tel. (510) 848 1155 Fax (510) 848 1008


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