Pressreleases / Communiqués / Pressemitteilungen 
(all in original language, en langue originale, in Originalsprache):

  • 10.05.99 : Chile / BIO BIO:  700 people March to Opposse Ralco Dam
  • 30.04.99 : UK farmers lose EU nitrate pollution case (ENDS Daily) 
  • 26.04.99 : Legal battle marks Doñana spill anniversary (ENDS Daily)
  • 21.04.99 : India : Narmada : German utilities quit controversial Indian Dam community leaders on indefinte hunger strike 
  • 19.04.99 : Narmada : Indefinite Fast At Bhopal Enters 7th Day
  • 19/04/99 : WWF calls for action against a second Doñana (ENDS Daily) 
  • 12.04.99 :China : Swedish and Swiss NGOs protest against new Three Gorges contract for ABB
  • 13.04.99 : River Rhine Gets Broader Protected Status
  • 13.04.99 :  Ghana : dam would destroy species/LS
  • 09.04.99 : Indian Police Arrest Dam March Leaders


Text :
 10.05.99 : Chile / BIO BIO:  700 people March to Opposse Ralco Dam

Source: Women with the Strength of the Earth ("Mapu Domuche Nehuen")

Beyond Words

On April 16 and 17, hundreds of people marched in defense of the Pehuenche of the Upper Bio-Bio, and specifically, in defense of the women's group "Mapu Domuche Nehuen" (Women with the Strength of the Earth) who oppose the proposed Ralco dam.

Some 700 people marched for 35 kilometers, singing and shouting, demonstrating their opposition to the enormous project that threatens to destroy their ancestral homes, something that the government and involved corporations are forgetting in the pursuit of "development."

Opponents of the dam arrived from cities and regions throughout Chile, such as Temuco, Puerto Montt, Chiloe, Valdivia, Chillan, Valparaiso and Santiago, to join in a day full of so much energy that the women of the Upper Bio Bio won't soon forget. 

Unfortunately, there was little press coverage of the event, an important medium in these times, since it is through the media that we can send our message. The struggle continues and the Pehuenche women of the Upper Bio Bio are not alone.

Here's why we believe the press didn't cover this event:
1) They don't want to show that there is still resistance to the dam.
2) They don't want to show that there are men, women and children opposed to the dam who are willing to give their lives to defend their ancestral lands.
3) They don't want to show that many people support these men, women and children, and that this battle won't be over soon.
4) They would like to forget that, even in government polls, the Pehuenche cause is supported by 80% of Chilean citizens, while the companies involved in the construction of the dam and the government continue to lose credibility among the people.

It is easy for the government to justify the means it is using against the Pehuenches under the pretext that it is trying to stop the growth of a "terrorist group" that is slowing the advance of a project and a company that support and contribute to the economic development of Chile. 

The Bio-Bio has become more than  a battlefield against the dam. It is also the center of a struggle against the injustices of our system, such as judicial backing for those who least need it and the use of violence against the rest. There, the dispossesed fight against a corrupt government, against the huge corporations that enrich themselves at the expense of others, against a corporation that uses "development" to justify its selfish cause. There, too, the struggle continues against the power that is willing to exterminate those who have always lived there: the Pehuenches and 3,500 hectares of forest and nature that will never recuperate from the damage the dam would cause.

It is because of all this that the Bio-Bio brings together many different kinds of people, and they are not terrorists, nor infiltrators (as they are sometimes called). They are people, groups, organizations and communities, all of whom disagree with this abuse that the government justifies with a "development" model that is neither real nor effective for those who are exploited.

The defense of  human rights and the environment is a subject that is often manipulated by corporations, political parties and the government. For them, the greatest problem is those who interfere, those who understand the value of a life, land, and culture, and  won't exchange it for money, television, or fancy new shops.

We, the defenders of the Earth, are the major problem of this so-called development. We are supposedly dangerous people, rebels who oppose the progress, growth and development of Chile. But if we look around and think...

What else is there to say, when we feel helpless upon seeing the fallen forests, the rivers converted into lakes and flooding kilometers of virgin lands to give life to monstrous dams? What is left to say, when the legal system is blind and influenced by money? And that the president of Chile speaks in favor of all this "progress"? 

How do we react in the face of this abuse of power? How can we react? Collecting signatures? Protesting publicly? And allowing ourselves to be repressed for actions that later will be forgotten?

Our thoughts in the face of all this do not turn toward violence, they do not turn toward death, or forgetting all that remains to be done. Instead, we think about being present, making it known that we are still alive, that we are still resisting, that there is still time to say "enough," time to ask for responsibility, justice and recognition.

Our hope does not die...

The struggle continues, and the Bio-Bio awaits us...

Fuerza y Cultura

Translation: Kora McNaughton

***The End

Monti Aguirre
Latin American Campaigns 
International Rivers Network 
1847 Berkeley Way 
Berkeley, CA. 94703 USA
Phone:  510 . 848.11.55 and 707 . 591 .91.49
Fax:  510 . 848.10.08
e-mail:  monti

30.04.99 : UK farmers lose EU nitrate pollution case
ENDS Daily

A group of British farmers has failed in the European Court
of Justice in an attempt to overturn classification of their
land as vulnerable to nitrate pollution and therefore
requiring restrictions on farming practices.  The court
rejected their principal argument that the UK authorities'
decision to impose the classification misinterpreted EU law
since farms were not the only source of nitrate pollution in
the area.

Under the EU directive on nitrate pollution of water from
agricultural sources (91/676), member states must identify
areas where levels of nitrate in water are above 50
milligrams per litre or threaten to breach this limit, and
to classify them as "nitrate vulnerable" zones.  States must
then require nitrate reduction measures, such as limiting
the nitrate content of fertilisers and carefully timing
their application.

In 1996, the UK agriculture ministry designated agricultural
areas along the rivers Waveney, Blackwater and Chelmer in
southern England as nitrate vulnerable zones and began to
enforce nitrate reduction plans.  A group of farmers
objected to the move in the English High Court, claiming
that farming was not the sole source of nitrate pollution in
the region.  The case was referred to the European court in

Yesterday, the court ruled that, according to the terms of
the directive, farmland can be deemed nitrate vulnerable if
national authorities consider that agricultural discharges
of nitrogen compounds make a "significant contribution" to
he overall nitrate concentration.  The directive does not
oblige member states to identify precisely what proportion
of the pollution comes from agriculture, it stated.  The
court ruled that if the farmers' interpretation of the
directive were accepted, it would cause numerous cases of
agricultural land contributing significantly to nitrate
pollution to fall outside the directive's scope.  This would
be "contrary to the directive's spirit and purpose," it

The farmers also claimed that the UK authorities had acted
against the polluter pays principle, as they were actually
paying for other people's pollution through the costs borne
y having to adopt new farming methods.  They also said that
the enforcement of the nitrate-reducing farming practices on
their land was an infringement of private property rights.
Neither of these claims was upheld.

Contacts:  European Court of Justice/
(, tel: +353 43031.

ENDS Environment Daily.  ISSN 1463-1776
Published by Environmental Data Services (ENDS)
Also on the web, at
E-mail:  Fax: +44 171 415 0106
Subscriptions, Tel: +44 171 814 5353
Editorial, Tel: +44 171 814 5320
Post:  40 Bowling Green Lane, London EC1R 0NE, UK

26.04.99 : Legal battle marks Doñana spill anniversary
(ENDS Daily )

The legal and verbal dispute over who should foot the bill
for last year's mine tailing dam spill in southern Spain
intensified last week coinciding with the first anniversary
of the accident.which contaminated 4,000 hectares of
farmland with arsenic.  On Thursday, the Spanish environment
ministry announced an extension of its claim for damages
against mine operator Boliden Apirsa to include the
Swedish-Canadian parent company Boliden and its directors.
A ministry spokesman said the move was designed to ensure
payment of any eventual damages in the event of the Spanish
subsidiary going into liquidation.  Boliden spokesperson
Alejandro de Antonio confirmed to ENDS Daily that a letter
from Spanish government lawyers advising of legal action had
been received at company headquarters in Toronto. He
described the ministry's action as "precipitate".  He added:
"Boliden does not accept responsibility for the disaster,
and until the conclusion of the court case taking place in
Seville it seems unwise to apportion blame".  Environment
minister Isabel Tocino said that it was Spanish government
policy to ensure that "the polluter pays" and suggested that
future legal action against the company might also include a
claim for damage to wildlife.

Contacts:  Spanish environment ministry (,
tel: +34 91 597 6030;  Boliden Apirsa
(, tel: +34 954 133 006;
Greenpeace Spain (, tel: +34 91 444

21.04.99 : India : Narmada : German utilities quit controversial Indian Dam community leaders on indefinte hunger strike
India's controversial Maheshwar Dam is once more in crisis as two major
partners in the project, German utilities Bayernwerk and Vereinigte
Elektrizitätswerke Westfalen (VEW), stated this week they will no longer
invest in the dam. The utilities together would have aquired 49% of the
equity in the dam which is being built across the Narmada River in the
central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

The utilities' withdrawal comes as seven community leaders - five from
villages to be drowned by Maheshwar - enter the eleventh day of an
indefinite hunger strike in protest against dams in the Narmada Valley. The
hunger strikers are among 500 farmers and fishers who have been camped out
since April 7 in front of the residence of Digvijay Singh, Chief Minister
of Madhya Pradesh. [1]

In 1993 the Madhya Pradesh government gave the concession for Maheshwar Dam
to an Indian textile company, S. Kumars, which then formed the Shree
Maheshwar Hydropower Corporation (SMHPC) to build and operate the project.
Oregon-based utility PacifiCorp was the original foreign equity holder in
SMHPC but withdrew in May 1988 stating concerns over social impacts and
local opposition. PacifiCorp's stake in SMHPC was then taken over by
Bayernwerk and VEW.

Dr. Joachim Adams, President of VEW's Board, has stated that "VEW is no
longer involved in Maheshwar and is not planning to become involved in the
future". A spokesperson for Bayernwerk noted, "Our contracts with the SMHPC
have run out. We would only be willing to consider involvement in the
project anew if the authorities are able to provide land-for-land
resettlement, with land of sufficient quality as per the conditions of the
Madhya Pradesh State rehabilitation policy for the Narmada Projects".
Although no reliable surveys exist it is believed that Maheshwar Dam would
displace over 20,000 people in one of India's most prosperous agricultural
egions. No credible plan exists for providing these people with
replacement land or livelihoods. Fierce local opposition to the project has
resulted in a number of dam site occupations and numerous beatings and
arrests at the hands of the police.

A broad coalition of 120 German non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had
urged German companies involved to respect the wishes of project-affected
people and withdraw. In December 1998, a German environment and
human-rights organisation, Urgewald, undertook an on-site investigation of
the project. An English summary of its report has just been released. [2]

During its investigation, Urgewald visited ten villages in the submergence
zone of the dam and met with the project promoter, S. Kumars, and the state
gency responsible for resettlement.

"What we found was a total lack of credible resettlement planning, a
shocking disregard for the truth in project documents, and systematic
violations of the rights of affected people. In effect, there is no land
available for rehabilitation. The lands being offered either lie in the
submergence zone of the dam or already belong to other communities," says
s Heffa Schücking of Urgewald.

Urgewald's report also questions the economic viability of the Maheshwar
project. It describes in detail the thriving economy of the project area
and concludes: "If a cost-benefit analysis were based on the true costs of
replacing the assets and livelihoods of these communities, it is our firm
conviction that this project could no longer be considered economically

"We are pleased to note that our investigation helped convince German
tility companies to withdraw" adds Ms Schücking.

The withdrawal of VEW and Bayernwerk still leaves a number of foreign
companies involved in Maheshwar. German engineering multinational Siemens
is still committed to contributing a non-voting share of 17% of project
equity in return for a contract to provide turbines and generators.
Swiss-Swedish firm ABB is also to provide generating equipment.
Almost half of the financing for Maheshwar was to be provided by the German
HypoVereinsbank through a $257 million export loan. The Siemens and
HypoVereinsbank participation has been thrown into question by the
utilities' withdrawal and the fact that preliminary commitments from the
German government to provide export credit and investment guarantees for
Maheshwar have become void.

"In view of the severe negative impacts of the project, we think it is
unlikely that the German government would grant a new guarantee", explains
Ms. Schücking. In its coalition agreement the new German government has
ade a commitment to introduce environmental, social and developmental
criteria for the approval of export credit guarantees.

Mr Alok Agarwal of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement)
says: "Large dams are very risky ventures and rightfully have trouble
attracting foreign investors. In the case of the Narmada Valley this is
even more true, because of the strength of people's resistance to these
projects. The ongoing fast in Bhopal is thus not only a signal to the
Government of Madhya Pradesh, but also a warning to foreign companies to
stay away from destructive projects in the Narmada Valley".

"The withdrawal of PacifiCorp, VEW and Bayernwerk and the ongoing protests
in India should provide a clear warning to Siemens, ABB, HypoVereinsbank
and any other potential foreign investors to stay well clear of the
Maheshwar Dam", says Mr Patrick McCully, Campaigns Director of the
Berkeley-International Rivers Network (IRN).

"Any foreign investor which gets involved in dams in the Narmada Valley is
going to risk international censure as well as lose money," adds McCully.

Maheshwar is part of the Narmada Valley Development Project which envisages
the construction of 30 large and 135 medium-sized dams in the Narmada
Valley. The most notorious of these projects has been the mammoth Sardar
Sarovar Dam under construction downstream from Maheshwar in Gujarat state.
ue to massive protests in the Valley, the World Bank and bilateral aid
donors stopped financial support for large dams on the Narmada in the early
1990s. Maheshwar is the first attempt to finance one of these projects
through the private sector.
                                                        -- ends --

[1] The protesters are demanding that the Madhya Pradesh government halt
construction on Maheshwar until the completion of a comprehensive and
participatory review of the costs, benefits and alternatives to the
project. These actions have been recommended by a task force established by
the Madhya Pradesh government in early 1998 to review the Narmada Valley
Projects and prepare a framework of alternatives for the development of
water and energy resources in the valley. The Task Force submitted an
overall report in January 1999 and a separate report on Maheshwar in
October 1998. The reports acknowledge the grave resettlement situation and
recommend a completely different approach to the development of water and
energy resources. They also recommend that no projects should be carried
out in which resettlement and environmental protection cannot be ensured.
[2] 'The Maheshwar Dam in India: A Travel Report', Heffa Schücking,
Urgewald, March 1999.

For more information contact:
Heffa Schücking, Urgewald:
Tel: (49)-2583-1031
Fax: (49)-2583-4220
Email: c

Patrick McCully, International Rivers Network
Tel. +1 510 848 1155
Fax. +1 510 848 1008

19.04.99 :Narmada : Indefinite Fast At Bhopal Enters 7th Day : No Meaningful Response From
State Government : People Determined to Fight Till the End

The indefinite fast by the people of the Narmada Valley entered the
seventh day today even as the discussions with the Chief Minister held
on 15.4.99 ended without any  meaningful  assurances by the Government.
The people have decided to intensify the dharna on the struggle in
anticipation of long drawn out struggle. 

It may be recollected that the Narmada Bachao Andolan had launched an
indefinite program of dharna from 7 April 1999 at Bhopal, focusing on
the issues raised by the large dams under construction in the Valley.
The Narmada Valley Development Project (NVDP) consists of 30 large dams,
135 medium and over 3000 small dams to be built on the Narmada and its
tributaries. All except one (Sardar  Sarovar ) are in Madhya Pradesh.
Over 500 people - affected by the large dams like Maheshwar, Lower Goi,
Upper Veda, Maan, Bargi, Sardar  Sarovar, Narmada Sagar etc. have been
sitting on an indefinite dharna at Roshanpura in Bhopal. Getting no
response from the State to the long pending demands, while the work
proceeds on the dam leading to large scale displacement and destruction
in the Valley, the people decided to intensify the agitation and seven
people have started an indefinite fast from 12 April 1999. These are:
Gopibai Patidar, Village Pathrad, Resham bai Village Behgaon, Gitabai
Village Nagawa, Reshambai  Village Bhatyan, Daulat bhai Village Behgaon
(all from Mahehswar dam area), Barsingh Barela Village Sonud (Veda Dam
area) and  NBA activist Chitaroopa Palit.

The demands of the people are simple : stop the massive ecologcal
destruction and social disruption in the Valley which is being carried
out under the name of development, and implement the alternatives. The
Government of M.P. itself had constituted a Task Force early last year
to review the Narmada Valley Projects and prepare a framework of
alternatives for the development of water and energy resources of the
valley. The Task Force submitted two reports - one overall report in
January 1999 and another separate report on Maheshwar Project in
November 1998. The reports clearly acknowledge the grave situation of
the displacement and recommend a completely different and alternative
approach of the development of the water and energy resources in the
Valley. They also explicitly recommended that no projects should be
carried out in which the rehabilitation and environmental protection
cannot be ensured. The situation today is that none of  the projects in
the Valley have been able to ensure even some semblance of
rehabilitation of the affected people, and thousands of people are
likely to be affected in this monsoon without any rehabilitation.

Against this background, the NBA demanded that the State Government
follow the recommendations of the Task Force and suspend all the
projects, carry out comprehensive reviews of the same and take up the
implementations of the alternatives as recommended by the Task Force.  A
meeting was held on 14 January 1999 with the Chief Minister, but while
he agreed to take up the alternatives in the case of some of the new
projects like Veda and Goi, he refused to accept the recommendation of
the Task Force to carry out a economic viability review of the Mahehwar

After waiting for almost  three months (because of, among other things,
the Sardar  Sarovar case in the  Court) with a series of smaller
demonstrations in the meanwhile, the people realised that the Government
was not willing to implement the recommendations of its own Task Force
and there was no recourse left except for launching an indefinite
agitation. This was becoming even more necessary as thousands of  people
in Maan, Jobat, Sardar  Sarovar and Narmada Sagar areas are likely to
face submergence losing lands, houses and property  - and may be even
lives to the waters rising behind the dams in this very monsoon, even as
construction continues on these. With all these factor in mind the
indefinite agitation was launched from 7 April 1999.

On 15.4.99, the Chief Minister of M.P. called the NBA for discussions,
but refused to concede the major demands saying that the dams in Narmada
Valley are in an advanced state and now nothing can be done.

With this, the people have decided to intensify their agitation and
continue the fight. It is imperative that the struggle of the people is
supported by concerned citizens, organisations, eminent people all over
the country. The people of the Valley appeal to you to support and
participate in this critical phase of the struggle. In particular, you
can help by the following.

Participate in the Struggle by visiting the dharna at Bhopal and
expressing your solidarity in person
Write letters of protest to the Chief Minister of M.P. calling on him to
accept the logical demands of the people of the Narmada Valley that the
work on the projects should be immediately stopped, the projects
reviewed comprehensively and the alternatives implemented. The
recommendations of the Task Force constituted by his own Government
should be implemented.
It has been decided that organisations all over M.P. will on 20 April
hold demonstrations at Taluka / District places and give statements of
support / protest letter to CM  through the local administration. You
can either do the same in your area, or write letters to the CM on the
same date to coincide with this.
Disseminate the information about the dharna, fast and the struggle to
other organisations, media, eminent people
Collect signatures in large numbers and issue statements / protest
letters to the CM, and give this in the media also
Talk to eminent people in your area and request them to issue public
statements and to write to Digvijay Singh.

Important Documents

The following important documents are available and if you do not have
them, we can send them to you.

1. Report of the Task Force on Maheshwar Project
2. Report of the Task Fore - Overall
3. Report of the Evaluation Mission of the Ministry of Environment on
Narmada Sagar
4.phlI 5gI ivS9apn, dUsrI punvaRs (Pahli Thagi Visthapan, Doosari
Punarvas - collection of articles realted to recent Supreme Court Order
in SSP case, Hindi Booklet)
5. Detailed Presentations to the Task Force on various dams,
alterantives by NBA, other Experts (Maan, Goi, NSP, Mahehswar)

Important Addresses /Contacts

1. NBA Contacts in Bhopal

Dharna at Roshanpura Naka, Narmada. New Market, Bhopal. Phone (Nearby
STD PCO, Someone can be called for the Dharna ) 0755-570 568
Other Contacts : c/o Eklavya Phone & Fax : 0755-56 33 80
c/o Ekta Parishad 0755-54 38 00

2.  Digvijay Singh, Chief Minister, Shyamala Hills, Bhopal.
Phone : 0755-540 500 /503/504
Fax : 0755 - 540 501

Brief Notes On Each Of The Dams

1. Narmada Sagar Project : The biggest and most destructive project in
the Valley. Its submergence area is over 90,000 ha. 40,000 ha of
pristine forest will be submerged in this project. It is supposed to
irrigate 125,000 ha of land - as against the submergence of 90,000! In
this 125,000 also, it is estimated that over 40% would be ultimately
affected by waterlogging and salinisation. It is also to have an
installed capacity of 1000 MW, however, the firm power generation in the
final stages is supposed to be only about 118 MW. The amount of energy
produced as electricity will be lesser than the energy being produced
today (in form of biomass) by only the forests which will be submerged
in the project !

It is significant that the project is close to Pandhana which has over
the last few months been subjected to over 2000 seismic shocks.
Scientists have predicted that the area could be subjected to a massive
earthquake in the enar future.

There is virtually no rehabilitation process, and the Government has
taken recourse to blatant and wide spread use of cash compensation
instead of "land-for-land". In this monsoon itself, it is expected that
about 39 villages will be affected by submegence - most of the people
without any resettlement whatsoever.

The Task Force has recommended that the project should be reviewed.

2. Mahehswar Project : This is a 400 MW, Rs. 1760 crore  hydel power
project. This is India's first privatised power project - being promoted
by the textile company S.Kumars, other  share holders being the German
companies Bayernwerk, VEW Energie and Siemens. Equipment is being
supplied by ABB and Siemens. The project is getting a huge loan from
German bank Hypovereinsbank. The German Government was to extend
guarantees to the project.

However, due to the intense campaign, the social and environment impacts
of the project, including the total lack of any planning for
rehabilitation and not a single inch of land being available for the
same has been exposed. As a result, German Government has decided not to
give the guarantees, and the German companies have withdrawn from the
project. (Both these decisions are not made public by the respective
agencies. Today, we have this information from "reliable sources".)

While there is no possibility of the rehabilitation of affected, the
power from the project itself is expected to be prohibitively expensive.
Of course, with a very one sided Power Purchase Agreement signed with
the company, the M.P. Government has virtually agreed to purchase all
the power produced at the very  high rate Rs. 5-8 per unit,  16% assured
rate of return to the company - with all the risks being transferred to
the Government and all profits being taken by the company.

The Task Force recommended that the whole economic / financial cost
benefit of the project needs to be re-examined, and that the feasibility
of the rehabilitation would need to be proved. The Government refuses to
implement this  recommendation. In the meeting with NBA of 15.4.99, the
C.M. said that the Maheshwar Project is now in an "advanced stage". This
is laughable, as hardly any work has been done on this project, and
indeed is the least advanced of all the ongoing projects in the Valley.

Latest information indicates that the cost of the project has gone up by
50% and hence the power will be even costlier.

Independent experts have given a series of alternative for this project
that are cheaper, with far less social and environmental impacts and
much higher local employment potential.

>3. Maan Project : The project is on the tributary of Narmada called
Maan. The project has been under construction and the affected area is
largely tribal. Some years ago, the tribals, being kept in dark about
the land for land policy of rehabilitation were given cash compensation
and were declared "resettled".  These families are now demanding their
rights now - but are expected to be affected by submergence this year,
and have nowhere to go.

Large portions of the command area are lands which are not irrigable at
all, but were included in the command just to show higher benefits. On
the other hand, as the project has been in planning for 20 years, the
ground reality in the proposed command area has totally changed. Over
54% of the command area is now already irrigated by the efforts of the
people. Now, the remaining area   can easily be irrigated through

4. Jobat Project : Similar situation exist as in Maan project.  In
Jobat, all the irrigable area has been irrigated by people using their
own resources.

5. Upper Veda & Lower Goi : These large dams are proposed to be built on
the tributaries Veda and Goi. In significant proportion of the  command
areas of these projects also, irrigation development has taken place.
For example, this area is over 84 % in Goi project! These projects have
not started at all and hence it is necessary that they be abandoned and
alternatives be taken up.

 (Details of Bargi, and Sardar  Sarovar dam are not given as these are
mostly known).


19.04.99 : WWF calls for action against a second Doñana
(ENDS Daily)  19/04/99

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has called for EU
action to stop pollution from metal mines and ensure there
is no repeat of last year's Doñana national park disaster in
Spain (ENDS Daily 27 April 1998)  In a report launched on
the anniversary of the disaster, WWF claims that every EU
country is at risk from pollution from mining waste, and
says there is evidence of significant pollution from acid
mine water leaking from similar "tailings lagoons" in
Sweden, Spain, Italy and Portugal. It called on the European
Commission to compile a centralised database of such
information, as a first step towards regulating mining more
tightly, and then work with industry and environmental NGOs
to create an action programme to analyse the risks and draw
up emergency plan guidelines.  The programme should also
contain technical standards on safe waste storage, a
spokesperson said.  WWF was highly critical of the current
EU legislative framework which it said had failed to prevent
the Doñana disaster.  The waste framework directive
(91/156/EEC) should be amended to explicitly include mining
waste which should also be added to the EU hazardous waste
list, making it subject to stricter regulations, the
spokesperson added.  Another EU law which proved inadequate,
according to WWF, was the directive on environmental impact
assessments (85/337/EEC).  It believes the impact assessment
carried out at the mine responsible for the Doñana incident
was not good enough and says there should be EU-wide
standards for tailings management.

Contacts:  WWF (, tel: + 32 2
743 8806. References: "Toxic waste storage sites in EU
countries - a preliminary risk inventory", WWF & Vrije
Universiteit Amsterdam.

13.04.99 : River Rhine Gets Broader Protected Status

BERNE, Switzerland, April 13, 1999 (ENS)
Environment   [ENS --Environment News Service]

The River Rhine is to enjoy more comprehensive protection
under a new international convention signed by five countries in
Berne, Switzerland, yesterday.

The third international convention on the protection of the Rhine
aims to achieve sustainable development in the entire river system, whereas
previous versions of the convention signed in 1963 and 1976 were
limited to controlling water pollution.

The Rhine flows from the Swiss mountains through Austria, Germany,
France and Luxembourg to the Netherlands. With an area of 185,000 square
kilometers and mean annual discharge of 2,200 cubic meters per second, the
Rhine basin is one of the most important river basins in Europe.

The existing convention has proved "perhaps the most impressive
environmental achievement in the world," according to Othmar Bühler of the
Swiss foreign ministry.
 But parties to the convention now believe that a more wide-ranging
approach is needed, including measures on  flood management and habitat
protection in the alluvial

Representatives of Switzerland, France, Germany,
Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the new convention

At the most recent ministerial level meeting of the
international commission that administers the convention,
signatories acknowledged that the river needs more "room
to flood."

The Rhine, seen in the background, flows through  [river]
steep hills (Photo courtesy Emory University)
The redrafting of the convention was given further impetus
when areas of Germany and the Netherlands bordering the
Rhine suffered major floods last autumn. The convention
now seeks to re-establish "as far as possible" the natural
course of the river.
To this end, said Bühler, the commission has been given
much more power to be "strict" with the five states over
implementation of its decisions and recommendations.
The convention also formally extends observer status to
environmental groups for the first time and incorporates
the precautionary principle in its text.

One of the commission's aims is to reintroduce salmon as
far upriver as Basle in Switzerland by 2000. The species
disappeared in the 1950s, though water quality
improvements have led to a comeback. Salmon ladders are
being built to allow the fish to progress past industrial
installations which dam the river at various points. So
far the salmon have reached the French region of Alsace.
{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily,
Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data
Services Ltd, London.; Email:}

© Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights  Reserved
Copyright © 1999 Lycos, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Lycos® is a
 registered trademark of Carnegie Mellon University.
Our Privacy Vow  Terms and Conditions   Standard Advertising Terms and

13.04.99 :  Ghana : dam would destroy species/LS

Writing in Defense of the Environment

Stories by Mike Anane

The largest of the only two populations of Hippopotamus Amphibious left in Ghana would soon be wiped off the surface of the earth, if the government goes ahead with its plan of constructing the country's third hydroelectricity dam on the Black Volta river at the Bui gorge located in the Bui National park.

Meandering through some of the last shreds of pristine intact forests that the country can boast of, the Black Volta also flows through the magnificent Bui national park in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana. It is a protected area of the Guinea Savannah which is home to a stunning collection of many globally endangered amphibious, lions and various

According to a study conducted by this writer, the 400 megawatts Bui dam if constructed "very soon" as disclosed recently by Ghana's Vice-president, Prof. Atta Mills, a greater part of the 1800km national park with all its spectacular landscape, treasures and diversity of species will be submerged underwater forever.

Most disturbing is the fate of the only two populations of black hippopotamus who according to local residents and park wardens number about 140-150 in the whole park.
Contrary to widely held beliefs by the dam backers that the hippos and the other endangered species will be relocated when construction of the dam begins, zoologist interviewed contend that the hippos in particular cannot survive anywhere outside the Bui national park due to its unique nature. Moreover the country's game and wildlife department is even too
broke to afford the cost involved in rescuing the animals at Bui and sending them to the supposed "safe havens."

"We don't even have the men and funds to capture the crocodile that has strayed into part of the Odaw river that flows under the bridge at "circle" in Accra, how can we ever capture and transport hippos and lions from the Bui game reserve" an official of the game and wildlife department told me in an interview.

Besides ringing the death knell for the black hippos, the Bui dam project will also set in motion other serious environmental impacts such as changing the natural flow regime of the river, banks and further reduce downstream habitat adversely.

A survey of the diverse species found at the Bui National park and the black volta river in the northwestern part of Ghana, conducted by scientists from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland recently, also reveal that the black volta river abounds with forty six species of fish from seventeen families all of economic importance. They reveal that with the damming of the river these native fish communities would also be destroyed over long distances downstream as a result of physical barriers that will block fish migration routes along the Black Volta and
destroy forests used as spawning grounds for fish. Many fish populations are likely to be heavily reduced and some species may disappear from the river entirely, this would be compounded by increased pollution and hanges to water temperature from the project which would damage the Black Volta fisheries.

The Bui national park also contains diverse communities of many animals groups characteristic of both grassland and forests. Since all the forested areas are within the flood plain of the river, the hydroelectricity project that aims to dam the rivers at Bui will completely, destroy all the riverine, forest habitat within the park thus drowning the diverse animal groups.

What's more, the Bui dam when constructed is expected to alter the health and welfare of hundreds of people to be resettled for the project. These people who will still be relying on the reservoir waters for their daily activities will be at increased risk from a number of dangerous diseases which are expected to increase in the area. Despite this fact, the government is woefully unprepared to deal with these risks as the Akosombo dam (the country's first dam) has shown.

The most serious threat with this project will be schistosomiasis (bilharzia), which could become established in the Bui reservoir area, with snails, insects and other animals serving as vectors for this parasitic disease. The bitter truth is that, the magnitude of the global incidence of schistosomiasis is directly connected with the construction of dams and irrigation projects. In Ghana, thousands of people living along the volta river at Akosombo are dying slowly of bilharzia or schistosomiasis. The worst bilharzia prone areas include Ada and English - Kenya, a village on an island near Ada. So far a number of non-resident visitors who flock to Ada on weekends to swim in the river volta have been infected. Not only do they pass blood in their urine but have also ended up with strange forms of paralysis due to bilharzia which affected their spinal cord, an unusual development in medical history which continues to baffle local doctors.

As usual, the recent announcement by Ghana's Vice-president Atta Mills that the ruling National Democratic government will go on with the Bui dam construction was hailed by most people who will not directly be affected by the dam. They also, will probably never hear of the hazards and negative effects such as the obliteration of many villages, and fertile farm lands, forced relocation, irreversible loss of critical wildlife habitat and other social problems. For many environmentalists however, the Vice-president's announcement has set in motion heated environmental controversy.

Already, environmentalists and scientists including eco-film producers have been trooping in daily to the proposed dam site in the northwestern part of Ghana. Their aim is to film and collect data on what would soon become one of the biggest crimes against the planet and a violation of the biodiversity protection principle of agenda 21, the Rio earth
summit's, blue-print for sustainable development to which Ghana is a signatory.

Given the personal involvement of Ghana's Vice-president and the high priority that the proposed project is so far enjoying, indications are that the government is poised to approve of the plans for the construction of the Bui dam project.

Having been shunned by the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other multilateral agencies as a result of the obvious irreparable adverse impact on local people and the environment, the government is now having to court private foreign investors.

Mr. Adom who is a member of the proposed Bui planning committee further disclosed that over twelve foreign investors from Russia, Sweden, Japan, Australia and other countries have already submitted proposals to the Ministry of Mines and Energy in respect of the construction of the Bui Dam. By the end of March 1999, a technical committee hopes to short list
the investors and the selected investor would construct the dam, produce the power and sell it.

Ghana's history of dam building is full of tragedies, many of which center around resettling people, and the accompanying health hazards. A case in point is the Akosombo dam, with an area of 8,300 square kilometres. The Akosombo reservoir in Ghana almost as big as Lebanon resulted in the relocation of almost 80,000 people whose homes and
farmlands were inundated by the reservoir.

After almost three decades of the construction of the Kpong and Akosombo dams, communities are still embroiled in legal tussles with the Volta River Authority over compensation.

As a result of the difficulties of establishing new lives in unfamiliar areas together with conflicts over land, about three quarters of those who were resettled, continue to live and farm near the edge of the Akosombo reservoir. This situation has led to rapid clearing of the steep hillsides along the dam resulting in deforestation soil erosion and accelerated siltation of the reservoir.

Some of these risks awaiting the Bui dam include the relocation of over 2,500 people and the inundation of a greater portion of the 1800sq. kilometres of the protected Bui National park and also too little water in drought years to fully power the turbines.

Pledges by the government that the investors will submit a comprehensive environmental and social impact assessment before starting the construction work on the Bui has been dismissed by environmentalists as a joke, since "EIA's have never worked in this country. Moreover the effects of surface mining for gold in Ghana's western region is there
for all to see. Didn't those mining firms submit EIA's to the Environmental Protection Agency?" asked Mr. Joshua Awuku Apaw, Head of information of the GREENEARTH ORGANISATION, a non-governmental based in Accra.

In an area of mass decommissioning of dams all over the world and the long periods of droughts in the sub-region with too little water to turn turbines, environmentalists have been left searching for the logic behind the government's avowed determination to go ahead with the construction of the Bui dam come what may. Moreover the disastrous consequences of unfair compensation and resettlement which followed the Akosombo dam and the recent power rationing due to too little water in the Akosombo dam are still fresh in the minds of Ghanaians.

In an interaction with newsmen recently, Mr.Alex Papanko, Brong Ahafo Regional Area Manager of Volta River Authority's Nothern Electricity department disclosed that the VRA has identified sixteen potential sites for the production of hydro-electricity and that more rivers will be damned throughout the country.

The need for a credible energy efficiency policy in Ghana cannot be underestimated and its not too late to tap the solar energy potential in the country and the considerable wind resources along our lengthy coasts.

Meanwhile, scientists predict that by the year 2,000 (next year) if the current abuse of the planet continues more than 100 species of fauna and flora will disappear daily.

As the survival of these species is inextricably bound up with our own, the black hippo and all the other endangered species at Bui cannot be swept unto the rubbish dump of history, the Bui dam must therefore be abandoned.

    Lori Pottinger, Director, Southern Africa Program,
     and Editor, World Rivers Review
     International Rivers Network
     1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703, USA
     Tel. (510) 848 1155   Fax (510) 848 1008

09.04.99 : Indian Police Arrest Dam March Leaders
By Frederick Noronha

NEW DELHI, India, April 9, 1999 (ENS) -
Thousands of tribals and peasants who fear being uprooted by ambitious dam projects in the central Indian Narmada valley have concluded a Manav Adhikar Yatra (human rights march) across vast areas of this country with a resolve to intensify their struggle "against unjust displacement and for the right to life."
This march ended in the federal capital of New Delhi Thursday. A delegation of the from the march met Maneka Gandhi, Indian federal Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. Their long trek prompted a promise from her to send a high ranking team of officials to reassess the status of rehabilitation and the land availability for the oustees of the
Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). Gandhi is a former Minister of the Environment and Forests (1989-1991) and daughter-in-law of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Protesters are challenging the claims by the governments about the complete rehabilitation of all the oustees coming under the submergence of land that would occur when the Sardar Sarovar Dam is raised to a height of 90 meters (293 feet). This massive dam and its associated irrigation canals would lead to the eviction of some 320,000 people and would deprive
many hundreds of thousands more of their means of livelihood, the dam opponents say.

After the discussions, Gandhi appointed two joint secretaries of the department and one from the Rural Development Ministry for reassessing the claims of rehabilitation and the land availability. The officials were told to start their mission within two days and would directly report to the minister.

"This has vindicated our stand that the governments of New Delhi and states have lied in the Supreme Court regarding the status of rehabilitation and displacement in the SSP," said Jagannath Kaka Patidar, senior activist in the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Valley), a group battling against the huge dam projects of behalf of affected tribals
and villagers.

Marchers arrived in Delhi Wednesday and held a protest rally at the premises of the Social Justice Ministry in the early hours. The people invited the Minister to come down to meet the people who had traversed hundreds of kilometers to come to the nation's capital. "Despite the rude response by the Minister, the Andolan did prepare a memorandum and was awaiting a dialogue in the closed meeting. But the police and arrested the women and men in very highhanded manner," said the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

Protesters, including the doughty woman leader of the protest and the symbol of the anti-Narmada struggle, Medha Patkar, were arrested by police. They were dragged during the arrests and received minor injuries. Patkar is one of the 12 Commissioners of the World Commission on Dams, and a Goldman Prize award winner. She was arrested in 1996 leading another dam

Prominent Hindu campaigner-priest Swami Agnivesh was also picked up by police. Patkar and Agnivesh were later released. Another respected social leader, Baba Amte, was forcibly packed up in the waiting police ambulance and was told that he was under arrest.  Later, he was abandoned by police in one Delhi hospital, said NBA spokesperson
Sanjay Sangvai.

This march, aimed at protesting the displacement of the poor by huge projects in India, started in Badwani, in the central province of Madhya Pradesh, and made its way through various towns and villages to the western commercial hub and major city of Bombay known locally as Mumbai. Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River would be raised, creating a larger
reservoir and flooding tribal and other agricultural lands "They were welcomed by hundreds of organisation and movements of tribals, Dalits (former Indian 'untouchables' and exploited sections of society), fishworkers, urban poor, minorities, workers, trade unions, environmental and human rights organisations," said the NBA in a statement. The NBA said, "The struggle against the displacement has emerged as a political consensus among the various organisations and sections of population. This, according to them, was important in the days of the globalisation, liberalization and the onslaught of the national-international capital on the right to life and resources of the people."

In another development, the campaigners said police had used tear gas recently to disperse dam-oustees who were protesting against the Maheshwar dam, at the end of March.

In a delayed statement dated March 31, and released this week, the NBA said, "Today, as thousands of the oustees to be affected by the Maheshwar Hydro Electric Project (MHEP) marched towards the dam site, the Government burst tear gas shell to disperse them, and arrested people at several places. In spite of this, the people reached and occupied the dam site,
and delivered the final warning to the state Government, the Indian and foreign companies investing in and supporting the project that unless the work on the project is stopped and the review initiated as per the report of the Task Force within a week, the affected people will take to the streets in large numbers and along with the people affected by other dams
in the Narmada Valley, launch an indefinite struggle." "Several thousand" of the affected people started moving towards the dam site from many different directions. The administration fired tear gas shells to disperse those advancing from the coffer dam side, the NBA announced.

It also said that one woman, Resham Bai of village Mardana, was injured in this, and she has been admitted to the Mandeleshwar hospital. The people entering from the Jalud village side were also stopped and arrested. In spite of these attempts, the people succeeded in reaching the dam site and stoppe all the work, according to the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Some huge dam projects have been increasingly drawing protest in recent years in India, because of their potential to disrupt the lives of a large number of the poor, who have few options to survive outside of the habitat to which they have grown accustomed over generations.

@ Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.
-Zubair Faisal Abbasi.
Sustainable Development Networking Programme.   Ph:092-051-270684,270691
House No. 12, Street No.85, G-6/4, Islamabad,   Fax:092-051-270688


back to the Homepage

These pages and their content are © Copyright of European Rivers Network.
For more information, remarks or propositions, send us a message !.

-Zubair Faisal Abbasi.
Sustainable Development Networking Programme.   Ph:092-051-270684,270691
House No. 12, Street No.85, G-6/4, Islamabad,   Fax:092-051-270688

back to the Homepage

These pages and their content are © Copyright of European Rivers Network.
For more information, remarks or propositions, send us a message !.