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(all in original language, en langue originale, in Originalsprache):


"newer news"

28.12.05 : China Dumps Chemicals to try to Clean Toxic River

BEIJING - China is dumping chemicals into a southern river to try to neutralise a toxic spill and contain the second environmental disaster to hit the country in as many months, a local official and state media said on Friday.

The cadmium-containing slick, which has cut tap water for tens of thousands of people downstream for five days, was flushed into the North River running across Guangdong province north to south from a Shaoguan zinc smelter last week.
The government has already lowered dam gates at the Baishiyao hydropower plant near Yingde, 90 km (54 miles) downstream from Shaoguan, to try to stall and dilute the pollutants.

Now it is to dump chemicals into the water, Yingde government spokesman Huang Zhensheng told Reuters by telephone.

"With only 1,200 tonnes of the chemicals, toxicity can be reduced by 30 percent," the Southern Metropolis News quoted an expert as saying.

Cadmium, a metallic element widely used in batteries, can cause liver and kidney damage and lead to bone diseases. Compounds containing cadmium are also carcinogenic.

In China's northeast, the front of a slick of benzene compounds that poisoned drinking water for millions after a chemical plant blast last month has crossed the Russian border through the frozen Amur River.

China apologised again to Russia on Thursday, while Russia's far east city of Khabarovsk readied alternative water supplies, though taps had not been turned off.

"Analysis of the water showed that the benzene content does not exceed ... the maximum allowable concentration," RIA-Novosti news agency quoted an Emergencies Ministry official as saying.

"As a result, the city authorities have decided not to turn off the Khabarovsk water supply."



27.12.05 : EU will Rhein in Nord Rhein
Westfalen komplett unter Naturschutz stellen

Essen (ddp) - Nordrhein-Westfalen droht wegen
eines Streits um den Naturschutz auf dem Rhein
offenbar eine Millionenstrafe aus Brüssel. Die
EU-Kommission fordere von der Landesregierung,
den Strom von Bad Honnef bis zur holländischen
Grenze komplett als Naturschutzgebiet
auszuweisen, bestätigte das NRW-Umweltministerium
der in Essen erscheinenden «Westdeutschen
Allgemeinen Zeitung». Wirtschaftsverbände sähen
durch die Umweltauflagen einen Ausbau des
wirtschaftlich wichtigsten Stroms Europas und
damit tausende Arbeitsplätze gefährdet.

Nach Ansicht der Kommission verstoße NRW gegen
die EU-Vorgaben zur
Flora-Fauna-Habitat-Richtlinie, schreibt das
Blatt. Danach müssten die EU-Mitgliedsstaaten
jeweils zehn Prozent ihrer Landesfläche als
schützenswerte Gebiete nach Brüssel melden. Die
NRW-Regierung habe auf dem wirtschaftlich
wichtigsten Strom Deutschlands nur streckenweise
Fischruhezonen einrichten wollen. Brüssel halte
diese Pläne für unzureichend und setze NRW nun
eine Frist bis zum 19. Februar. «Andernfalls wird
die EU-Kommission Klage vor dem Europäischen
Gerichtshof einreichen», sagte der Sprecher des NRW-Umweltministeriums.

Das Zwangsgeld könne bis zu 800 000 Euro pro Tag
betragen. Am 5. Januar komme es im
NRW-Umweltministerium in Düsseldorf zu einem
Krisentreffen mit Vertretern des
Wirtschaftsministeriums, Naturschutzverbänden
sowie Industrie- und Handelskammern.

source : via DNR

24.12.05 : New York State offers Hudson River restoration plan

ALBANY, New York, December 24, 2005 (ENS) - People would be able to fish and swim the entire 315 mile length of the Hudson River under the Hudson River Estuary Program's newly released final draft Action Agenda to honor exploration of the river by Henry Hudson nearly 400 years ago. By restoring and protecting the whole river, the plan aims to safeguard the Hudson River Estuary, where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean under the Verrezano Narrows bridge in New York Harbor.

Project Website :


23.12.05: Nu River: Vast Dam Proposal is a test for China (New York Times)

By Jim Yardley, The New York Times, FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2005

XIAOSHABA, China Far from the pulsing cities that symbolize modern China, this tiny hillside village of crude peasant houses seems disconnected from this century and the last. But follow a dirt path past a snarling watchdog, sidestep the chickens and ducks and a small clearing on the banks of the Nu River reveals a dusty slab of concrete lying in a rotting pumpkin patch.
The innocuous concrete block is a symbol of a struggle over law that touches every corner of the country.

The block marks the spot on the Nu River where officials here in Yunnan Province want to begin building one of the biggest dam projects in the world. It would produce more electricity than even the mighty Three Gorges Dam but would also threaten a region considered an ecological treasure. This village would be the first place to disappear.

For decades, the Communist Party has rammed through such projects by fiat. But the Nu River proposal, already delayed for more than a year, is now unexpectedly presenting the Chinese government with a quandary of its own making: Will it abide by its laws?

A coalition led by Chinese environmental groups is urging the central government to hold open hearings and make public a secret report on the Nu dams before making a final decision. In a country where people cannot challenge decisions by their leaders, such public participation is a fairly radical idea. But the groups argue that new environmental laws grant exactly that right.

"This is the case to set a precedent," said Ma Jun, an environmental consultant in Beijing. "For the first time, there is a legal basis for public participation. If it happens, it would be a major step forward."

China's leaders often embrace the concept of rule of law, if leaving open how they choose to define it. For many people in China's fledgling "civil society" - environmentalists, journalists, lawyers, academics and others - the law has become a tool to promote environmental protection and to try to expand the rights of individuals in an authoritarian political system.

Trying to invoke the law is risky, however. Chinese nongovernmental organizations, few of which existed a decade ago, have taken up the Nu as a major cause. But the activism on the Nu and other issues has provoked deep suspicions by the Communist Party even as a broader clampdown against such nongovernmental organizations has forced some to shut.

The government knows China has a drastic pollution problem and has passed new environmental laws. But top leaders also demand high economic growth and need to increase energy supplies to get it. The "green laws" are becoming a crucible to test which side will prevail and whether ordinary people can take part in the process.

The closed process that led to the Three Gorges Dam is what opponents of the Nu dams most want to avoid.

In the late 1980s, a wide range of intellectuals and others tried in vain to force public hearings to discuss the environmental and social costs of a project that has flooded a vast region and forced massive relocations.

Ultimately, opponents could only muster a symbolic victory as the final vote in the National People's Congress saw an unusually high number of abstentions or nay votes.

The central government is still deliberating how to proceed on the Nu.

Domestic media coverage has been banned in recent months. Three central government ministries refused interview requests, as did provincial officials in Yunnan. Local officials along the Nu River, after initially agreeing to an interview, failed to reply to a list of written questions.

Out in the jagged mountains along China's remote southwestern border, villagers in Xiaoshaba gather information about their future from rumors. In early December, a team of surveyors inventoried property and measured the narrow terrace of village farmland along the Nu.

Several villagers say local officials have told them that everyone will be relocated around the coming Lunar New Year holiday, which ends in early February - even if the dams have not yet been approved.

"If they tell me to move," said a villager, Zhang Jianhua, "I have no other choice."

In the spring of 2003, a slender, studious man named Yu Xiaogang learned that the hydropower industry was eyeing the rivers of southwestern China. Yu, an environmental resources manager, knew that China believed hydropower was a cleaner alternative for its energy shortages and that the Nu was considered one of the country's richest, untapped resources. But he and others believed the Nu would be untouchable.

The Nu, which translates as Angry River, roars out of the Tibetan Plateau east of the Himalayas and plunges through steep canyons just inside the border with Myanmar, or Burma, as it careens southward before crossing the border.

In China, it passes through a mountainous region with more than 7,000 species of plants and 80 rare or endangered animals or fish. Unesco said the region "may be the most biologically diverse temperate ecosystem in the world" and designated it a World Heritage Site in the summer of 2003.

"We were very happy because we thought the Nu would be protected and would have no problems," said Yu, who also headed an environmental NGO called Green Watershed. But not long after the World Heritage designation, a state-run provincial newspaper announced that a public-private consortium planned to build 13 dams on the river. The project would be the largest cascade dam system in the world and it appeared politically unstoppable.

The majority partner, China Huadian Corporation, was a state-owned goliath; the local government was a minority partner. In Beijing, the State Development and Reform Commission, a powerful government ministry, had approved the dams in August and planned to present the plan to the State Council, or China's cabinet, for final approval.
Construction would begin in September 2003.

The environmental community was blindsided. More than 50,000 people, most of them from ethnic minority hill tribes, would be relocated. The Nu also was one of only two free flowing rivers in China. The State Environmental Protection Administration, or SEPA, the country's environmental watchdog, criticized the project in its official newspaper. But SEPA was considered one of the weakest ministries in the central government.

Then, a snag arose: a bureaucratic delay, hardly uncommon in China. August became September and the proposal had not yet been presented for final approval.
During the delay, a new environmental law took effect on Sept. 1. Based on an American model, the China Environmental Impact Assessment Law required comprehensive environmental reviews in the planning stages of major public and private development projects.

Decades of relentless economic growth had left China with dire pollution problems and squandered natural resources. President Hu Jintao had made "sustainable development" a new government mantra.

The assessment law gave the environmental agency new powers to handle and approve environmental reviews before a project was approved. It also called for public participation, including hearings, as part of the review, though it did not detail specific guidelines.

But it would take public pressure to force action on the Nu case. Despite its uniqueness and natural beauty, the Nu was not well known, largely because of its isolated location.

In September, an environmental conference in Beijing brought together academics, government environmental officials and NGOs to discuss the Nu.

A month later, Pan Yue, the outspoken vice minister of the environmental agency, organized China's first "Green Forum," a public relations event that included Chinese music and film stars. One person at the forum was a woman named Wang Yongchen, a member of Green Earth Volunteers, an environmental NGO in Beijing.
Initially, the Green Earth Volunteers had concentrated on tree planting and teaching children about the environment. But in recent years, the group had participated in efforts to stop a dam proposal in Sichuan Province. At the forum, Wang persuaded 62 celebrities and film stars to sign a petition in support of "natural" rivers. She would later donate money to build 30 libraries in poor villages along the Nu.

But the key factor was the Sept. 1 law. As the project appeared to be nearing approval, biologists, academics and environmentalists all argued that the government had not properly conducted an environmental review.

In late winter, as Wang guided a tour of Chinese journalists, her mobile phone rang. A friend informed her that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had temporarily suspended the project so that it could be "carefully discussed and decided on scientifically." Wang began to cry with joy.
Later, some Chinese newspapers speculated that Wen's edict meant the project was dead.
Yu thought otherwise. "I thought this was the first success of public participation," he said. "But I did not think the decision was final."

The dispute over the Nu seems at a standstill. Ultimately, the decision on holding hearings may fall to the prime minister. Wang, the NGO leader, described the dilemma in simple terms.
"If the law is not enforced, what shall we do?" she asked. "We have this law. Why doesn't this law work?"

Source : New York Times
via IRN

22.12.05 : Danube Delta /Project Start: Connecting Katlabuh Lake with Danube

The reconnection of the Katlabuh liman with the Danube river has
started this week in the Ukrainian Danube Delta. This is the second
project site of WWF Netherlands and WWF DCP in the delta and the
contract for its implementation was signed with the local Odessa
Water Management Board. The main goal of the project is to restore
the natural hydrological regime by reconnecting the Katlabuh Lake to
the Danube River through the old river channel.

Source: WWF :

21.12.05 : Croatia - The Drava river basin project

The lower Drava river basin is known as a largely
intact piece of nature, which however is
threatened by illegal landfills and effluents. An
INTERREG IIIB CADSES Project is to counteract
this situation. In view of a possible EU
accession, Croatia plans to implement a central
environmental management system within the years
to come. The most important measures include a.o.
the implementation of new water management and
wastewater disposal plans. About eight billion
euros will be invested in environmental measures
until 2012. With its integrative approach, the
Drava river basin project fits perfectly in this picture.

Source: Aquamedia via EWMN

20.12.05 : Elbe : Schwarz-Rote Bundesregierung plant Ausbau der Mittel- und Oberelbe

Der Spiegel vom 12.12.2005 hat es ans Licht gebracht, was die Koalitionsvereinbarung nicht offen preisgab:
Die neue Bundesregierung plant den Ausbau der Mittel- und Oberelbe, um den Hamburger Hafen
ans „Hinterland“ anzuschließen.

Vorgesehen ist die Einengung und Vertiefung der Elbe im Dessauer Raum bei Coswig/Wörlitz sowie
zwischen Dömitz und Hitzacker. Außerdem soll in Magdeburg der Domfelsen zur Verbreiterung der
Fahrrinnen teilweise abgetragen werden. Die Kosten sind unbekannt und ein Nutzen ist kaum zu erkennen,
denn die Elbe ist, wie der Spiegel richtig feststellte, als Wasserstraße eine Null“. Sicher ist hingegen
nur, dass das Auenland Schaden nehmen wird – und zwar irreversibel.
Damit wird das EU-Recht ausgehebelt, das ein Verschlechterungsverbot vorschreibt.

Dieser Entscheid stösst auf vehemente Opposition seiten der Umweltorganisationen und steht auch im Kontrast zur Position der sächsischen Regierung.

Die Elbe ist seit der Wiedervereinigung Deutschlands stark unter Schutz gestellt worden. In ihrem deutschen Verlauf besitzt die Elbe =keine Staustufe bis Hamburg auf rund 700 km Länge. 460 km davon sind gar als UNESCO Biosphäre klassiert (Mittlere Elbe) Zudem befinden finden sich an ihren Ufern ein Nationalpark sowie zwei UNESCO Welterben.

Es in diesem Zusammenhang sicher auch kein Zufall, dass vor wenigen Wochen (siehe RiverNews 110) die tschechische Regierung erneut das Projekt einer Staustufe in der tschechischen Elbe oberhalb der deutsch - tschechischen Grenze veröffentlichte hat.

Es ist zu befürchten, dass die Elbe mit ihrer ausserordentlichen biologischen Vielfalt, der erst gerade erreichten guten chemischen Wasserqualität im Süsswasserabschnitt, dem fast schon wieder heimischen Lachs (nach 70 Jahren Abwesenheit) auf dem besten Weg zu einem Standardfluss mit trapezoidem Profil ist. Noch schlimmer, es ist ein wieter Schritt in Richtung eines elbe/Oder - Donau Kanales.

Alle Statistiken und seriösen Studienzeigen überdies, dass das Verkehrsaufkommen heute gering ist und bleiben wird und von der Bahn absorbiert werden könnte. Im weiteren ist absehbar, dass die Elbe durch den Klimawechsel bedingt,in Zukunft sinkende Wasserpegel aufweisen wird und damit eine noch unattraktivere Wasserstrasse wird.

Quellen : ERN / BUND LV Berlin / Spiegel :
fuer mehr Infos

- Spiegelartikel (pdf)
- Link zur "'Elbe Erklärung von 1996
- Websiet im RiverNet zum tschechischen Projekt einer Staustufe
- Pressemitteilung von ERN / ARNIKA / BUND zum Projekt einer Staustufe in der tschechischen Elbe
- Link zur Webseite Elbe - Oder -Danube Kanala des BUND

20.12.05 : Fleuve Elbe : le nouveau Gouvernement allemand fait marche arrière: Moins de protection - plus de navigabilité !

Selon un article de Spiegel Nr 50 /2005, le nouveau gouvernement fédéral dirigé par Mme Merkel, dans le cadre des négociations pour le gouvernement de coalition, a décidé de l'aménagement de l'Elbe afin de la rendre navigable une plus grande partie de l'année entre Hambourg et la frontière germano-tchèque (en amont de Dresde). Cette décision va à l'encontre de la décision prise par le précédent gouvernement dans le cadre de la Déclaration de l'Elbe : il avait alors exclu tout aménagement du cours principal de ce fleuve, jusqu'à la frontière tchèque. (voir lien en fin d'article)
Cette décision a rencontré une forte opposition de la part des ONG de protection de la nature. Mais elle va aussi à l'encontre de la position adoptée par le Land de Sachsen.
Le fleuve Elbe a été fortement protégé depuis la réunification de l'Allemagne en 1989. Dans sa partie allemande, aucun barrage n'entrave ce fleuve sur une distance de 700 km. 460 km du fleuve sont même classés "réserve de biosphère" par l'UNESCO ( Mittlere Elbe) et un parc national ainsi que deux site du Patrimoine Mondial sont situés sur les rives de l'Elbe.

Rappelons que parallèlement à cette décision, le gouvernement Tchèque avait lui aussi relancé un projet de canalisation de l'Elbe au travers d'un projet de barrage situé en amont de la frontière tchéco-allemande (cf. la Rivernews précédente, no 110) dans le but d'améliorer la navigabilité du fleuve.
En d'autres mots, nous pouvons dire que l'Elbe, avec sa biodiversité extraordinaire, avec la bonne qualité d'eau récemment atteinte dans sa partie dulçaquicole, avec le saumon (de retour dans le fleuve après 70 ans d'absence), avec ses milieux humides (qui absorbent les grosses crues comme celles de 2002), est sur le point de devenir une "rivière standard", trapézoïdale et banale. Pire que cela : cela pourrait être la première étape d'un futur canal Elbe - Oder - Danube !
De plus, toutes les statistiques et études actuelles sérieuses montrent que le trafic des bateaux devrait être insignifiant et pourrait être pris en charge par chemin de fer. Enfin, approfondir l'Elbe pour la rendre navigable même en période d'étiage est un projet insensé : en raison des changements climatiques, le nombre de jour d'étiage va de toute façon augmenter.

Pour plus d'information
- article du Spiegel (pdf)
Lien vers la "'Elbe Declaration" 1996 (allemand)
- Page Oueb sur le projet de barrage en Rép. Tschèque
- Communiqué de presse sur le projet de barrage en Rép. Tchèque de ERN / ARNIKA / BUND (en anglais)
- lien vers la page Oueb Elbe - Oder -Danube Channel project (in german)

20.12.05 : Elbe River : the new German government steps back ! Protection is out, improving navigability is in.

According to an article published in the Spiegel of 50 / 2005, the new federal government headed by Mrs Merkel, within the framework of the negotiations to constitute the coalition's government, took the decision to deepen and channel the Elbe in order to make it "more navigable" between Hamburg and the German-Czech border (upstream from Dresden). This decision is opposed to the one that took the former government, within the framework of the Declaration of the Elbe : he then excluded any development of the main way of the river, up to the Czech border. (see link at the end of this articel)
This decision met a strong opposition from the NGO for the nature's protection. But it also goes against the position of the Sachsen Land.
The Elbe River has been highly protected since the reunification of Germany in 1989. In Germany, the Elbe is free of dams along 700 km. 460 km of the river are designated as UNESCO biosphere (Mittlere Elbe).and a national park and 2 World heritage sites are located along its banks.

Let us remember that in parallel, the Czech government had also restarted a project of canalisation of the Elbe, through a dam project located upstream from the German-Czech border (see the latest Rivernews Nr 110), in order to improve the navigability of the river…
In other words, we can say that the Elbe River with its extraordinary biodiversity, with the newly reached good water quality in its freshwater part, with the salmon (back after 70 years), with its wetlands (absorbing big floods such as the one in 2002) is on the best way to become a normalised 'Standard River", trapezoid and common. More than that : it would be the first step for a future Elbe - Oder - Danube 'Channel' !
More over, all the actual serious statistics and studies show that the boat traffic would be insignificant, and could be overtaken by railway. Finally, to deepen the Elbe to make it navigable even during the low water periods is a nonsense : due to climate changes, the number of days of low water levels of the Elbe will increase anyway.

For more information :
- article of the Spiegel (pdf)
Link to the former 'Elbe Declaration" (german)
- Webpage on the czech dam project
- Pressrelease on the czech dam project by ERN / ARNIKA / BUND
- link to webpages Elbe - Oder -Danube Channel project (in german)

20.12.05 : A new report: "What have dams got to do with peace?

Conflict and the politics of infrastructure development" by The Corner House,

Nicholas Hildyard addresses the very real and damaging conflicts that dams (and other large infrastructure projects such as oil pipelines and mines) can cause and exacerbate.

Infrastructure development is often at the junction where conflicts over resources and decision-making meet, where future conflicts are created and where past conflicts are perpetuated. It raises key questions, therefore, about decision-making, and political and economic power, about wider geo-politics and re-colonisation.

This presentation illustrates these points with reference to several projects proposed or being implemented in Turkey. 20.12.05

source : The Cornerhouse

19.12.05 : USA: A big wave of mini-hydro projects

Interest revives in hydropower on a small scale, sparked by the new
energy bill and high fuel costs.
By <>
Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

When the surging Grasse River breached the old concrete-and-wood dam
in Massena, N.Y., the dam, only a few feet high, collapsed slowly.
Its failure injured nobody - and did the environment a big favor.
Today, eight years later, the unplugged Grasse flows freely from
Massena to the St. Lawrence River, and eel and sturgeon are
returning. Canoeists and anglers have, too. That idyllic scene may be
shifting, though, worrying some.

Massena officials are planning a new dam, whose spinning hydropower
turbine will generate about 2.5 megawatts and $1 million worth of
electricity a year for the city-run utility.
Hoover Dam it is not. It would generate enough juice for only about
2,500 homes. Still, Massena's tiny project is part of a big new wave
of "small hydro" power projects emerging nationwide.

Propelled by high energy costs, federal incentives, and an eased
licensing process, at least 104 projects in 29 states - with 2,400
megawatts of new capacity - have been granted "preliminary permits"
by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates
hydropower development. Many other projects in the works have not yet
been officially reported by FERC, observers say.
The jolt in interest is lifting the long-languishing hopes of
hydropower's true believers.

"There seems to be a trend, hopefully, of getting more hydropower
on-line," says Linda Church Ciocci of the National Hydropower
Association in Washington, which represents investor-owned utilities.

Until recently, most energy analysts felt hydro's best days were
behind it, because the rivers with the best potential for large-scale
water power were dammed long ago. Since the 1980s, hydropower has
been eclipsed by other, faster-growing types of "clean" electric power.

Natural-gas-fired generation, for instance, grew nearly 240 percent
in the decade ending in 2003. Hydro grew just 4 percent - its share
of the nation's power generation sagging to 9 percent from 11 percent
a decade earlier.

Some trace the surge in hydropower interest to little-noticed
provisions in the 2005 energy bill that provided tax credits and
incentive payments to boost the industry. It also included measures
to soften the clout of environmentalists, native Americans, fishing
enthusiasts, and federal agencies that might oppose or wish to modify
such projects.

Most projects are still on the drawing boards, and the majority will
probably never be built. Many projects call for retrofitting existing
dams with generators. Only a few involve new dams.

Indeed, the story of hydropower in recent years has been one of dam
demolition, not construction. Nearly 200 dams have been demolished
since 1999. Concern over declining salmon stocks and other migratory
fish, and the rise of cheaper energy alternatives, have taken the
shine off hydro. Last month, for instance, FERC approved removal of
the Powerdale Dam on the Hood River in Oregon.

A few new dam projects are buried among the preliminary permits FERC
has granted, but officials say new dams, which often generate
opposition, won't be what saves the industry.

"We're not advocating building new dams," says Ms. Ciocci. "We want
to see existing hydropower dams get upgrades and a lot of existing
dams that don't have generators have them installed."

About 4 in 5 projects on the books are tiny - producing less than 20
megawatts of power. But if all 104 projects now in the planning
stages are built, they would contribute 2.4 gigawatts to generating
capacity nationwide.

The potential exists for much more, say federal researchers. Of
80,000 existing dams, only about 2,500 generate electricity.
Upgrading those hydropower dams could boost power by 4,300 megawatts.
Retrofitting the most promising of the remaining 77,000 dams could
generate as much as 17,000 megawatts, according to a recent US
Department of Energy Report.

Such a boost might reduce the need for future fossil-fuel or nuclear
projects. Still, environmentalists are wary.

"We've heard through the grapevine that there is movement," says
Robbin Marks, director of the hydropower reform campaign at American
Rivers, an environmental group in Washington. "We don't want to see
new hydro dams."

At a recent town hall meeting in Massena, environmentalists, the US
Fish and Wildlife Service, state environment officials, Indian
tribes, and sportsmen's groups came to ask questions.

The new dam is needed to defray rising power costs, Massena officials
say. The timing seems right, they add, because the new federal energy
law may provide economic incentives that make it a good deal.
"Frankly, the public response has been overwhelmingly positive," says
Andrew McMahon, superintendent of Massena Electric, the city utility.
"We're going to do our best to work with everyone and deal with concerns."

Across the nation, many existing dams are slated for relicensing
hearings, where interest groups are expected to challenge their value
to the public - in some cases leading to dam demolition. In other
cases, relicensing will help the environment because it leads to
upgrades that meet today's standards, environmentalists say.

source :

Christian Science Monitor , via IRN


19.12.05 : Water transfers back on Spain's agenda

Spain's government on Friday approved an emergency law facilitating
inter-river basin water sales to help tackle drought on the
Mediterranean coast. Environmental group WWF/Adena criticised the
measure, which it said contravened the EU water framework directive and
would encourage illegal water extraction. Last year the government
scrapped a huge north-south water transfer plan tabled by its
predecessor, arguing that it was unsustainable (ED 18/06/04 The new law allows inter-basin
sales by holders of private water rights. See press releases from
environment ministry
and WWF/Adena

source: Environment Daily 2006, 19/12/05


13.12.05: China: Exodus forced by dam under way

by SHI JIANGTAO in Beijing South China Morning Post. 2005-12-13

Thousands of Sichuan residents have come to terms with being forced from
their homes to make way for a controversial dam.

Construction of the 186-metre-high Pubugou dam on the Dadu River in Hanyuan
county recently resumed after it had been halted over deadly clashes last
year. It will be the country's fifth-largest hydropower plant, with a
capacity of 3.3 million kilowatts.

But the 20 billion yuan China Guodian project will see up to 100,000 people
displaced from seven townships in Hanyuan and a neighbouring county by
August, according to villagers.

My family is almost ready to go, as many of the county residents have
already left, said Ji Changhua , 39, from Dashu township in Hanyuan, Yaan
city , more than 300km from Chengdu .

Of the villagers who signed relocation agreements with the county government
in September, more than 30,000 had yet to be moved to their new homes in
four counties in Chengdu and Leshan , Mr Ji said.

The authorities told me that my new house in Pujiang county, about 200km
from Hanyuan, will not be ready until next March, although according to the
agreement, I should move out by the end of January, he said.

The agreements were signed after representatives of the villagers were said
to be content after a field trip to their new homes.

While the residents have failed in their bid for increased compensation,
they face fines of up to 20,000 yuan if they do not vacate their homes on

My new house will be 50 square metres smaller than the one I am living in.
The farmland there will also be smaller, and what's more, our land here is
so fertile, Mr Ji said. But we have no other choice but to accept the deal
as the authorities are so determined to build the dam. We don't petition the
government any more.

Mr Ji was among up to 100,000 farmers who staged sit-ins and protests to
stop the damming of the river in October last year.

The demonstration erupted into violent clashes the next month when up to
10,000 People's Armed Police were sent to the dam site to quell days of
protests. One policeman was killed and a number of villagers and police

More than a year after the massive demonstration, which earned the
mountain-valley county international attention, it remains a taboo topic in
the mainland media and among Sichuan academics.

Local authorities, embarrassed by the open opposition by the usually
obedient locals, have questioned as many as 400 villagers and arrested at
least a dozen protesters.

One Dashu villager, Gao Qiansong , was jailed for three years for his
alleged role in leading the protests. The massive protests also led to a
purge of local city and county officials who had been accused of corruption
and involvement in the clashes.

Former Yaan vice-mayor Tang Fujin , who was promoted to the city post after
having served as Hanyuan's party secretary for six years from 1998, was put
on trial in June for accepting nearly 2.5 million yuan in bribes, Xinhua

Local rumours say Tang has been jailed for life, while his confidant, former
deputy county party secretary Bai Rangao , is also said to have been
sentenced to a lengthy spell behind bars.

The construction of the dam, designed to help ease the country's chronic
power shortage, resumed in September and the damming of the Dadu was
completed late last month. The dam project is scheduled for completion in

Source : SHI JIANGTAO in Beijing South China Morning Post., via IRN

05.12.05 : Albania protects Lake Skadar and the Buna Delta

Largest Lake in the Balkan Area under protection: 900 sqkm protected in Montenegro and Albania

Only Bojana Delta in Montenegro still missing to complete unique protected wetland area on the Balkan Green Belt

Lake Skadar at the border of Albania and Montenegro (also called Lake Scutari or Lake Shkodra) is a dynamic natural lake, changing its surface area from 350 sqkm in dry summers to up to 542 sqkm after heavy rainfall. The Lake is connected to the Adriatic Sea by the Buna River (called Bojana in Montenegro) and divided by the border. Now, 495 sqkm on the Albanian side are being protected as "Shkodra Lake Natural Reserve" by a decision of the Albanian Council of Ministers taken on November 2nd 2005. Lake Skadar, the Buna river, a beach stretching for miles, lagoons, marshlands and wide pastureland are part of the new protected area. Dolphins, golden eagles, pelicans and bears can be found in one coherent natural area. "The beauty and natural wealth of this former iron curtain border area are remarkable and probably unique in Europe," Dr. Martin Schneider-Jacoby of European Nature Heritage Fund (Euronatur) puts his enthusiasm into words. Euronatur has been working for the protection of the area as part of the "Balkan Green Belt" - project since three years. This initiative wants to save the natural beauties along the former iron curtain.
The new Shkodra Lake Natural Reserve includes the Albanian part of Lake Skadar (265 sqkm) and the terrestrial and marine area of the Buna delta (230 sqkm) including the 44 km river course and the coastal mountains. Most important sites are the Viluni lagoon, a 15 km long beach, the Velipoja reserve, the Domni marshland and the large pasturelands at the river. Together with the adjacent Lake Skadar National Park on the Montenegrenian side the whole protected area comprises now almost 900 sqkm of extaordinary natural beauty.
The Albanian decision offers great opportunity to develop a transboundary protected area according to the international guidelines of UNESCO and the Ramsar Convention. "Most important now is the integration of the Bojana Delta in Montenegro in the protected areas network and the implementation of management measures in the new nature reserve", states Schneider-Jacoby of Euronatur. The protection of the landscape values and high biodiversity could make the area a tourist destination attractive all year round. Nevertheless, Euronatur emphasizes that in this context it will be important to stop illegal building in the natural areas as well as uncontrolled hunting. For the hinterland and the rural areas a development program is needed to preserve the cultural and natural heritage and to improve the living in the villages. During a recent meeting the Prime Ministers of both Albania and Montenegro strongly expressed their will to enhance transboundary cooperation.

28.11.05 : Laos: Stone laid for Nam Theun 2 Dam

Controversial dam will power Thailand
AFP and BANGKOKPOST, Bangkok Post, Monday 28 November 2005

The foundation stone was laid yesterday for the controversial Nam Theun 2 hy-dropower dam in
Laos, which will supply power to 17 provinces in Thailand from 2009.

One of four dams to be built on the Theun river, part of the Mekong watershed, it has survived
years of tenacious opposition, a long delay in obtaining finance, and hesitation on the part of the main engineering firm.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was present at the ceremony, joining Lao Prime Minister
Bounnhang Vorachit at the site, 250km southeast of Vientiane.

The dam will supply Thailand with low-cost electricity at 1.59 baht per unit (kilowatt hour) compared to 1.90 baht per unit from oil.

Mr Bounnhang said the $1.25 billion project was concrete proof of his government's willingness to
use its resources to help neighbours meet their energy needs. ``We aim to supply sufficient electricity to meet domestic consumption as well as to export to neighbouring countries,'' he said.

The project will bring mixed blessings to Laos, with the displacement of 6,200 people but
potential earnings of up to $150 million a year for a country totally dependent on international aid.

Since 1993 the project has swallowed up millions of dollars in studies and research. Its promoters
made a global tour earlier this year to counter pressure from the dam's critics. They failed to win over more than 150 NGOS in about 40 countries which maintain that the dam is of no use to local people and will permanently scar the environment.

The World Bank gave its backing in March, paving the way for private foreign banks and other financing organisations.

After 12 years of work, the Nam Theun 2 Power Company Ltd (NTPC), the joint venture that manages the project, is ready to take off. ``I don't think we can call it a miracle but we are proud that 12 years of methodical development
work is finally bearing fruit,'' said Ludovic Delplanque, the project spokesman.

Electricite de France International, the main engineering company and main promoter with a 35% stake, hopes to finish the work in about four-and-a-half years.

Its partners are Electricite du Laos and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, which each have a 25% stake, and the Italian-Thai Development Public Co, which holds 15%.

For Vientiane, it signifies the new image the regime is seeking to promote, of a government
that is gradually emerging from isolation and tackling modern and complex tasks.

Laos has had to speed up reforms, especially in its budget-making, in order to show transparency
in handling the finances for the project.

French ambassador Maurice Portiche lauded the regime's efforts while noting that its conduct of
the project would be watched closely. ``Laos is aware of the enormous responsibility that has been thrust on it,'' he said.

A similar warning came from Aviva Imhof, campaign director of the US-based environmental protection
organisation, International Rivers Network.

``The project will require massive vigilance to ensure that construction is carried out in the
most environmentally sensitive manner and that all of the thousands of affected people really do
get proper compensation,'' she said.

``There's real concern that people are getting small plots of quite infertile land'' in compensation, she said.

source: AFP and BANGKOKPOST, Bangkok Post, Monday 28 November 2005

27.11.05 : The Lessons of Harbin

Government inaction means millions are paying for prosperity with
their health

The environmental disaster that has unfolded over the past two
weeks in the northeast Chinese city of Harbin has the makings of a
great story: explosion at large petrochemical plant releases toxic
pollutants into major river, threatening millions; local officials
attempt cover-up; panic ensues; wiser voices prevail; corrective
action is taken. Unfortunately, the real story remains largely
untold. China's rapid economic development, endemic corruption and
highly decentralized political system have produced a
life-threatening environmental crisis for hundreds of millions of Chinese.

The statistics tell the tale. Earlier this year, China's Minister
of Water Resources announced that 300 million people drink
contaminated water on a daily basis. Of these, 190 million consume
water so contaminated that it is making them sick. Children are
particularly susceptible-more than 30,000 die annually from diarrhea
due to unclean water. Wang Bin, director of the Ministry of Health's
Women's Health Division, has linked environmental pollution to the
25% increase in birth defects China recorded between 2001 and 2003.

All along China's most polluted rivers-where factories simply dump
their waste and sewage directly into the waterways and their
tributaries-towns and villages record startling rates of cancer,
stunted growth, diminished IQs and miscarriages. The economic costs
are staggering, too. According to the Yellow River Conservancy
Commission, river pollution costs China's economy about $1.9 billion
annually. None of this should be surprising. China's State
Environmental Protection Administration has repeatedly published
reports indicating that more than 75% of the water flowing through
China's urban areas is considered unsuitable for drinking or fishing,
and 30% of the river water monitored by the Chinese government is
worse than grade 5 (not suitable even for agriculture or industry).

It is easy to blame China's rapid economic growth for this
devastating situation. Scant attention has been paid to the costs of
pollution or resource degradation engendered by this dramatic
economic development. Central government investment in environmental
protection remains well below the 2.2% of GDP Chinese scientists
claim is the minimum necessary to prevent further deterioration.
Pollution fines are so low that factories often elect to pay them
rather than take corrective measures. Water is typically priced far
below replacement cost, discouraging recycling or conservation.

Fault, however, also rests deep within China's political system.
While officials in Beijing routinely pass laws to protect the
environment, local officials and factory managers collude to evade
them. Many enterprises and municipalities are so confident in their
ability to ignore the law that even when they possess appropriate
waste-treatment facilities, they elect not to use them in order to
avoid operational costs. Local environmental protection bureaus and
courts are also beholden to local governments rather than to central
government agencies, making them particularly susceptible to
political and economic pressure. With few incentives for factory
managers and local officials to do the right thing and even fewer
disincentives to do the wrong thing, environmental officials face an
uphill battle.

Inaction comes at a steep price. The environment is one of the
leading causes of China's rising social unrest. Last year the
government recorded 74,000 protests. This year, international and
domestic media have kept busy reporting on numerous environmental
protests, several of which have spiraled out of control, resulting in
beatings, arrests, even deaths. In wealthy Zhejiang Province, for
example, thousands of people mobilized throughout the spring and
summer to protest chemical, pharmaceutical and battery factories that
were polluting their land and water. In one case in April, up to
30,000 people living in and around the village of Huaxi reportedly
set roadblocks, smashed windows, overturned scores of police cars and
sent at least 30 police to the hospital.

The Chinese government has taken some steps to try to improve its
environmental record. Much of this involves encouraging the public to
report polluters, to take part in the environmental-impact-assessment
process, and to use the legal system to take the most egregious
offenders to court. Beijing has also opened the door to thousands of
environmental NGOs that now openly tackle issues such as biodiversity
protection, dam resettlement and public-health awareness.
Nevertheless, the government remains wary of too much citizen
activism, fearing calls for broader political reform. NGO leaders who
tread into politically sensitive areas have been barred from further
activity, prevented from leaving the country and even arrested.

What will be the lessons of Harbin? In the wake of SARS, China's
leaders have become increasingly adept at operating in the harsh
spotlight of the international community. After acknowledging some
missteps and perhaps removing some culpable officials, they will
likely point to the Harbin incident as further evidence of their
newfound willingness to deal openly with challenges such as avian
flu. Unfortunately, it is unlikely Beijing will recognize the Harbin
disaster for what it really is: a wake-up call signaling that without
real reform, they risk hundreds of millions of desperately ill
citizens, greater social unrest and, perhaps, the end of the Chinese
economic miracle.

-Elizabeth Economy is the Council on Foreign Relations' Asia
Studies director and author of The River Runs Black

source : Dec. 05, 2005 issue of TIME Asia Magazine,13673,501051205-1134809,00.html
via International Rivers Network

23.11.05 : (green) Hydropower is Making Waves

(EnergyBiz Insider )
Water from the Mamquam River near Vancouver will turn turbines to generate 25 megawatts of
electricity. The new hydro-powered plant is a run-of-the-river project, which does not require
dams that upset ecosystems and damage fisheries.

Most regions of the world with hydro resources recognize the delicate balance between the
environment and the need to generate fewer emissions from power plants. But the review
processes in this country have become more inclusive, although they are about to be
streamlined. Promising models such as the one developed along the Mamquam River in combination
with clean air standards and global warming treaties are expected to spawn new hydro projects
while existing facilities will likely get re-licensed.

"This new power plant is a perfect example of balancing the needs of the environment with
responsible economic development," says Canadian Hydro Developers CEO John Keating, whose company
developed the Upper Mamquam Hydroelectric Plant. "We know green electricity builds sustainable
communities. Environmentally, the (plant) generates virtually zero emissions." Such "run-of-the-river" sites are dependent on stream flow, access to power lines and proximity to markets.

In the United States, hydropower has grown from 56,000 MW in 1970 to more than 90,000 MW today,
according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Scientists at the Idaho National Engineering and
Environmental Laboratory, meantime, say that the United States could more than double its supply
of hydropower by accessing smaller streams in addition to dams that are traditionally used for
such purposes. The next phase of hydropower, however, will focus on smaller hydro units that
are less disruptive environmentally but still useful in supplying electricity to remote areas.

The Idaho Falls-based research lab says that about 170,000 megawatts of the clean and
sustainable energy form remain untapped and are not restricted from development by the federal
government. Meanwhile, at least 100 countries are developing small hydro plants, with the most
potential in the former Soviet Union, South Asia and South America.

The conventional way to produce hydroelectricity is through dams. But the amount of power is
contingent upon the speed of the water that turns the turbines. Dams can increase the velocity by
raising the water level. But they leave big footprints and can cause local populations to disperse.

The 2005 Energy Law gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) new authority when
it comes to re-licensing hydroelectric dams. Under new rules expected out, utilities will be
able to challenge requirements meant to safeguard the environment and fisheries that they say add a
decade to the licensing process and cost hundreds of millions. Critics say such moves give
utilities more rights than environmentalists and Native American tribes. More than 200 dams in 36
states are set to apply for new permits by 2020.

"We want to make changes to meet the needs of these rivers," says Dave Kvamme, spokesman for
Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp, in an interview with the Associated Press. "But we don't want to
do it at any cost." PacifiCorp wants to build five dams on Oregon's Klamath River.

Streamlined Rules

While dams are used to irrigate farms and supply water to cities, they are also responsible for
displacing people and costing livelihoods as reservoirs occupy once-useful land. Spokane-based
Avista Corp. is at odds with interest groups over the operation of five hydroelectric dams along
the Spokane River in Washington State. The three-year battle is now in the hands of FERC,
which will have until 2007 to hold additional hearings and review the applications before it
would re-license the project for 30-50 years.

Interestingly, a feature story in the New Scientist says that contrary to popular belief,
hydropower can cause serious damage to the environment. It says that hydroelectric dams
produce significant levels of carbon dioxide and methane because up to 28 percent of all
artificial greenhouse gas emissions could be from rotting vegetation in dams. The story cites
Philip Fearnside of Brazil's National Institute for Research in the Amazon, who estimates that
the greenhouse effect from one Brazilian dam was 3.5 times what would have been produced if oil had been burned.

"Everyone thinks hydro is very clean but this is not the case," says Eric Duchemin, a consultant
for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in the New Scientist story.

While regulators in this country are expected to streamline licensing rules, they do say that all voices will be heard. It used to be that FERC allowed dam operators to apply for licensing before public comment was taken. But stakeholders who took issue with those requests insisted that their views be known from the start. Now, dam operators must meet with all lobbies before they seek formal approval.

It's the tack that the Snohomish County Public Utility District in Washington State is using to re-license its Henry M. Jackson Hydroelectric project, which provides 75 percent of the county's drinking water and 5 percent of its electricity. The current permit, which expires in 2011, would be extended another 50 years.

"All of our processes provide an opportunity for the public to get involved early on," says David
Turner, coordinator of the integrated licensing process for FERC. "The advantages of this are
making sure that we know not just what the concerns are but that we have the information
needed to consider and address those issues."

Clean air standards along with global warming fears are giving alternative energy sources new
appeal, including hydropower. But any future development must also take into account the
concerns of environmental and business organizations. An inclusive permitting process in
combination with innovative ways to harness hydroelectricity is working to ensure that.

source : IRN
EnergyBiz Insider

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

26.06.05 : UNESCO/RAMSAR: Update on the Danube Delta canal

A joint UNESCO and Ramsar Convention mission visited Ukraine in October 2003 in order to examine different choices to re-establish a navigable waterway through the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta. In its report the mission reflected on issues concerning navigation vs. biodiversity and delta dynamics and the need for transboundary cooperation.
Much has happened since then, so it's timely that Ramsar now has a 2005 update on the situation.

more information :

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