14 March - International Day for Rivers

to more RiverNet

Informations on river basins, projects
& campaigns


Select a River Basin

Contacts and websites

About us
(European Rivers Network & RiverNet)



The International Day of Action for Rivers ( former titel International Day against Dams, for Rivers, Water, and Life) was inspired and mandated by the participants of the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams that took place in March, 1997 in Curitiba, Brazil. ( Curitiba Declaration ).
The co - founders of the mouvment are : MAB, International Rivers, European Rivers Network (ERN), India's Save the Narmada Movement (NBA) and Chile's Biobío Action Group (GABB)
The International Day of Action Against Dams: For Rivers, Water, and Life was inspired
and mandated by the participants of the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams
that took place in March, 1997 in Curitiba, Brazil. Representatives from twenty countries including
Taiwan, Brazil, Chile, Lesotho, Argentina, Thailand, Russia, France, Switzerland, and the United States
decided that the International Day of Action would fall on 14 March, Brazil's Day of Action Against
Large Dams. One of the goals for the Day of Action is to build and strengthen regional and international networks within the international anti-dam movement. The idea for the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams originated during an annual meeting of Brazil's Movement of People Affected by Large Dams (MAB).
In September, 1995 a preparatory meeting was held in Brazil and an international organizing committee was formed headed by MAB and including International Rivers Network (IRN),
India's Save the Narmada Movement (NBA), Chile's Biobío Action Group (GABB), and
European Rivers Network (ERN)
The First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams was a successful first step in building and strengthening a global network of the dam-affected. Many of the participants reported an end to their feelings of isolation in their regional fights against governments, lending agencies, and corporations, as well as a renewed strength that they could carry back to their communities. The International Day of Action Against Dams: For Rivers, Water, and Life is the next step in strengthening the international movement. Our aim is to raise our voices in unison against destructive water development projects, reclaim the health of our rivers and watersheds, and demand the equitable and sustainable management of our waterways. By acting together, we will demonstrate that these issues are not merely local, but global in scope.
 The International Anti-Dam Movement

Excerpted from Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams by Patrick McCully.
Zed Books, London, 1996.

We Will Not Move: The International Anti-Dam Movement   Koi nahi hatega, bandh nahi banega (No one will move, the dam will not be built) Doobenge par hatenge nahin (We will drown but we will not move) Slogans of the Narmada Bachao Andolan

The decade since the mid-1980s has seen the emergence of an international movement against current dam-building practices. The movement is comprised of thousands of environmental, human rights, and social activist groups on all the world's continents except Antarctica. It coalesced from a multitude of local, regional and national anti-dam campaigns and a smaller number of support groups working at an international level. Dam builders recognize and bemoan its effectiveness. ICOLD President Wolfgang Pircher warned the British Dam Society in 1992 that the industry faced 'a serious general counter-movement that has already succeeded in reducing the prestige of dam engineering in the public eye, and it is starting to make work difficult for our profession.' The earliest successful anti-dam campaigns were mostly led by conservationists trying to preserve wilderness areas. Until recently, resistance from those directly impacted by dams was usually defeated.

Since the 1970s, however, directly affected people have gained the power to stop dams, mostly because they have built alliances with sympathetic outsiders - environmentalists, human rights and democracy activists, peasants' and indigenous peoples' organizations, fishers and recreationists. The rise of environmentalism has greatly helped the opponents of dams - and anti-dam campaigns have in many countries played an important role in the growth of national environmental movements. Other factors contributing to the emergence of the international movement have been the overthrow of authoritarian regimes and the spread of modern communication technologies.

Dam opponents are not just 'antis', but are advocates for what they see as more sustainable, equitable and efficient technologies and management practices. Political changes which would best encourage the preservation or adoption of these technologies and practices have been a central demand of many anti-dam campaigns. Struggles that have started with the aim of improving resettlement terms or of stopping an individual dam have matured into movements advocating an entirely different model of political and economic development. That decision making be transparent and democratic is now seen by many dam opponents as being as important as the decisions themselves. The clearest illustration of the wider political importance of anti-dam movements is the crucial role that dam struggles played in the pro-democracy movements of the 1980s in Eastern Europe and South America... Activists working at the local, national and international levels have together managed to seriously tarnish the lure of large dams as icons of progress and plenty.

To many people, large dams have instead become symbols of the destruction of the natural world and of the corruption and arrogance of over-powerful and secretive corporations, bureaucracies and governments. Although hundreds of large dams are still under construction and many more are on the engineers' drawing boards, aid funds and other public sector sources of financing are drying up, and public protests are provoked by just about every large dam that is now proposed in a democratic country. The international dam industry appears to be entering a recession from which it may never escape.

In remembrance of Fulgêncio Manoel da Silva
(by IRN Internayional Rivers Neywork, San Francisco)   Fulgêncio Manoel da Silva was murdered on 16 October, 1997 in Santa Maria da Boa Vista in the backlands of Pernambuco state in northeast Brazil. Da Silva was a farmer, a poet, and a passionate fighter for dam-affected people. He was also the person responsible for the addition of the words "For Rivers, Water and Life" to the International Day of Action Against Dams. In an interview at the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams, held in Curitiba, Brazil in March 1997, da Silva told IRN : My goal is that the world, not just Brazil, study ways to produce electricity without flooding lands, rivers, the environment; and without affecting the life of the people... We are supporting the proposal for an international day of struggle for the rivers, water, and life because we support life - of people, of animals, and the rivers and water.
Da Silva was one of 40,000 people forced to make way for the Itaparica Dam, built on the São Francisco River on the border of Pernambuco and Bahia states. Not long after he learned his family would lose their land, he met a family of beggars living under a bridge who had been displaced by a dam but were once farmers like him. It was this experience, he said, that moved him to organize the Itaparica families. Da Silva says there were many devastating impacts from the project. It halted agricultural production for seven years, and after that time, the production was not half of what is was before the dam. This has had a great impact on the area and the people. The native vegetation and crop trees such as bananas, coconut, oranges and mangoes were submerged, rotting along with the barrels of agrotoxins that weren't removed before inundation. The cultural effects of the dam have been devastating. According to da Silva, the customs and cultures of the people were drowned with the rivers and waterfalls. "I don't feel any dam has yet provided fair compensation for the affected people," he said. "Just compensation will never take place because the destruction of the environment, the destruction of the history of the people and of their lives, the history of where they were born and lived - there is not enough money in the world to pay for this." It is suspected that the killing of da Silva was ordered by drug traffickers operating in the resettlement communities. The Brazilian Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), blames his murder on the deplorable social conditions resulting from inadequate compensation for the dam oustees. "This," said MAB, "generated the conditions which led to this type of criminality, where families plant marijuana as a means of survival. Money from the World Bank never reached the small farmers, but instead was used to irrigate drug plantations." "Political action," said Aurelio Vianna of the Brazil Network on Multilateral Financial Institutions, "was not merely an ideological question for Fulgêncio, but a question of honor." In one of his poems, Fulgêncio wrote "The river is our life-water. What we do with it affects the life of the people, the life of the animals, the life of the river, and the life of the waters. This is true for the world, not just for Brazil." His work has not been in vain. On 14 March, for the International Day of Action Against Dams and FOR RIVERS, WATER, AND LIFE, we hold his spirit and his beliefs in a place of honor in our actions and in our hearts