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25.11.05 : Maroc: construction de barrages (Jdle)

Lors d'un colloque à Rabat cette semaine, le secrétaire d'Etat marocain chargé de l'eau,
Abdelkbir Zahoud, a affirmé que le Maroc doit construire 50 barrages supplémentaires d'ici 20
ans et un millier de petites retenues avant 2050 afin de pallier le manque de stockage d'eau. Le
potentiel des ressources en eau diminue, il est de 1.000 mètres cubes (m3) par an et par habitant
contre 2.500 m3 en 1980 et ce malgré les 113 barrages déjà existants. Le secrétaire d'Etat a
expliqué cette situation par le développement économique et social et un plus grand accès à
l'eau potable pour 16,5 millions d'habitants. Il a estimé que les moyens alternatifs comme le
dessalement de l'eau n'étaient pas avantageux, notamment en termes de coûts.

source: Jdle

25.11.05 : Chine : Poisoned River Shows Dark Side of China's Boom

BEIJING - As dead fish floated down Harbin's poisoned river and queues of residents waited for safe water in the northern Chinese city, top leaders met in Beijing to discuss tackling the country's "grim" environmental record.

Years of promoting economic growth at almost any price, both to tackle poverty and ensure the stability the Communist Party believes will help it stay in power, have sent environmental conditions plunging even as living standards rose.

Harbin's troubles were caused by an explosion at a petrochemical plant up-river, which spilt cancer-causing toxins into the water, but is symptomatic of wider problems.

China's water is dirty or vanishing -- 70 percent of its rivers are contaminated, over a third of the country is plagued by acid rain, and in the past 50 years it has lost more than 1,000 lakes, the official Xinhua agency says.

Its skies are choked too. Home to seven of the world's 10 most-polluted cities, its urban smog causes over 400,000 early deaths a year, the International Energy Agency says.

Factory and power stations often ignore environmental rules in the hunt for profits or market share, pumping effluent into rivers or skies, while even those who fit equipment to process waste sometimes leave it unused to cut costs.

Others run equipment for too long, risking accidents from human error or faltering machinery.

This may be particularly tempting in the petrochemical sector, which supplies the building blocks of everything from fertilizer to drugs, and is racing to keep up with demand.

Imports are high and multinational firms like Germany's BASF are pouring billions of dollars into Chinese plants.

"The Chinese system has its standards to follow and they argue that these are comparable to international levels," said analyst Victor Shum at Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

"I think this is true, but the question is how closely on a day-to-day basis you follow those rules. Where you're under a lot of pressure there may be a temptation to cut corners."

Apart from the risk of damaging spills, the petrochemical industry is one of several energy-intensive sectors which are consuming vast amounts of dirty-burning coal.


As problems spread, people once content with earning more money are
now worrying about quality of life. In some cases that has led to the
social unrest and economic troubles Beijing is so keen to stave off
with growth.

This summer hundreds of angry farmers rioted in eastern Zhejiang
province about effluent from a pharmaceutical plant they said had
ruined crops.

A top environment official has said pollution costs China 8-15
percent of its gross domestic product.

Even efforts to keep the population fed after decades of shortage
last century -- exacerbated by a lingering Maoist desire for
self-sufficiency -- are chased in an unsustainable way. "China's use
of fertilisers per hectare is almost three-fold higher than the
global average ...(which) creates a large number of environmental
problems," the OECD said in a recent report.

The State Council, or cabinet, this week set the ambitious target
that by 2020, the country's environmental quality should have
improved significantly, and said the current situation was "grim",
Xinhua reported.

But Beijing also aims to quadruple GDP from 2000 levels by 2020, and
unless it can enforce sharp changes to current consumption,
construction and manufacturing habits, the economic and environmental
targets may be hard to reconcile.

Story by Emma Graham-Harrison

24.11.05 : Polluted River Water Heads towards Chinese City

CHINA: November 24, 2005, Reuters
HARBIN - A stretch of potentially lethal polluted river water headed towards one of China's biggest cities, Harbin, on Thursday after an explosion at a petrochemical plant.

China said on Wednesday the blast had caused "major pollution" in the Songhua River from which Harbin, capital of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang and home to nine million people, draws its drinking water.
Harbin city officials temporarily restored water supplies to allow residents to stock up.

Residents rushed to shops to stock up on food and water in a city where winter temperatures regularly drop below minus 20 Celsius. People crowded the airport and railway stations to leave the area, a witness said.

The provincial government said the 80 km (50 mile) stretch of polluted river water would reach Harbin's water supply inlet later on Thursday and flow past the city itself on Saturday.

"We hope citizens can take time to hoard as much water as possible," an executive from the Harbin water company was quoted as saying by China's Xinhua news agency.

The provincial government has told Harbin residents to stay away from the river to avoid possible exposure to airborne contaminants coming off the water, Xinhua said.

The State Environmental Protection Administration said the polluted water contained nearly 30 times more than normal levels of chemicals with benzene, an industrial solvent and component of petrol.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a government meeting on pollution problems in the country.
"Our country's environmental situation remains grim," the State Council was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
"As the economy has expanded, waste of resources and energy has continued growing, and the pressures on environmental protection are increasingly heavy."

By late on Wednesday, feelings among Harbin residents seemed to be shifting from panic to anxious resignation and anger. Most shops and restaurants remained open, although business was generally slow.
Wang Qiang, a rural migrant who works in a Harbin bathhouse, said his employer had put him on unpaid holiday.
"We have to pay for drinking water ourselves. It's not cheap, but I can afford it. But I hope this won't go on for too long," he said.
Provincial governor Zhang Zuoji promised to be the first person to drink tap water when supplies were restored. "After four days, I'll have the first drop," he said.
Chinese people usually boil tap water before drinking it, even when pollution is not an issue.
A deputy governor of neighbouring Jilin province, site of the petrochemical plant, visited Harbin to apologise for the pollution spill, the Harbin Daily newspaper said.
"A lot of people here blame Jilin for not acting sooner after the explosion," said Harbin resident Zhou Qicai. "There were at least several days between the explosion and when they issued any warnings for downstream."
Russia's environmental protection agency said on Wednesday it was worried the pollution could affect drinking water supplies in its Khabarovsk region, which the Songhua enters several hundred kilometres downstream from Harbin.

Russian Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said all steps would be taken to ensure there was no health risk, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
"But so as to make sure these measures are effective, we need more information from the Chinese. We need to more accurately know the make-up of the pollutants," he said.

(Additional reporting by Niu Shuping, Vivi Lin and Joel Kirkhart in Beijing)
Story by Chris Buckley REUTERS NEWS SERVICE


23.11.05 : Damming the World Bank

By Jacques Leslie, AlterNet. Posted November 23, 2005.

The World Bank recognizes the countless social
and environmental problems caused by dams, but
won't let them get in the way of building more and more dams.

As the fifth anniversary of the unveiling of the
World Commission on Dams' final report passes
this month, it's worthwhile to consider how the
Commission's progenitor, the World Bank, has abused it.

Dams and their reservoirs are the largest
structures built by humans, and they are at the
heart of the Bank's gigantean approach to
development. The Bank exists to make large loans;
small loans are demonstrably more effective, but
the Bank has too much money and too little staff
to make those. Instead, it whets the pot for
private investment with a loan of, say, a few
hundred million dollars, on the way to
construction of a multi-billion-dollar dam. The
dam's electricity is fed to mines and factories,
and its stored water supplies cities and affluent farmers.

Never mind that the dam overwhelms its
surroundings, causing massive social and
environmental degradation. In the modern era, the
Bank acknowledges the problems, writes voluminous
reports about them, even grapples with them to a
degree, but doesn't let them get in the way of building dams.

That dams' liabilities have nevertheless become
obstacles is in part attributable to their
severity: the world's 45,000-plus large dams --
structures at least five stories -- have
displaced 40 to 80 million people, and they have
wrought environmental damage from reservoirs'
upstream lip all the way downstream to
sediment-depleted estuaries, beaches, and oceans.
Dams became the Bank's most problem-ridden
projects; as Bank senior water adviser John
Briscoe has explained, a major dam project "will
often account for a small proportion of a country
director's portfolio but a major proportion of his headaches."

The World Commission on Dams arose out of the
Bank's dam-building frustrations. Dam opponents
learned to tie up projects in long delays, until
investors gave up. By the mid-1990s, so many of
the Bank's projects were mired in controversy
that the Bank funded only four dams a year, down
from 26 dams a year a decade earlier. In
desperation, the Bank reluctantly embraced a
proposal by dam opponents to create an
independent commission that would assess Bank
dams' performance and set down rules for future
construction. The Bank hoped that if anti-dam
groups were represented on the Commission, they
would have no grounds for protest after agreeing
to reasonable rules for building dams.

The Bank made one proviso -- that the commission
assess not just the Bank's dams, but all large
dams -- in an apparent attempt to divert
attention from the Bank's many problem-ridden
dams. The Bank then joined forced with the World
Conservation Union (IUCN), a Geneva-based
quasi-official nonprofit, to create the
Commission. Its twelve commissioners were drawn
equally from three categories -- "pro-dam,"
"mixed," and "anti-dam." Among them were Göran
Lindahl, president of ABB Ltd., then the world's
largest supplier of hydropower generators, and
Medha Patkar, an anti-dam firebrand whose
protests against a huge dam project on India's
Narmada River repeatedly involved courting her own death.

It was not auspicious that the Bank once before
had turned to independent experts to resolve a
dam crisis, then tried to ignore the experts'
advice. That was in 1992, when protests led by
Patkar -- including, most dramatically, a 22-day
hunger strike -- forced the Bank to suspend
support for its centerpiece Narmada dam and
commission an independent project review.

The reviewers, led by former Republican
Congressman Bradford Morse, turned out to be more
independent than the Bank counted on, for after
an exhaustive nine-month study, they recommended
abandoning the project altogether. The Bank took
a futile stab at publicly misrepresenting the
report, then begrudgingly acceded -- for the
first time in its nearly five decades of
existence, the Bank left a project unfinished. In
the end, it skipped the last $170 million dollars
of its $450 million dollar dam loan, but soon
afterwards announced $2.3 billion in new loans for other Indian projects.

In creating the World Commission on Dams four
years later, the Bank was again gambling on an
independent review, but now the stakes involved
not one large dam, but all of them. "Truce called
in battle of the dams," said a 1997 Financial
Times headline over a story about the
commission's creation. Dam stakeholders were
skeptical that such a diverse group could reach
consensus, but as time the went on, the
Commissioners developed rapport, and found a way
to work towards a common objective. Even the
Bank was optimistic. As late as September 1999,
14 months before the Commission issued its final
report, Briscoe lauded its "absolutely
extraordinary process" and declared, "We have
every confidence" that it will deliver "very good
advice." Bank officials even spoke confidently of
using the World Commission on Dams approach to
launch yet another commission on oil, gas, and mining.

As it turned out, the advice was notably
sharp-edged. After presiding over the most
thorough review of dam performance ever
conducted, the Commissioners produced a 400-page
report that offered proponents little comfort. It
said large dams showed a "marked tendency" toward
schedule delays and cost overruns; that
irrigation dams typically neither produced the
expected volume of water nor recovered their
costs; that environmental impacts were "more
negative than positive," and in many cases "led
to irreversible loss of species and ecosystems";
and that their construction had "led to the
impoverishment and suffering of millions."

The Commission even challenged the conventional
assumption that dams provide "clean" energy; on
the contrary, it said, dam reservoirs,
particularly shallow tropical ones, emit
greenhouse gases released by vegetation rotting
in reservoirs and carbon inflows from watersheds.
In hopes of heading off future tragedies before
they occurred, the Commission listed 26
recommendations to guide future dam construction.
Some, such as examining cheaper and less
destructive options before deciding on a dam,
were commonsensical, while others, such as
obtaining the consent of affected indigenous
people, were matters of social justice.

Just as it tried to do in 1993, the Bank turned
its back on its own creation. The Bank took 13
months to issue a response, which touted its own
policies, not the Commission's. Briscoe now
charged that anti-dam activists "hijacked" the
Commission process, and the Bank announced a new
"high reward/high-risk" policy of renewed support
for large dams -- its first fruit was approval in
March of a loan for Laos' Nam Theun 2 Dam. The
Bank launched its oil, gas, and mining
commission, but this time, presumably having
learned its lesson, tried to exert tight control
over commission proceedings. Even so, the new
commission produced recommendations that the Bank
rejected, and once more the Bank abandoned its progeny.

Despite all this, the WCD report has not suffered
the fate of most commission reports, to fade
quickly into oblivion. Now, five years since its
unveiling, few institutions have embraced all the
report's recommendations, but it has become a
standard, a compilation of best practices,
against which less rigorous approaches are
measured. Unheeded but not forgotten, it hovers
over dam projects as an admonition to dam
builders in the name of human decency and environmental sanity.

Jacques Leslie is the author of Deep Water: The
Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and
the Environment, which won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.

via IRN (Lori Pottinger, Director, Africa
Program, and Editor, World Rivers Review)

16.11.05 : Environmental reviews Export Credits for Hydro Power projects

At their meeting on 16 November, the Participants to the Export Credit Arrangement (1) decided that the extended repayment terms and financial conditions for renewable energies and water projects (which allow for up to 15 years repayment terms for renewable energies and water projects (2) and which came into effect on 1 July 2005 for a two-year trial period (3) ) could be implemented from 1 December 2005 for hydro power projects. In making their decision, the Participants took note of the statement of 15 November made at the OECD in Paris by a number of Member countries and the European Commission, and agreed the application of this statement to the granting of officially supported export credits for hydro power projects.

According to their statement, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Commission, in confirming the application of the OECD Recommendation on environmental common approaches for officially supported export credits to hydro-power projects, acknowledged that the standard practice is that such projects should in all material respects meet the requirements of the relevant aspects of all the World Bank Group Safeguard Policies.

These countries and the European Commission also recognised the value of the relevant aspects of other international sources of guidance, such as the draft Sustainability Guidelines produced by the International Hydropower Association and the Core Values and Strategic Priorities of the World Commission on Dams Report.,2340,en_2649_34169_35688937_1_1_1_1,00.html


1. Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Commission confirm the application of the Common Approaches to hydro-power projects while acknowledging in their decision that the standard practice is that such projects should in all material respects meet the requirements of the relevant aspects of all the World Bank Group Safeguard Policies.

2. These countries and the European Commission also recognise the value of the relevant aspects of other international sources of guidance, such as the draft Sustainability Guidelines produced by the International Hydropower Association and the Core Values and Strategic Priorities of the World Commission on Dams Report.

3. These countries and the European Commission undertake to consider at the time of the review of the OECD Recommendation on Common Approaches on Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits, due to take place in 2006, the extent to which it may need to be complemented with reference to other international sources of guidance.

4. The above statement does not preempt the conclusions of the ECG review of the OECD Recommendations on Common Approaches on Export Credits and Environment that will take place in 2006.

16.11.05 : WCD+5 : Dams destroy environment, group warns

Dams are continuing to cause excessive environmental damage despite recommendations from the World Commission on Dams to ensure environmental consideration.

The report from WWF looks at six dams under construction in the last five years, all of which fail to meet the recommendations of the World Commission.

It shows that dams can damage, drown or even dry out wetlands, an important source of water, as well as destroying fisheries and threatening habitats of endangered species.

In addition, despite claiming that they can provide cheaper power and water for better irrigation systems, dams can actually result in economic disruption, with electricity prices rising and many people displaced, the report says.

The World Commission on Dams was established in 1998 to undertake a review of the development effectiveness of dams and assess alternatives for water resources and energy where possible, and to "develop internationally acceptable criteria, guidelines and standards, where appropriate, for the planning, design, appraisal, construction, operation, monitoring and decommissioning of dams".

It recommended that any construction plans are given public approval, comprehensive assessments of other options are made and that the economic benefits of any dam are shared with local communities.

"Governments along with the World Bank must insist that the WCD's recommendations are applied to all dam projects now," said Jamie Pittock, head of WWF's Global Freshwater Programme. "This is not the engineering heyday of the 1950s when dams were seen as the hallmark of development. We know dams can cause damage and we must put this knowledge to work."

The projects that the WWF report highlights are:

the Chalillo Dam in Belize which was meant to reduce electricity imports and lower electricity prices, yet local people have seen an average increase of 12% in electricity prices while 1,000hectares of rainforest has been flooded;

the US$650 million Ermenek Dam in Turkey which, together with five other hydropower projects, could result in insufficient water flow to maintain the variety of wildlife that lives in the Goksu River delta;

the Nam Theun 2 hydropower project, which is approved by the World bank and which will affect the livelihoods of 50,000 people in Laos when the water is diverted from the Nam Theun river.

In addition, it shows that the problem is not confined to the developing world. In Iceland the OECD found that the Karahnjukar Dam - a flagship project - could cause upward pressure on the country's inflation and interest rates. In Spain, WWF claim that the Melonares Dam has failed to take account of other viable and cheaper alternatives to supply drinking water to the city of Seville.

And, in Australia the Burnett Dam is struggling to be economically viable and threatens the endangered Queensland lungfish, the report says.

Globally, there are 400 large dams under construction and hundreds more planned. According to the WWF report 60% of major rivers have already been fragmented and up to 80 million people displaced.

"Bad dams and bad economics are apparently still alive and kicking five years after the WCD," said Ute Collier the report's author. "As the energy and water crisis tightens we need to ensure that we choose the solutions with the least environmental damage and the greatest social benefits."

Source WWF, via EdieNews David Hopkins


15.11.05 : WCD+5: Five Years after Landmark Report, Experts Call for Stronger Dams Standards

Some progress in adopting new approach to dams, but World Bank turns its back and controversies remain

Today, five years after the independent World Commission on Dams (WCD) published its landmark report on dams and development, international experts called for stronger social and environmental standards for water and power projects. At a conference organized by International Rivers Network (IRN) in Berlin, the experts discussed the progress that has been achieved in the large dams debate in the last five years, and identified perspectives for future improvements.

Published on November 16, 2000, the WCD report called for a new approach to decision-making in the water and power sectors. According to the report, all needs and options should be assessed in a balanced way before projects are identified; dam-affected people must become the first beneficiaries of projects and have their rights guaranteed; environmental concerns must be integrated into all project decisions; and urgent efforts are needed to address the still-unresolved social and environmental legacies of existing dams. In the past five years, the WCD recommendations have become the most important benchmark against which all new dam projects are being measured.

Deborah Moore, a former Commissioner of the WCD, said at the conference in Berlin:
"The WCD framework has become the de facto international standard for dams, whether or not it has been formally adopted by all dam-building institutions. Communities and grassroots organizations around the world are using the WCD report as a tool to change their own situations. On the other hand, the lack of on-the-ground implementation of new non-dam approaches recommended by the WCD in specific projects is disappointing."

A new report published by IRN documents that in recent months, important public and private financial institutions have committed to the principles and recommendations of the WCD. Multi-stakeholder processes in several countries, including Germany, Nepal, South Africa and Sweden, have adapted the recommendations to their national contexts. In contrast, the World Bank - one of the original sponsors of the Commission - walked away from the WCD report once it was published, and adopted a new dam-building strategy that contradicts the WCD's recommendations.

Ann Kathrin Schneider, a Policy Analyst at International Rivers Network, said: "We call on the World Bank to revisit its dam-happy new strategy and implement the standards of the WCD. The World Bank's new strategy completely disregards the WCD's findings and the need to respect the risks and rights of affected people. It is at odds with a global consensus on water and energy that promotes decentralized, low-risk solutions."

Civil society groups stressed at the Berlin conference that they look forward to collaborating with institutions from all sectors in implementing the WCD recommendations and finding sustainable solutions for meeting people's water and power needs. Frank Muramuzi, the Executive Director of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists in Uganda, described how the WCD approach helped bring together the different interest groups in a debate about his country's future power sector development.

Frank Muramuzi said: "We will continue to fight for the interests of project-affected communities and the environment. At the same time, we will cooperate with all parties that commit to the WCD framework to improve the access of Uganda's poor to electricity and water."

Source: IRN
Further information:
Background information on the 5th anniversary of the WCD, including the new IRN report, is available at

Ann Kathrin Schneider, Policy Analyst, IRN (Berlin), tel. +49 30 214 0088 and +49 163 475 1284
Patrick McCully, Executive Director, IRN (Berkeley), tel. +1 510 848 1155

Background information on the WCD:
The World Commission on Dams was initiated by the World Bank and the World Conservation Union in 1997. Its mandate was to carry out the first independent, comprehensive evaluation of the development impacts of large dams, and to put forward recommendations for future water and power sector projects. The WCD consisted of twelve members from governments, industry, academia, and civil society. Its approach of bringing together leading representatives of the various interest groups was hailed as a new model of global governance.

The WCD's report, Dams and Development, was published on November 16, 2000. It found that dams have made an important contribution to human development, but that in too many cases, an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure their benefits. The WCD put forward a new framework for decision-making on water and power projects. This framework consists of seven strategic priorities and 26 concrete recommendations.

more infromation on WCD and download of the report :

03.11.05 : China: Dam opposition swells

China Business
By Antoaneta Bezlova
BEIJING - By boycotting a dam conference organized by the government, Chinese environmentalists have protested the lack of transparency in a river project to build the world's largest hydroelectric cascade on the Nu River in southwestern China that flows into Myanmar and Thailand.

The environmentalists feared that the conference, held in late October, was being used to get around public disclosure of secretive state plans to harness the Nu River - a pristine waterway. A cascade of 13 hydropower stations, known as the Nu River Hydropower Development Project, is being planned on the Nu, in an area that is rich in biodiversity and has been designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations. Grouped as the China Rivers Network, members of a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were invited to attend the weekend dam conference - backed by the National Reform and Development Commission (NRDC), China's main economic planning body - to discuss the Nu River project.

"The organizers said they would share with us parts of the environment impact assessment [EIA]. But we don't want private access to the documents. Why not make them accessible to everyone?" said Zheng Yisheng, researcher with the Center for Environment and Development, a part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

After a public outcry and opposition from downstream countries, Beijing suspended the plans last year, and in a victory for China's nascent green movement, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered a full study of the environmental impact of the proposed dams in southern Yunnan province.

But in violation of China's much touted new green laws, the EIA of the project was completed by the developers in secrecy and sent for approval to the State Council, China's cabinet, without any prior public hearings and disclosure of its content.

Fearing that the project is tacitly moving up the government chain, conservationists had circulated an open letter in August, urging the government to make the EIA public and allow discussion of the project. The petition, signed by 61 organizations and 99 individuals, was sent simultaneously to Wen Jiabao, the State Environmental Protection Agency and the NRDC.

Two months later, no reply had come, but representatives of the China Rivers Network were invited to attend the weekend dam conference, possibly because the EIA law passed by the state in 2003 stipulates that environmental effects of large projects should be assessed and included in their feasibility studies. The EIA law also required public hearings to be held to take into account the opinions of the people most affected by construction, but Network activists suspected that this was being avoided by calling them in.
"We don't want to have another clash of philosophies, we don't need another argument about the pros and cons of large dams," said Ma Jun, an environmental consultant who supports public disclosure of the Nu River environmental study. "We need to talk about the details of the project and these can't be addressed without publicizing the EIA."

Limited reports on the dam conference, attended by senior government officials, power industry executives and Yunnan Communist Party leaders, reveal a renewed zeal to push the project through. He Zuoxiu, an elderly scientist and prominent public figure with well-known pro-development and pro-scientific views, told the forum the primary goal of the Nu River Hydropower Development plan was to alleviate poverty.

"Developing hydropower is the only viable way to eradicate entrenched local poverty, and this is the primary goal of the Nu River project. Generating power comes second," he was quoted as saying by the Beijing Times.

Backers of the project insist the dams would also supply power to a nation that is increasingly struggling to meet its energy needs. But provincial leaders in Yunnan have made no secret of their intention to export power to neighboring countries. Projected capacity from the dam cascade is 20,000 megawatts - greater than the power supplied by the Three Gorges Dam, now the world's largest hydroelectric project.

By law, a project on such scale should be approved by the National People's Congress, the Chinese parliament. But the central government suffered embarrassment when the vote on the Three Gorges Dam was held in 1992: one-third of the parliament's delegates abstained from voting or rejected the measure. Perhaps fearful of a similar campaign, the developers of the Nu River dams are pressing for a decision directly from the top levels of the Chinese government. But this has also increased the stakes of the project in the eyes of the public.

"The Nu River project is not only about environmental preservation. It is also about observing the rule of law in China and ensuring public participation in the decision-making process," argues Xue Ye, secretary of the China Rivers Network. If the project goes ahead, at least 50,000 people, mainly members of Yunnan's many ethnic minorities, would have to be relocated.

These people, Xue says, have very little say and shouldn't be locked out of the debate. The plan has already drawn angry protests from the ethnic communities downstream, in Thailand and Myanmar. The Nu River is the last free-flowing international river in the region, and also Southeast Asia's second longest. It begins in the Tibetan mountains, crosses Yunnan province and flows into Myanmar and Thailand, where it is known as the Salween River.

Chinese civil groups say the propaganda department of the Communist Party has imposed a ban on negative media reports about hydropower development plans. Nevertheless, news has filtered through that the Yunnan government is seeking approval from Beijing for four dams for the first phase of the Nu River project.

The renewed controversy over the project comes amid pledges by Beijing to strive for a more environmentally sensitive model of economic growth. The dam conference was held just a week after Beijing unveiled the draft of its new five-year economic blueprint, which promised to pay heed to the depletion of natural resources.

Last February, the government said that 10 regions, including Beijing, would carry out a pilot project in green GDP assessment. The proposed green index for growth would measure the success of provinces not only in terms of short-term economic figures, but the longer-term costs of pollution, health and resource depletion.

Yunnan province, however, was not among the regions selected to take part in the pilot project. Local leaders anticipate tax returns from the completed full-scale cascade to reach 2.7 billion yuan (US$333 million) a year. "The Nu River [project] has become a test of the central government's resolve to give up [its] growth-at-all-costs policy and pursue more balanced and environment-friendly development," said Xue Ye.
(Inter Press Service) China Business


26.10.05 : Danube Basin: Enhancing access to information and public participation

Five Danube countries - Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia/Montenegro – are working on a project to improve their performance as providers of water quality information to the public. Water data are vital as Danube Basin governments strive to make the best possible decisions for a speedy clean up of their shared water resource. Public participation supported by good data and information can play a significant role in assuring successful results and provide the ''ammunition'' that the public uses to keep governments moving toward meeting their water quality goals. The project will assist the countries in the processing of and responding to information requests, and how to actively make information available even before it is requested. See REC website for further details.

source : EMWIS Flash October 05 / REC

24.10.05: Norway's mighty Vefsna river protected !

"The last great unprotected river in Scandinavia has finally received the protection it deserves. This is one step in bringing Norwegian nature protection up to EU-standards"
Rasmus Reinvang, Terrestrial Program Coordinator, WWF-Norway

In early 2005, WWF launched a public campaign pushing for protection of the Vefsna River, Norway's last great, untouched and unprotected river.
Statkraft, Norway's largest electricity company, had planned to dam the Vefsna River and drill giant tunnels to drain it for hydropower development.

The Vefsna in Northern Norway is a paradise for anglers with its large populations of sea trout and inland trout, and has the second largest spawning area in Norway for the threatened wild Atlantic salmon. Statkraft's large-scale development plans would have taken place near the only healthy population of Arctic fox on mainland Norway, and have a detrimental effect on traditional Sami areas and reindeer herding grounds.

On February 15th, the Norwegian parliament was set to decide on whether to include the Vefsna in the revised list of protected rivers in Norway, so we appealed to Passport holders to urge Statkraft's CEO, Mr Bard Mikkelsen, to drop the hydropower plans and appealed to Mr Oeyvind Halleraker, key Member of the Norwegian Parliament, to give Vefsna the protected status it deserves. The outcome was a uncertain promise to protect Vefsna later.

The new Norwegian government under the leadership of coming prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, social democratic party, on 13 october 2005 announced that Vefsna will now be duly protected against hydropower development. This is a complete victory for the environment!

The efforts of WWF and Panda Passport activists to raise international attention have been significant in achieving this. It became clear to Statkraft and Norwegian politicians that concessions to the hydropower industry in a Natura 2000 quality area will not go unnoticed. About 15,000 e-mails were sent to the CEO of Statkraft and to the Norwegian Parliament! All the Norwegian papers have written about the international focus on the Vefsna and highlighted that Norway in many areas is lagging behind the EU when it comes to nature protection. This has been embarrassing for the Norwegian parliament and government and created a push to deliver on the promise of protection. Well done!

source / contact:
WWF Norway
Rasmus Reinvang, Terrestrial Program Coordinator
Tor Traasdahl, Communications Advisor
Tel: +47 22 03 6513

21.10.05 : Greece – Learning river conservation skills from other countries

The European Union's NetWet 2 consortium
(Networking Perspectives of Transnational
Cooperation and Participatory Planning for
Integrated Water Resources Management) deals with
water-management issues by promoting better land
use. It's jointly financed by local communities
(75%) and national governments (25%). Several EU
countries are especially interested in drought
and flooding issues and the cultivation of
tourism in river basins, among them France,
Italy, Belgium, and Germany. The Greek prefecture
of Thesprotia is now trying to learn from their
example to control industrial pollution in the Kalamas River.


Source: SAHRA News Watch via EWMN News

12.10.05 : EU: Agreement on new bathing water directive

Last week, the Council and the European Parliament succeeded in reaching agreement on a joint text for a draft directive on bathing water quality. The agreement will allow for rapid adoption of the directive. The directive will apply to surface water where a large number of people are expected to bathe, establishing a method for monitoring bathing water quality during the bathing season. The old bathing water directive from 1976 will be repealed and replaced, to reflect scientific knowledge gained since 1976. The new directive will complement the WFD as well as the directives on urban wastewater treatment and on nitrates pollution from agricultural sources.
via EWMN News
more information (EU Website)


12.10.05 : Journée internationale de la prévention des catastrophes naturelles


Célébrée chaque deuxième mercredi d’octobre, la Journée internationale de la prévention des catastrophes naturelles est un moyen de promouvoir une culture globale de réduction des catastrophes naturelles, notamment par le biais de la prévention, la préparation et l’atténuation des effets des catastrophes.

Cette année, le thème de la Journée internationale est : «Réduire les risques grâce aux outils de micro-financement et aux réseaux de sécurité». L’objectif est double : sensibiliser les communautés et les institutions sociales et financières à leur rôle potentiel en matière de réduction des risques liés aux catastrophes naturelles et favoriser la sensibilisation des parties prenantes en matière de gestion du risque à l’efficacité des outils financiers et des réseaux de sécurité visant à réduire la vulnérabilité des populations exposées aux dangers.

Investir dans la réduction des risques liés aux catastrophes atténue la vulnérabilité des populations exposées et contribue à détruire le cercle vicieux de la pauvreté. Organisatrice des manifestations de la Journée, la Stratégie internationale de prévention des catastrophes (SIPC), engagera un dialogue avec des responsables du micro-financement afin que l’utilisation des outils financiers et des réseaux de sécurité existants permette de réduire les risques liés aux catastrophes et fasse augmenter la capacité des communautés à résister aux catastrophes.

Accéder au site officiel de la Journée (en anglais) :

Lire des faits et chiffres sur la gestion des risques :



10.10.05 : Eau en Irak: L’Irak face à son désastre écologique

Les ministres irakiens de l'environnement et des ressources en eau viennent de dresser un tableau sans complaisance, et plutôt sombre, de leur pays “écologiquement ravagé” pour reprendre leurs termes exacts. Il semblerait en effet que Saddam Hussein n’ait pas fait grand cas de l’environnement durant sa dictature.

L'eau est le problème le plus urgent en Irak, le régime de Hussein n'ayant visiblement pas fait une priorité de ce domaine. Ainsi, le pays compte environ 600 usines de traitement d'eau mais la plus récente date déjà de 1982. Si les stations d'épuration sont à peu près en état, elles sont souvent arrêtées par des pannes ou des coupures d'électricité. Au final, la qualité de l'eau laisse à désirer, d'autant que les eaux polluées et les déchets solides sont rejetés presque intégralement, sans épuration préalable, dans les eaux du Tigre et de l’Euphrate, les deux fleuves du pays. Cette situation n'est pas sans causer des problèmes de santé publique, notamment chez les plus jeunes.

Par ailleurs, selon les autorités, seulement 67 % de la population est alimentée en eau, le tiers restant étant approvisionné par des citernes, acheminées dans les bourgs et villages. En outre, si la quantité d'eau disponible pour les populations est suffisante, elle ne répond pas aux besoins des autres usages, notamment agricoles. Ceci est dû à la position géographique de l’Irak, puisqu’en aval du Tigre et de l'Euphrate se trouvent la Turquie, la Syrie et l’Iran, qui captent une grande partie des eaux. Ainsi, en “bout de chaîne”, l'Irak ne reçoit que 10 milliards de mètres cubes selon Latif Rachid, le ministre des ressources en eau. Si des pourparlers avec la Turquie et la Syrie, sur la question du partage de l'eau, sont actuellement à l’ordre du jour, aucun accord n'est pour le moment en vue.

Quant à la qualité de l'air, elle est également très mauvaise : les usines ne disposent en effet pas de filtres, les voitures d'occasion roulent sans pot catalytique et l'essence importée ne subit aucun contrôle de qualité.

Cécile Fargue, source univers nature

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