RiverNews Nr. 112      14.03.2006
 t h e   e s s e n t i a l   o f   t h e   l a s t    w e e k s

by European Rivers Network (ERN) RiverNet Newsservice
Editor: Roberto Epple    Team : Annelise Muller, Vlastimil Karlik, Alfred Olfert, Timur Epple and others...          


  • The myths and facts of freshwater - Conserving freshwater ecosystems is a vital building block for eradicating poverty.
  • "Water's situation changed faster than expected" (analysis of Loïc Fauchon, president of the World Water Council).
  • Mexican Peasants Fight Power Dam Project in Court.
  • Next Big Jump : due to the success sooner than expected !
  • March 14th, 2006 : International Day of Action against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life !
  • Baïkal Lake threatened by a giant pipeline.
  • Dead Sea ­ declared threatened Lake of the year 2006 (Living Lakes / GNF).
  • Saving the Danube Delta - the construction of the Bystroye Canal continues.
  • Elbe river : German and Czech environmental NGOs adopt a common position against a dam project for navigation.
  • China and Russia sign river monitoring pact.
  • Conflicting EU Funds - Bad examples for new members in use of EU funds.
  • Washington Governor enacts Columbia River water management Law.
  • Greens Say Disasters Worsened by Wetland Loss.
  • China's rivers to be dammed for evermore.
  • Uruguay River : Greenpeace Activists Block Trucks Carrying Building Supplies for Pulp Mill Construction on the Uruguay River.
  • Malaysia : Dirty Dam Draws Dirty Smelters.
  • Cyanide leak into the Elbe river : the chemical plant is pointed out.
  • Elbe / Labe River : Cyanide spill nets Czech chemical company hefty fine.
  • Autumn 2006 : 9th International Riversymposium in Brisbane, Australia.
  • soon : 22 March - World Water Day 2006: Water and Culture.
  • Conferences and meetings in 2006
  • More international news

The myths and facts of freshwater - Conserving freshwater ecosystems is a vital building block for eradicating poverty
(by Jamie Pittock, WWF intl)

More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean freshwater. More than two billion do not have adequate sanitation services and the annual death toll from water-borne diseases is estimated at more
than five million. In addition, the past 30 years have seen a 50 per cent decline in populations of freshwater species, the fastest rate of decline as compared with species living in marine and forest ecosystems.

With statistics like this, it’s time to be worried. With so many people around the world experiencing water shortages, it’s time to act to preserve what’s left of our freshwater resources.

As thousands of participants gather in Mexico to attend the fourth World Water Forum, a multi-stakeholder meeting aimed at raising the awareness on international water issues and influencing water policy makers at the global
level, they should know the myths and facts, and more importantly, practical solutions in addressing the planet’s water crisis.

Myth: Dams will reduce the water crisis by storing water and generating hydro-electricity, and will not have a negative impact on the environment.

Fact: There are over 48,000 large dams in operation worldwide. Many of these dams, as well as those under construction, are threatening the world’s largest and most important rivers. A recent scientific report shows that over 60 per cent of the world’s 227 largest rivers have been fragmented by dams, leading to the destruction of wetlands, a decline in freshwater
species ­ including river dolphins, fish, and birds ­ and the forced displacement of millions of people. While dams can be an important provider of hydro-power, they do not always guarantee reliable supplies of water and electricity. Moreover, they are very expensive to build, vastly more expensive than measures to reduce demand by using water and electricity more efficiently. In some places money spent on dams would provide more socio-economic benefits if used to restore wetlands. Governments should opt for non-infrastructure alternatives to dam building, but if they are to be
built, they should follow stringent guidelines set forth by the World Commission on Dams in 2000 in order to mitigate risk.

Myth: We need more water to grow more food.

Fact: We are already withdrawing 54 per cent of the world’s accessible freshwater sources, with the agriculture sector alone using up to 70 per cent of that. Of that 70 per cent, more than half is wasted through inefficient irrigation methods. In countries where some of the world’s “thirstiest” crops ­ cotton, rice and sugar ­ are grown, new farm practices
ensure that scarce water resources are being used in more productive ways. In South Africa, for example, better practices such as cooperative farming for smallholders, farm planning and drip irrigation schemes have seen water
productivity rise significantly and downstream erosion and pollution decrease. In India, farmers have developed an efficient rice irrigation system that is increasing yields by 20-50 per cent, while drawing much less water from the environment. High priority should be given to using water more wisely and supporting farmers and irrigation managers to use farm
practices that enable them to produce more food with less water.

Myth: Freshwater habitats are being conserved at the expense of people.

Fact: WWF case studies from Colombia, Brazil, South Africa and China have shown increased income, employment, and fish yield in conjunction with nature conservation projects by local communities. More than a third of the
world’s 100 biggest cities ­ including New York, Jakarta, Tokyo, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Nairobi and Melbourne ­ rely on fully or partly protected forests in catchment areas for much of their drinking
water. Well-managed natural forests minimize the risk of landslides, erosion and sedimentation. They also substantially improve water purity by filtering pollutants, such as pesticides, and in some cases capture and store water.
Countries would do well to adopt a forest watershed protection strategy as this can result in massive savings in the cost of water supply, as well as improve the health of local populations.

Knowing some of the facts, one would think responsible governments would be quick to implement cheaper, long-lasting solutions to managing their water supplies. Sadly, many still perceive large-scale infrastructure projects,
like dams, as delivering results quicker than more efficient small-scale, community-based efforts. Governments have also failed to implement previously agreed upon national and global frameworks for sustainable water

The fact of the matter is that water is a finite resource, a supply that is quickly being exhausted and cannot be sustained by grandiose projects. Rather, we should be concentrating our efforts on equitable water allocation, watershed and wetland restoration, pollution reduction, and sustainable fisheries management. Conserving freshwater ecosystems is not
some lofty goal preached by the environmental movement but a practical and vital building block for eradicating poverty. Conservation of freshwater ecosystems can result in clean drinking water and more effective agriculture
and fisheries for the poor.

Conserving wetlands and rivers must be a priority for governments pursuing water security and poverty reduction. The 4th World Water Forum could be an important turning point if governments focus on the missing link: better
management of rivers, wetlands and other freshwater bodies as the source of water for people and nature.

* Jamie Pittock is Director of WWF’s Global Freshwater Programme, Gland, Switzerland.
Source: WWF March 1st, 2006

"Water's situation changed faster than expected"

The analysis of Loïc Fauchon, president of the World Water Council, before the World Water Forum. 03.03.2006

The 4th World Water Forum in Mexico is already a success : more than 9.000 people are registered (among them some 800 reporters), and many alternative events will take place around the official Forum. Getting people together is a beginning, but it doesn't prevent the disagreements between the numerous water actors, that remain important.

Difficulties are still growing, since the last Forum in Tokyo in 2003 and the Johannesburg's Conference in 2002. The demographic development and the growth of the biggest cities are more important than expected, and this results in disruptions in the planning of the water facilities and in increasing pollution problems. We have to add to these problems the ones created by climate changes.

Among others topics, should be discussed the theme of the water access in developed and developing countries and the one of financing the water access through the world.

Read the whole article (in French)
Source : Journal de l'Environnement, 03.03.2006

Mexican Peasants Fight Power Dam Project in Court

MEXICO CITY, 19.01.2006

Mexican peasants are taking their fight against a new hydroelectric dam to the
courts, hoping to avoid more bloodshed as thousands in one of Mexico's poorest corners fear
they will be forced off their land.
Mexico's state-owned CFE electricity utility says communities around the proposed site of the La
Parota dam in the southwestern state of Guerrero have signed in favor, but opposition groups have
gone to a local court saying the signatures were obtained unlawfully.
With two people killed and many injured in clashes over the dam, the groups are also talking
to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and a Latin American environmental tribunal, worried
that peasants will fight the CFE's bulldozers to the death.
"They are prepared to defend their land with their lives," lawyer Vidulfo Rosales told a news conference.
"If the people say they will die before they let this happen then how are they going to get them
out of their houses? We are only at the start of this battle," said Priscila Rodriguez, a lawyer
and activist at Mexican human rights group CEMDA.

La Parota, a huge project aimed in part at generating power for the fast-growing resort of
Acapulco, will flood an area of tropical forest ten times the size of Acapulco's famous bay.
Expected to generate 900 megawatts when it starts operation in 2012, it will cost about $1 billion.
The CFE hopes to invite bids for its construction as soon as February, though project coordinator
Umberto Marengo said it will await the outcome of the local court cases before proceeding.
Opponents of La Parota, who say they number several thousand against a few hundred in favor,
have been fighting the project since 2003. Dozens man roadblocks day and night, machetes slung over
their shoulders, to stop CFE engineers getting through.

Their lawyers say local political bosses bribed locals with cash to sign in favor of the dam and
police used riot shields and tear gas to bar opponents from vote-collecting meetings.
Some signatures were repeated or forged, they say.

"The assemblies were illegal. They bought support. The whole thing is a farce, a lie," said
local activist Felipe Flores. "There have been deaths, injuries, arrests and threats."
While those set to be displaced by the dam basin are mostly against it, some of those living
nearby have been swayed by promises of new paved roads, schools and hospitals.
The CFE says La Parota will displace 3,000 people, who will be moved to new housing
elsewhere, but opponents put the figure at 25,000 with another 70,000 set to be hurt by changes in
the level of the river they rely on to irrigate their crops.

Source : REUTERS NEWS SERVICE, 19.01.06

Next Big Jump : due to the success sooner than expected !

Due to It big success in 2005 and to the growing request for a next edition, ERN almost had to organise Big Jumps events sooner than planned originally. We are now able to announce you that the next Big Jump, XL version, will take place in 2007 !

And to help you wait until there, we plan regional and local events in July 2006. A whole week, from 8. to 16. July 2006, will be devoted to our rivers and lakes, with differents kinds of events. The final collective Jump is planned the 16. July at 15 pm ! The countries of the Benelux are already preparing their actions : follow their example and create your own river special celebration ! If you already have ideas, don't hesitate and contact us !

For more information and to contact ERN : visit the Big Jump webpages.

Source : ERN, 14.03.2006

International Day of Action against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life !

March 14th, 2006 : today is the 9th annual International Day of Action against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life ! It is a day for everybody to show his solidarity with communities and rivers endangered by dams or dam's projects. It is also a time to celebrate the successes over the last year !

In 2005, at the same day, more than 90 events took place all over the world. More than 30 countries took part to his international action day, gathering thousands of people who denounced the threats destructive river-development schemes make lie on rivers and on communities accross the globe. The events that were organised that day were quite various : sit-ins, dam-site blockades, urban protest marches, children events, public seminars, boat-trips down threaten rivers... The river defenders are creative and we are quite grateful to them !

This year again, we hope that you'll be as mobilised and active as last year, and even more !

Find more information and pdf documents on IRN website.

source : IRN    14.03.2006

Baïkal Lake threatened by a giant pipeline

The Baïkal Lake is the older lake in the world, that appeared 25 millions years ago. 600 km long and 60 km wide, it reaches a depth of 1637 m and shelters a unique and remarkable fauna.

This exceptional patrimony is threatened by a pipeline project planned by the Russian State Company Transneft. That pipeline will be a giant one : 4200 km long (from a place near Vladivostok to Irkoutsk, near the Baïkal Lake), a transportation capacity of 80 millions tons oil per year, a cost of 15 billions €. The Transneft Company already has President Poutine's support. The problem is that Transneft plans to run the pipeline 800 m from the Lake, and the pipe could pollute the Lake if any accident or breaking occured.

The Russian ecologists and scientists are mobilizing against this project and recently received the support of Unesco. The scientists studied the case for the Russian State Organism for Environment and Technology and concluded to the important potential danger the pipeline represents for the Baïkal. The State Organism already published an advice, asking to modify the arrival of the pipe near Vladivostok, because of the existence of a nature reserve, that shelters the last leopards of the Far-East.

Unesco made also studies and showed that the pipeline is crossing seismic zones on 66% of its course. Well, the Transneft Company already was involved during the last 15 years, in differents cases of major petroleum pollutions. If the pipeline was built, Unesco could classify the Baïkal Lake as an "endangered site", and this classification could have important consequences in terme of touristic frequenting of the place for Russia.

Read the whole article (in French)

Source : Le Monde, 01.03.2006

Dead Sea ­ declared threatened Lake of the year 2006 (Living Lakes / GNF)

The Middle East’s most famous lake, the Dead Sea, is dying
Every year on the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Global Nature Fund (GNF), an international foundation for the protection of environment and nature, highlights the threatened state of a unique lake to the world. In 2006 GNF has declared the Dead Sea situated in the Middle East as the “Threatened Lake of the Year.” GNF together with its local partner EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) throughout the year 2006 will focus attention on the dramatic decline of the Dead Sea, the demise of its ecology, the loss of its tourist potential and the need to reverse the situation.
The Dead Sea lies in the heart of the Great Rift Valley at the southern outlet of the Jordan River. It is the world’s saltiest large water body, and is situated at the lowest point on earth. The Dead Sea region is internationally known for its unique geographical form, desert wilderness, and historical sites that include Jesus's baptism, Masada, and Mt. Nebo. The lake attracts tourists worldwide who bathe in its waters for its unique medicinal qualities.
The Dead Sea has already lost over 1/3 of its surface area. The shoreline is expected to drop from -413 meters to -430 meters by the year 2020. Construction of dams, storage reservoirs, canals and pumping stations have greatly reduced water inflows to the Dead Sea. While some of this water is being used by the Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians for basic domestic consumption, most goes towards highly subsidized and inefficient agriculture.
“Despite its fame and uniqueness to the world, the Dead Sea is drying up fast” said Mr. Munqeth Mehyar, the Jordanian Chair of FoEME. “The Dead Sea which is actually a lake is dropping by a meter per year mostly due to the diversion of the waters of the Jordan River that had naturally fed the lake” he continued.
The GNF partner organization FoEME is leading an advocacy campaign in Israel, Jordan and Palestine to register the Dead Sea as a World Heritage site and is calling on the local governments to release enough water down the Jordan River to prevent the continued demise of the Dead Sea.

“The Dead Sea and its surrounding ecosystems including the unique wetlands are of international value while at the same time under massive human pressure.” said Marion Hammerl, President of the GNF. “With the declaration as 'Threatened Lake of the Year' we want to draw attention to the need to rehabilitate and conserve one of the world’s most famous lakes”.

To save the Dead Sea the governments of Israel and Jordan proposed the building of a canal linking the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. This plan raises many environmental questions about the impact of pumping water out of the Gulf of Aqaba on the coral reefs or the threat of gypsum, and other problems from the mixing of Dead Sea brime with marine water. FoEME is presently undertaking an independent environmental assessment of the proposed canal project.

The Global Nature Fund coordinates the international Living Lakes Network that includes 40 member lakes and wetlands worldwide. EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East is the GNF partner organization at the Dead Sea. Living Lakes is supported by corporates such as Unilever, Deutsche Lufthansa, T-Mobile, DaimlerChrysler, SIKA, Kärcher and Ziemann.
GNF's effort is essential to bring international attention to the issue within the framework of the World Wetlands Day, which takes place on the 2nd of February 2006. The day commemorates the signing of the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands in Iran in 1971. Former Threatened Lakes of the Year were Lake Chapala, Mexico in 2004 and Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, in the year 2005.

Contact details and photos:
Global Nature Fund (GNF)
Stefan Hörmann (Project Manager), Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany
Tel: +49 - 77 32 - 99 95 - 84 ; Fax: +49 - 77 32 - 99 95 ­ 88, Mobil: +49-0-160-53210-52
E-Mail: <mailto:hoermann@globalnature.org>, Website: http://www.globalnature.org/ or http://www.livinglakes.org
Friends of the Earth Middle East
Tel-Aviv Office: 85 Nahalat Binyamin St, Tel-Aviv, Israel,
Contact Mira Edelstein (Press Officer), +972-3-5605383 ext 3, Mobile +972-54-6392937,
Email: <mailto:mira@foeme.org>, Website: http://www.foeme.org/

Source : Press release from Global Nautre Fund and Living Lakes, 30/01/2006

Saving the Danube Delta - the construction of the Bystroye Canal continues

March the 1st, 2006

Despite an international conference pledging cooperation in the Danube Delta (one of Europe's most ecologically important areas) WWF remains concerned that construction of the controversial Bystroye Canal in Ukraine will go ahead as planned, jeopardizing critical wildlife habitats, as well as the region's fishing and tourism industries.
At a recent international conference on the conservation and sustainable development of the Danube Delta, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova pledged to cooperate on management of the area as well as work towards establishing a tri-lateral biosphere reserve. However, such pledges were quickly overshadowed by the announcement of the Ukrainian Minister of Transport and Communications that USD 17.8 million had been allocated to completing the first phase of the Bystroye Canal through the core zone of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, a wetland area of global importance that provides important socioeconomic benefits for the local people.

Source: WWF Read more... http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/where_we_work/europe/news/index.cfm?uNewsID=62340

Elbe river : German and Czech environmental NGOs adopt a common position against a dam project for navigation

Press release by the following NGO's : BUND, DUH, Freude der Natur, Kinder der Erde, NABU and WWF)

German and Czech environmental organisations fight together against a dam project, planned on the Elbe river, an economic and ecologic fiasco.

Berlin - Germany / Prag - Czech Republic, 21.02.2006

In their argument against the dam project, the NGO's stress on the ecological risks it will generate and on its high cost, useless compared to the economical needs. The building of this dam would appear as a come-back to the policy leaded during the last centuries, when rivers were nothing else as trafficways and sewers. Well, rivers are also a life place for fauna, flora and even for human beings, and for this reason, the NGO's are ready to do everthing to make the communautary law be respected.

The different NGO's also sharply criticise the wrong reasons advanced to justify that dam. People believed that Elbe River could be navigable all year long, which contradicts the reality. Long monthes of low water level do not allow a regular economic traffic, and a dam in Czech Republic won't change this fact ! More over, due to the current climate changes, periods of low water level are increasing. This recent data was not taken into account in the dam project. Finally, to the low water level periods are added the high water level periods and the ice, which hold up also the navigation.

Goods transport is since years decreasing on the Elbe River, and if necessary, it can be charged on rails. More and more harbours integrate rail, in order to reduce their dependence to the fluctuating water level. According to the Deutsch Bahn (German Railway Company), the rail in the Elbe corridor has a free capacity of 300 to 500% ! Knowing that, the contruction of a 1 million € dam appears as a serious political mistake.

That's why the German and Czech NGO's want to point at the deficit that would generate such a dam and will massively mobilize in order that no EU means enter the financing of this absurd concrete project ! Objections could be sent to the Czech Ministry of Environment till March 10th, 2006 !

For more information :
- Dr. Ernst Paul Dörfler, BUND-Elbeprojekt, Tel.: 039244 290 mobil: 0178/1617800
- Dr. Frank Neuschulz, Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V., mobil: 0160/8950556
- Kinder der Erde Deti Zeme, RNDr. Miroslav Patrik, Tel.: 00420 - 545 210 393
- Freunde der Natur Pratele prirody, o. p. s., Marian Palenik, Tel.: 00420 - 603 284 725

source : DUH     21.02.2006

Conflicting EU Funds - Bad examples for new members in use of EU funds

Brussels / Vienna - March 7th, 2006

A new WWF report, "Conflicting EU funds", shows that despite the EU commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, vast sums of European Union money are being spent on roads, dams and irrigation schemes which threaten critically endangered species and key habitats in Europe. The responsibility lies not just in poor coordination and decision making in Brussels but also and especially at national or regional levels.
As and plan their own use of EU funds, they would do well to learn from mistakes made in and other countries or risk losing some of their most valuable natural assets. Both and are currently in the midst of national programming for future use of EU funds in preparation for formally joining the EU in 2007 or latest 2008. Decisions being made this year will to a certain extent determine the future of the prodigious natural wealth both countries will bring with them to the EU, including Europe's largest populations of brown bears and wolves as well as the greatest remaining stands of virgin forest.
EU funds are being used to build roads and dams that are destroying the habitat of the Iberian lynx, the world's most endangered cat species. In , the remaining Iberian lynx population - with around 100 individuals left, including just 25 breeding females - is under major threat due to loss and fragmentation of its habitat from new construction work.
The WWF report presents eight case studies where competing plans funded by the EU are damaging biodiversity. In , for example, while the EU Commission Directorate General (DG) responsible for the environment is supporting a LIFE project to protect brown bears, the DG Regional Development is funding the planned Egnatia Highway, which directly threatens these animals.
EU plans to promote inland shipping on the Danube River, including the most valuable stretches of the Lower Danube between and and the Danube Delta, could seriously impact wetland areas along up to 1,000 km of the river. Removing "bottlenecks" on the Danube has been identified as one of 30 priority projects for the EU as part of its Trans-European Network for Transportation (TEN-T). Specific sections have been identified as priority areas for action, and it is feared that adaptations such as dredging, river training, canalisation and damming (to increase depth) will affect floodplains and affect species such as the Beluga Sturgeon along with the many bird species that utilise the Danube.
To avoid repeating past mistakes, WWF recommends that existing and future EU Member States develop good national programmes that contribute to the 2010 goal of halting biodiversity loss, including strong support for nature conservation objectives as well as safeguards e.g. through effective application of Environmental Impact Assessments. Member States should also inform and involve interest groups and stakeholders, especially environmental advocates like WWF and other organisations, in developing plans for use of European funds.

For more information :
Luminita Tanasie, Communications Manager, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, Tel. + +40 744 163 283

source : WWF     07.03.2006

China and Russia Sign River Monitoring Pact

BEIJING, China, February 21, 2006 (ENS)

China and Russia today signed a formal agreement to jointly monitor cross-border rivers to ensure water quality. The pact follows a chemical spill into the Songhua River last November 13 that polluted the cross-border waterway.
Some 100 metric tons of toxic nitrobenzene entered the river after an explosion at a petrochemical plant. Five people were killed in the incident, which took place in Jilin province in the northeastern China. The chemicals entered the Amur River in the Russian Far East on December 25.
To prevent recurrence of such accidents, experts from the two countries will regularly exchange information and work together, Chinese and Russian officials said.
The water bodies under joint surveillance include the Heilong, Wusuli, Erguna and Suifen rivers and Xingkai Lake, according to a report by the official state news agency Xinhua. The Songhua River is the Heilong's largest tributary.
"The agreement marks a substantive step in environmental protection co-operation between China and Russia," said Zhou Shengxian, minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
Signing the agreement Monday in Beijing, Zhou and Yuri Trutnev, Russian minister of natural resources, also agreed to work out plans to handle emergencies.
Trutnev praised the Chinese government for its quick response in handling the pollution in Songhua River and said Beijing should consider setting up a mechanism to punish enterprises responsible for environmental crises.
"I hope monitoring cross-border rivers is just a beginning of the two countries' co-operation on environmental protection," Zhou said. "China and Russia need to jointly develop comprehensive environmental protection."
Today's agreement originated in December when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao consented to jointly tackle the Songhua River chemical spill. Meeting on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations forum in Kuala Lumpur on December 13, the two leaders said they would work more closely to protect the environment in the future.
This month more toxic spills into China's rivers have threatened drinking water quality.
On Friday, the general manager of a chemical firm accused of releasing 2,000 tons of alkaline wastewater into a northwest China river was fired.
The spill occurred at the Jintai Chlorine and Alkaline Chemical Company February 4 when three processing tanks collapsed, discharging the waste into the Wuding River, which flows into China's second longest river, the Huang He, or Yellow River.
The Yulin City Environmental Protection Bureau said the chemical firm was ordered to suspend operation and take measures to renovate the wastewater discharge system within a scheduled time limit.
Several processing tanks had shown signs of leakage 10 days before to the incident, but the company failed to report it to local environmental protection officials, the bureau said.
Last week, a chemical spill from a power plant on the upper Yuexi River in the southwestern province of Sichuan contaminated a 100 kilometer (60 mile) stretch of the river around the city of Yibin.
The power plant discharged fluoride, nitrogen and phenol that affected drinking water for the 20,000 residents of Guanyin town, the official China Daily newspaper reported. Water was trucked to thirsty residents, but supplies fell short of the demand.

Source : Environment News Service, 21.02.2006.

Washington Governor enacts Columbia River water management Law

OLYMPIA, Washington, February 20, 2006 (ENS)

Governor Chris Gregoire has signed into law the Columbia River Basin Water Resource Management bill that makes a new investment in the economic and environmental future of central and eastern Washington. The bill overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislature.
"The gridlock is broken," Governor Gregoire said on Thursday at the bill signing ceremony. "For 30 years, people have been wrangling over the best way to support the water needs of eastern Washington, and protect and restore our native salmon runs on the Columbia River. Now we have a road map towards achieving those goals."
"We broke through the stalemate because of the respectful consensus we built among our partners, who include the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, our tribal neighbors, farmers, environmental groups and communities up and down the Columbia River," Gregoire said.
The Columbia River drains a 259,000 square mile basin that includes territory in seven states - Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah and one Canadian province. The river flows for more than 1,200 miles from the base of the Canadian Rockies in southeastern British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon, and Ilwaco, Washington.
Work on the bill began a year ago when Governor Gregoire asked House and Senate leaders from both parties to appoint members to a Columbia River Task Force to study the long-standing water management stalemate on the Columbia River.
The bill commits to developing new storage and water conservation projects on the Columbia River, provides a formula for allocating newly stored water, and creates mechanisms for jumpstarting conservation measures and improving current management operations on the Columbia River.
One-third of all newly stored water will be allocated to support stream flows for fish. Two-thirds of newly stored water will be available for new out-of stream water uses, such as farming, industry and municipal growth.
"We've turned the corner on the water wars in the Columbia Basin," said Jay Manning, director of the Washington State Department of Ecology. "With this bill the bar has been raised and the environment will win as the economy wins. Perhaps just as important, Ecology is now a vested partner in developing water supplies for both."
Rob Masonis, director of the Northwest office of American Rivers, said, "This plan provides for a thoughtful approach to finding new supplies. It requires a hard look at costs and benefits, and full consideration of alternatives to new storage, like conservation and market mechanisms, before any new storage facilities are constructed."
"The plan will help protect against further declines in Columbia River flows during critical periods for salmon and steelhead," Masonis said. "What it does not do, however, is address the major harm to salmon and steelhead caused by federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Those impacts must be addressed through changes at the dams themselves and other major investments in habitat restoration."
Masonis and American Rivers support the removal of four federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
A copy of the Columbia River Basin Water Resource Management legislation is online at: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2860&year=2006

Source : Environment News Service, 20.02.2006.

Greens Say Disasters Worsened by Wetland Loss

JOHANNESBURG, February 03, 2006

The destruction of the world's wetlands is exacerbating global disasters such as
floods and famines and is a potential source of conflict in volatile regions, environmentalists
said on Thursday. "By a conservative estimate, about 50 percent of the wetlands worldwide are
gone. These include rivers, swamps, marshes, small ponds, and mangrove systems," said Jane
Madgwick, the chief executive officer of conservation group Wetlands International.
"They are viewed as the most threatened ecosystems in the world and their degradation can
amplify natural disasters and hurt the poor the most," she told Reuters by phone from the South
African resort of St. Lucia, which is hosting a global conference on the issue. Thursday is World Wetlands Day.

The poor suffer the most because wetland loss often denies them access to safe drinking water
or sources to irrigate their small plots, contributing to food insecurity.

Wetlands have fallen prey to a range of practices, including being drained to make way
for farmland or urban settlement.

In developing regions such as Africa, the situation has been worsened by overgrazing and
excessive burning. In South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province where the conference is
being held, this can be a spark for communal violence over scarce pasture land.

It has also contributed to floods in neighbouring Mozambique, where thousands of people were left
homeless last month after heavy rains. Mozambique was the scene of devastating deluges in 2000 and
2001 which displaced hundreds of thousands.

The erosion of wetlands and overgrazing of grasslands on the upper watersheds of the Limpopo
river in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa channel raging waters into its lower watersheds
or catchments in Mozambique and Malawi.
Grasslands that are overgrazed are hardened, enabling water to flow over the ground and into
rivers instead of seeping into the soil. Adding to the problem is the shrinkage of wetlands as these absorb excess water.

"Floods can be exacerbated by a hardening of surfaces which increases the runoff as the water
does not soak into the grounds," said South African wetland ecologist David Lindley.

He said the problems were global.

"The impact of the 2004 Asian tsunami in some areas was made worse by the destruction of
coastal wetlands such as mangrove forests which could have acted as a shield," he said.

More frequent floods and drought, blamed by some scientists on global warming but also linked to
diminished wetlands, brought a near 20 percent rise in natural disasters in 2005, researchers said on Monday.

Wetlands are also a crucial habitat for countless species which vanish with them.

In South Africa, the government has earmarked over $10 million annually to a project to restore
degraded wetlands which also provides work to the rural unemployed.

Story by Ed Stoddard
Source REUTERS NEWS SERVICE    03. 02. 06

China's rivers to be dammed for evermore

China, January 20, 2006

High in the Himalayan foothills, the people the Chinese call Angry look down on the waters of the river that shares their name and ponder on the future.
"When the dam gets built, the water will come right up to there," said Asetei, an 84-year-old farmer pointing up the terraced hillside. "There are testing teams who come to the river and they tell us this. They say it won't happen for 10 years, though all we know is rumour."
A leaked Chinese government report last week cleared it to press ahead with the main parts of a plan to build a cascade of 13 dams and power stations down the gorges that line the Nu River, in the mountains where Burma, Tibet and the Chinese province of Yunnan meet.
They will join a series of similar projects on the rivers Nu, Lancang and Jinsha, that flow from the Tibetan plateau to provide livelihoods to hundreds of millions in China and South-East Asia.

The government sees the reservoirs and power stations as a "string of pearls" crossing one of China's poorest regions, and a solution to the economy's pressing need for electricity and water. At peak seasons, factories in the country's booming cities are forced to close in rotation to prevent black-outs.
In the past five years, the startling growth of China's economy has put pressure on both its water supplies - 90 per cent of the country's citiesare fed by contaminated rivers - and its energy resources.
Environmentalists call the Three Rivers project an assault on the last frontier of China's wild countryside, in a debate that has broken new ground by being held largely in public.
The mountains of the Three Rivers area were recognised, after much government lobbying, as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 2003. At the time, it said the region "may be the most biologically diverse temperate
ecosystem in the world". Now Unesco says any dam construction inside the area would cause it to be put on its "at risk" register.

''The question is whether this damming has a bottom line," said Ma Jun, an environmental researcher and author of the book China's Water Crisis. "We don't want to stop every dam. We want to decide whether there are places
that are not suitable, that are an absolute treasure for our country."

If there is such a treasure, it is in Yunnan, biologically the richest province in China, and until now isolated by its mountainous terrain and poverty. Half its population consists of minority groups such as Tibetans and, in the remote north-western corner, the Nu.

The Nu are not really "Angry". In their own language, their name is Nong, but the character Nu was the nearest their Chinese rulers could find to represent the sound. They are, however, largely ignorant of the changes that
could lie in store. The project will mean the forced relocation of tens of thousands of people.

But none of the Nu villages around Bingzhongluo has received any official information about the debate raging in Beijing. The same is true of other ethnic groups downstream, but this ignorance has begun to be challenged by green activists.

Emboldened by a surprise 2004 government decision to put the scheme on hold pending an environmental impact report, groups began lobbying and taking their views directly to the people.

Yu Xiaogang, of Green Watersheds, previously researched the consequences of an early dam on the Lancang, at Manwan, and took a group of villagers to meet the people displaced 10 years before.

They found former residents scavenging for garbage on the hillsides. "They told us that at first when the dam was built they had some [compensation ] money and life was good. But that was before the money ran out," said He Lixiu, 31, who lives near Liuku, where the first of the dams will be built.

Newspapers began to take sides. They gave space to a petition calling for a public inquiry, and for the environmental report to be made public. Others argued strongly for the project.

Some scientists said the area's ecosystems were already irreparably damaged by logging and over-farming, and that finding alternative work for its people was the only way forward.

''Developing hydro-power is the only way for ethnic minority groups to overcome their impoverished conditions and become wealthy," said He Zuoxiu, a scientist and leading supporter.

But despite allowing some discussion, the government has reverted to type and begun to crack down.

Mrs He, the Liuku villager, says she was invited to attend a conference in Beijing, but the day before she was due to leave, a local official arrived with 10 plain clothes police.

"If you go there we will arrest you immediately," they said.

By Richard Spencer in Bingzhongluo

source : The Telegraph (UK)   via IRN    20.01.06

Uruguay River : Greenpeace Activists Block Trucks Carrying Building Supplies for Pulp Mill Construction
URUGUAY: January 20, 2006

Greenpeace activists block trucks carrying building supplies next to an area where a pulp mill is being built on the Uruguay River in Fray Bentos, Uruguay, across the river from Gualeguaychu, Argentina January 19, 2006.

Uruguay has been unusually defiant in a diplomatic spat with Argentina over a $1.7 billion investment in two European-built pulp mills.
Residents, farmers, ecologists and politicians from Argentina are demanding the Uruguayan government block the construction of the paper mills because they say the mills would damage the air and the wildlife of the Uruguay River, shared by the two countries.

source: Story by Greenpeace/Handout

Malaysia : Dirty Dam Draws Dirty Smelters

Anil Netto, Inter Press Service (IPS) Thu Jan 19, 4:00 PM ET

KUALA LUMPUR , Jan 19 (IPS) - Transnational aluminum smelters, some teaming up with Malaysian partners, are beating a path to eastern Sarawak state with an eye to surplus power from the problem-ridden Bakun Dam.
The much-delayed dam in Sarawak, on Borneo island, was originally scheduled for completion in 2003, but is now only expected to
gradually generate electricity from late 2009.
Faced with soaring electricity tariffs and raw material costs, many aluminum plants have closed shop in the United States and
Europe. Major smelters are now scouring the globe for places where electricity is cheap and their sights have narrowed down on Bakun's excess potential even as environmentalists worry about the impact that the dam, and now the smelters, would have on the environment.In particular, smelters from China, the world's largest aluminum user, have been showing a keen interest in Bakun. Last year, over 40 smelters stopped production in China due to higher costs and government moves to curb pollution -- resulting in a loss of more than half a million tons of aluminum.

The 2,400 megawatt Bakun hydroelectric dam project was approved by the administration of former premier Mahathir Mohamad in 1994, amidst an outcry that the dam would submerge rainforests covering an area the size of Singapore and displace thousands of indigenous people.Planners ambitiously aimed to channel 70 percent of the dam's generated power across the South China Sea to Peninsular Malaysia by laying over 600 km of submarine cables. It would have been the longest undersea transmission line in the world and an expensive proposition.

Local firm Ekran was awarded the contract to manage the project while the construction contract went to the Zurich-based
multinational Asea Brown Boveri (ABB). But by 1997, with the onset of the Asian financial crisis and amidst disputes over cost
over-runs, the government announced that it was delaying the project and paid compensation to the firms involved.
In 1999, it was announced that the dam would be scaled down. The submarine cable idea, its technical feasibility always in major
doubt, was scrapped but work on the river diversion tunnels began and have now been completed.In 2001, the government, perhaps mindful of the work already done since 1996, decided to stick to the original 2,400 MW capacity. But without the undersea cables, the economic justification for the dam -- to channel electricity to the more industrialised peninsula -- evaporated.

''It's utterly unnecessary,'' said one Sarawak-based political analyst of the dam, declining to be identified for fear of
repercussions. "The only people who need the dam are the Sarawak politicians and their cronies.''
Moreover, he added, Sarawak has a wealth of alternative energy resources such as natural gas. According to the Bintulu Development
Authority, the state has a total known gas reserve of about 50 trillion standard cubic feet.

On Bakun, the government faced a stark choice: cut its losses -- some two billion ringgit (0.5 billion US dollars) already spent and
prevent any further environmental damage or pour more money -- a further 5-6 billion ringgit (1.3-1.6 billion dollars) -- into an
ever-deeper hole. It decided to press on.

The government, through an outfit called Sarawak Hidro, took over the management of the project. A Malaysia-China Hydro Joint Venture consortium, led by a Malaysian firm, Sime Darby Berhad, is now constructing the dam. Already, there are reports of cost overruns and delays.

But what to do with all that surplus electricity from the dam? After all, Sarawak state itself and neighbouring Sabah have
comfortable reserve margins. Electricity demand in Sarawak remains modest (currently under 1,000 MW).
Plans to distribute Bakun's power to the rest of Borneo, which is politically divided among Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, never took off.
Enter the giant multinationals, teaming up with local firms, seeking approval to build a smelter in Sarawak. The production of
aluminum requires a huge amount of electricity, accounting for close to 40 percent of production costs, which explains why many
smelters are built near major sources of electricity supply.

One visitor to a popular local current affairs blog summed it up: ''Bakun Dam is the solution to Sarawak's power shortage. But they
forgot Sarawak has no power shortage. That's no problem to the dam's promoters: just create a shortage by building an aluminum
plant. That way, they succeeded in finding a problem for the solution.''
Even the business weekly, 'The Edge' seemed to agree: ''In Sarawak, the main reason the federal government is allowing an
aluminum smelter is to salvage Bakun,'' it said in a candid report.
Among those The Edge reported as bidding for approval to build a smelter is local firm Smelter Asia, teaming up with China Aluminium International Engineering, which reportedly wants to set up a 500,000 tonne capacity plant that would consume about half of Bakun's output.

Another Malaysia-China consortium is seeking approval for a 3.2 billion dollar smelter. The local firms in this consortium are
Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS) and Press Metal.Giant multinationals reportedly also in the running are
Australia-based Rio Tinto Group, BHP Billiton teaming up with Mitsubishi Corp, and the Alcoa Group.

Smelter Asia is owned by tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, who has warm ties with former premier Mahathir Mohamad. CMS, on the other hand, is a well-connected group with diversified interests in Sarawak led by Sulaiman Abdul Taib, the son of the powerful Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud.

Critics point out that its unit, CMS Cement, which is capable of producing some 2 million tons a year, has a near monopoly on cement
in Sarawak while another unit, CMS Steel, produces 300,000 tonnes of steel bars and wire rods.
In 2004, the group announced that CMS Energy had been awarded a 51 percent stake in a contract worth RM 130 million (30 million
dollars) for the "Design and Execution of the Hydraulic Steel Structure Package" of the dam. The group is thus well placed to
benefit from the dam's construction work, which requires huge amounts of cement and steel.

Apart from the questionable justification for Bakun, environmentalists are worried about the polluting effects of
smelters. Smelters emit perfluorocarbon (PFC), which is detrimental to humans, animals and vegetation and has global warming potential.
''Communities in the adjacent areas would be affected by its polluting emissions, once it is built,'' said Wong Meng Chuo, a
college lecturer and social activist who spent many years working among communities in Sarawak. "It is also of concern that the
industry would bring changes to the social structure as well as to the cultural practices of the community.''
From experience, he said, such changes are always more of a negative nature since the community is often ill prepared for them.
The smelter's impact on the natural environment "could be devastating, especially in a developing country like ours where law
and enforcement is lax''.
''I think it's a dirty industry,'' agreed the political analyst who did not want to be identified. "We don't need it in Sarawak at
a time when the environment has already been terribly degraded through logging and the rivers polluted through siltation and sedimentation.''

Source : IPS Inter Press Service,   via IRN   19.01.2006

Cyanide leak into the Elbe river : the chemical plant is pointed out

The cyanide leak in the Czech Elbe, that caused the death of some 10 tons of fishes at the beginning of January showed the weaknesses of the controle system within the chemical plant at the origin of the pollution. This was the declaration on monday that made the Czech Environment Inspection Authority (CIZP).

The leak occurred at the end of "a non-standard operation" caused by a human careless, in the Lucebni Zavody Draslovka plant, said Jan Slanec, director of the CIZP during a press conference. "A simple usual checking would have been enough to avoid the accident", he deplored, underlying the "concrete responsability of the managers" of the plant, in what appears as one of the biggest ecological accidents these last years. "It is for us a important lesson, that will have soon to be expressed in the control mechanisms", he said.

The CIZP boss also denounced the carelessness and the thoughtlessness of the plant's staff while manipulating dangerous matters. More, instead of warning the authorities, the chemical plant's managers admitted the leak only one week later, "in front of the proofs collected by our inspectors", he said. The police investigation is already opened, as well as a CIZP administrative proceeding.

The cyanide leak occurred on Monday, January 9th, in the Lucebni Zavody Draslovka in Kolin (55 km East from Prague) and contaminated the Elbe along 85 km, up to its confluence with the Vltava river near Melnik (30 km North from Prague). Because of the dilution of the Elbe water at the confluence with the Vltava river, the standards for the presence of cyanide in water were finally "very lightely exceeded" at the border with Germany, informed the assistant of the CIZP director, Hynek Benes. According to him, this incident "won't have any impact nor on bathing in the Elbe neither on sources of trinkable water in the vicinity of the river".

Source : AFP, 30.01.2006, translation : ERN

Elbe / Labe River : Cyanide spill nets Czech chemical company hefty fine

It all sounds so familiar - an accident at a chemical plant, a huge toxic slick drifting downstream, through cities and approaching the border of a second country. But this time, rather than something that happened in far-off China, the spill is closer to home in the heart of Europe.
On Tuesday, January 17th an undisclosed, though obviously large, quantity of cyanide escaped from a riverside chemical plant in the Czech region of Bohemia and into the River Elbe (known locally as the Labe) pushing reading up beyond 30 times national safety limits. The owners of the factory, Draslovka, have put the cause down to the malfunction of equipment that monitored toxicity in stored waste water at the plant.

English language Czech news service, The Prague Daily Monitor, quotes a representative of the Czech Environment Inspection Authority (CZIP) as saying the concentration is gradually decreasing as the slick travels downstream from the town of Kolin.
It has, however, already killed several tonnes of fish and had an as-yet-unaccessed impact on the wider ecosystem.
"According to our information and examinations it is possible to expect a large decrease in concentrations at the confluence of the Elbe and Vltava rivers at Melnik in Central Bohemia and further downstream," CZIP spokesman Petr Makovsky told the Monitor.

Though regulators are optimistic that the spill will have been diluted sufficiently to no longer have any impact by the time it crosses the German border, officials in Dresden and other relevant authorities have been warned about the spill.
Close to the Czech border and in the path of the spill, Dresden uses treated water from the Elbe to supply residents with drinking water.

The Draslovka chemical company could be fined as much as 10 million Czech crowns (almost £240,000) for failure to keep its equipment up and running.

By Sam Bond
Source: edie newsroom

Autumn 2006 : 9th International Riversymposium in Brisbane, Australia

The 9th International Riversymposium will take place in Brisbane, Australia, September 4 - 7, 2006. This annual important meeting focuses on river management and put the stress on the integration of science, business, institutions and community in managing the problems facing the rivers, the waterways and the catchments worldwide. In 2006, the main theme will be "Managing rivers with climate changes and expanding populations".

The Riversymposium is a place where the important river management case studies are presented. The world's best practices are each year rewarded by the prestigious International and National Thiess Riverprizes. It also provides a global forum for research and policy development, where professional of the rivers from the entire world can meet and exchange. In 2006, the Foundation for a New Water Culture (Spain) and European Rivers Network (France) will be represented by Pedro Arrojo and Roberto Epple, both invited to present the work they do in their respective countries.

This Riversymposium is an integral part of the Riverfestival, an annual and cultural event that celebrates the Brisbane River and more generally water and promotes environmental sustainability. The Riverfestival 2006 will take place from September 1st to 10th.

Find more information about the Riversymposium and the Riverfestival.

soon : 22 March - World Water Day 2006 : Water and Culture

To prepare your World Water Day, have a look on the Unesco website !

 Conferences and meetings in 2006

Visite our RiverNet Page : http://www.rivernet.org/general/conferences2006.htm

 More international news

Visite our RiverNet Page in
    français    deutsch

Unsubscribe : send mail to mailto:rivernews_europe-unsubscribe at rivernet.org
List-Subscribe : send mail to rivernews_europe-subscribeat rivernet.org

published by ERN - Dir. of publication: Roberto Epple
contact:    www.rivernet.org   
Phone +33 4 71 02 08 14 Fax +33 4 71 02 60 99
ERN European Rivers Network , Main & Westeuropean Office
8 Rue Crozatier 43 000 Le Puy /Southern France