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    Maheshwar update from Shripad/Sukumar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, April 23, 1998

    People once again occupy dam site - brutal beatings and massive arrests by
    the police

    The struggle in Maheshwar continued today as over 800 men and women once
    again dodged the police barricades and occupied the dam site. The
    occupation took place in broad daylight showing the complete command of the
    people on the local terrain. The police had arrested all the 1500 or so
    people who had remained at the dam site yesterday evening.

    Today the people, determined to regain the occupation, launched the march
    at about 10.30 a.m. Dodging the police barricades the people reached the
    dam site and stuck the NBA flag into the soil. Then the state showed its
    brutal face. Within 10 minutes of the occupation, the police arrived in
    some strength, and without any warning or provocation launched a brutal
    assault on the people. The police started beating the people with batons,
    rifle butts, and also stampeded horses (by a few mounted police). The
    police with batons, rifles and horses chased the people for almost half a
    kilometer, repeatedly beating and abusing them. At least 14 people with
    grievous injuries have been admitted to the hospital by the police, and
    over 500 arrested. Some firing in the air also took place with the intent
    to scare the people. It is learnt that there were many others who were
    badly beaten and have not been admitted to the hospital but taken to jail.

    With this, over 2000 people are in jail, and over 25 in the hospital.
    Stories of brutality on women and men are still coming in. Work is
    proceeding (albeit haltingly) under massive police protection. The State
    has shown its brutal face - trying to callously beat the people into
    submission. However, the people are determined to continue their struggle
    and stop the work at the dam site.

    * * *

    To protest the police brutality at the Maheshwar dam site, send messages
    to: Shri Digvijai Singh, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Fax +91
    755 540 501.

    Peter Bosshard
    Berne Declaration

    3/4/98 : NGOs take shareholder action on ABB

    In a case of global shareholder activism, NGOs yesterday requested ABB to
    reconsider its focus on large hydropower projects. A resolution which the
    Berne Declaration and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation submitted
    to ABB's AGMs on April 2 was supported by major institutional investors.

    * * *

    ABB AG and ABB AB, Asea Brown Boveri's parent companies, held their AGMs in
    Switzerland and Sweden on April 2. The events were marked by debates over
    ABB's involvement in large hydropower projects. Two environmental groups,
    the Berne Declaration (BD) and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
    (SSNC), submitted identical resolutions proposing a review of the company's
    hydropower strategy. At ABB's AGM in Zurich, BD secretary Peter Bosshard
    argued that due to public concern about social and environmental impacts,
    large dam projects were increasingly associated with cost overruns and
    schedule slippage. "When private investors and public funders shy away from
    large dams, focussing on such projects for ABB becomes a strategy of high
    risk and low returns", Bosshard commented at the AGM.

    At the AGM in Vasteras, Goran Eklof of SSNC pointed out that ABB was
    completely neglecting research and development of renewable energy
    technologies. "Unless the company reconsiders its power generation
    strategy, it will fall behind the more innovative competitors", Eklof
    warned. SSNC and the Berne Declaration based their critique of ABB's
    hydropower strategy on a report entitled, "High Risk - Low Return?", which
    they had jointly published in February 1998.

    The NGO resolution was supported by CIA, the pension fund of the Geneva
    state employees. CIA is holding 12,800 shares of ABB AG. Major US ethical
    investors such as Franklin Research & Development, the U.S. Trust of Boston
    and Walden Capital Management also supported the concerns of the
    environmental groups. Franklin, U.S. Trust and Walden, which presently do
    not hold ABB shares, informed ABB's management that they would seriously
    consider the response to the NGO resolution before investing in ABB shares.
    The three investors manage funds of more than 4 billion dollars in total.
    Speaking on their behalf, Julie Tanner of the National Wildlife Federation
    supported the NGO resolution at the AGM in Zurich. "The proposal
    demonstrates that for ABB, incorporating social and environmental concerns
    in its business strategy can indeed make economic sense", Tanner argued.

    The chairmen of the boards of ABB AG and ABB AB in their response did not
    defend the questionable financial viability of ABB's hydropower strategy.
    They instead refered to the newly-created World Commission on Dams (WCD),
    which was mandated to investigate all questions regarding large dam
    projects. As ABB's CEO Goran Lindahl was a member of the WCD, the two
    chairs stipulated, there was no need for a separate study on ABB's
    hydropower strategy.

    * * *

    Further information:

    . Peter Bosshard, Berne Declaration, phone (41 1) 271 64 25, e-mail
    . Goran Eklof, SSNC, phone (46 8) 702 65 82, e-mail, or
    Mats Djurberg, SSNC, phone 702 65 09, e-mail

    The report, "High Risk - Low Return?" and the shareholder resolution are
    available on the BD's website (

    The Berne Declaration (BD) is a Swiss public-interest group with 16,000
    individual members. Through research, popular education and advocacy work,
    it has promoted more equitable North-South relations since 1968. The
    Swedish Society for Nature Conservation was founded in 1909. With its
    170,000 members, it is the largest and oldest environmental organization in
    Sweden. The United States' largest member-supported conservation group, the
    National Wildlife Federation unites people from all walks of life to
    protect nature, wildlife and the world we all share.


    MAHESHWAR DAM, India, March 31, 1998 (ENS) - On Saturday, a thousand police
    took over the site of the
    Maheshwar Dam on the Narmada River in the central Indian state of Madhya

    Citizen demonstrations in January by more than 25,000 people had forced a
    halt to the dam construction and a review of the project. Activists believe
    the police occupation may be an attempt to start work on the project
    without their approval. The police have blocked all the routes to the dam
    site, effectively sealing it off.

    The review process had been moving along, with the last meeting of the Task
    Force held on February 28. The government made documents available to the
    citizens and promised to provide a document stating why the project is
    necessary, the least cost, and why it should be built. A meeting of the
    Task Force was set for April 15-16.

    The project, the first privatised hydroelectric power project in India, is
    being built by S. Kumars company, which is seeking collaboration with
    multinational companies like Pac-Gen, Siemens and Asea Brown Boveri (ABB).

    The Save the Narmada Movement objects to the project because the reservoir
    created by this dam would submerge fertile tracts of cotton, chili, wheat
    and well-settled 61 villages with a population of about 100,000.

    S. Kumars has been running full page ads in local newspapers stating the
    "massive benefits" of the project and "minimal displacement," ads that the
    citizen demonstrators objected to.

    On March 4 an urgent meeting was called by the chair of the Task Force
    investigating the citizen complaints to discuss the possibility of allowing
    some construction at the dam for "safety purposes." S. Kumars asked to
    construct a 240 meter (780 foot) high protective wall to prevent damage and
    ensure the safety of the work done so far. The Save the Narmada Movement

    Shripad Dharmadhikary of the Save the Narmada Movement says the stoppage of
    work, the project review and the large amount of international attention to
    the project seems to have scared off investors. Before the citizen
    occupation S. Kumars said that they had all but ten percent of the needed
    funding for the dam. But now, because of the occupation, sources of funding
    seem to have evaporated.

    "So," says Dharmadhikary, "S. Kumars wants to show that the review is
    nothing but a political concession made just before the elections. This
    they can do only if the work starts."

    On March 11, the state government of Madhya Pradesh through its Narmada
    Valley Development Authority (NVDA) issued a notification that "any work
    for the purposes of safety and resettlement" except work on powerhouse, dam
    and land acquisition would be permitted.

    On March 16, the company brought in a number of pumps to the site and
    started pumping out water of the excavation pits. The enraged village
    people sent a letter to the Chief Minister March 19 calling on him to stop
    the work. Having no response, on March 23, over 500 people marched to the
    dam site and told the company people to vacate in three days.

    On March 25, the Chief Minister called Save the Narmada Movement activists
    Alok Agarwaal and Chittaroopa Palit to meet him urgently. He requested them
    again and again to allow construction - but when it was pointed out to him
    that the wall is a permanent structure and would require blasting, he
    agreed to look into it and give his response on March 30.

    On March 26, over 800 people from the Maheshwar area gathered in Bhopal,
    the state capital, for a one day demonstration, and a delegation again met
    the Chief Minister.

    The people had earlier announced a big rally at the dam site for April 3.
    The event was planned even before the most recent turn of events, but it
    has now assumed a larger significance.

    On Saturday more than a thousand police appeared and sealed off the dam
    site. They are claiming that this is a precautionary measure in case the
    citizens take some action on April 3.

    The demonstrators believe the police presence is a cover under which the
    company can again start construction. Save the Narmada Movement has told
    the police that they need not fear for anything on April 3. "We will do
    whatever we want openly, by announcing it well in advance - just as we had
    announced the occupation 10 days in advance," said Dharmadhikary.

    The demonstrators are now waiting for word from the Chief Minister and
    planning for the rally. The people are surging with enthusiasm and anger
    and are determined not to let the work start on the dam.

    Over 180 painters from all over the country, including many of the leading
    ones, have contributed their paintings for the Save the Narmada Movement.
    An exhibition of these paintings opened on March 26 in Bombay under the
    name of "Artists for a Sustainable World."

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    25/3 : Environmentalists React to Brazilian Rejection of Waterway Plan with Cautious Optimism

    (Cuiabá, Brazil) Environmentalists cautiously welcomed today's announcement by the head of Brazil's environmental agency that the country is abandoning its current plans to construct the Paraguay-Paraná industrial waterway, called the "hidrovia". Instead, the government says it will restrict its interventions in the Pantanal wetlands to "minor works" which will not place the ecosystem at risk. Ecologists expressed their concern that the project may still move ahead -- in a different form, but still causing significant environmental impacts.
    The Hidrovia project, as designed in studies funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme plans the channeling of 3,400 km. of the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers for industrial use. The project is being promoted by the governments of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay.
    Scientists and other technical experts have warned the engineering works for the hidrovia could alter the hydrology of the river system, causing the Pantanal to dry out. This, they say, would have disastrous effects on the biodiversity and the populations of the region. Today's announcement by Eduardo Martins, President of the Brazilian Environment Institute IBAMA may not be the final word on Brazil's position. "It's too early to celebrate", said Alcides Faria, of the Brazilian NGO Ecology and Action, and executive secretary of the 300-member Rios Vivos coalition. The network of non-governmental organizations has led the criticism of the project, and produced technical studies showing the project to be both environmentally unwise and economically unnecessary. "The Transportation and Foreign Relations Ministries, which have been promoting this project for a decade still need to define which works they will carry out as part of the hidrovia project. Brazil has said for a long time it won't do anything to damage the Pantanal, but meanwhile it is carrying out dredging without adequate environmental studies."
    According to Silvia Ribeiro of Redes - Friends of the Earth Uruguay, "The other countries of the region are still determined to carry out extensive dredging, channel straightening, and to detonate rock outcroppings along the course of the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers. They, along with the economic interests behind this project, will try to pressure Brazil to reconsider its decision".
    Glenn Switkes, of International Rivers Network said "it's a positive sign that an important Brazilian environmental official has come out against the project. We hope that this means that sound arguments and common sense have won out, and that the hidrovia's days are numbered."
    The government of Paraguay, based upon a critical study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is also reportedly waivering in its plans to dynamite rock passes along the Paraguay River.
    According to Faria, "We have an opportunity to change the course of economic development in our region -- to move away from megaprojects that benefit only a few companies, toward sustainable development activities which provide a better livelihood for the majority of the population, without harming the environment."

     For more information:
    lcides Faria, Ecoa +55.67.724.3230
    Silvia Ribeira, Redes +598.2.307.2455
    Owen Lammers, IRN +1.510.848.1155
    1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703 USA
    Tel: (510) 848-1155 / Fax: (510) 848-1008 / E-mail
    Glenn Switkes, Director, Latin America Program,
    International Rivers Network
    1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703-1576, USA
    Tel. (510) 848 1155 Fax (510) 848 1008
    South America:
    Tel/Fax/Message: +55 65 627 1689
    Tel: +55 65 627 6402

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