Pressreleases / Updates
(all in original language):




PRESS RELEASE Tuesday, November 25, 1997
Patrick McCully Campaigns Director (510) 848-1155 Environmental and human rights groups will not take part in the World Commission on Dams because its sponsors, the World Bank and IUCN - The World Conservation Union, have refused to allow fair representation from dam-affected people and dam critics. The Commission was to have been launched yesterday at a press conference in Washington, DC, attended by World Bank president James Wolfensohn, IUCN Director-General David McDowell, and the Commission's Chair, South African Water Minister, Professor Kader Asmal.

The World Bank, IUCN and Prof. Asmal wrote to the parties involved in establishing the Commission on Friday, November 21, stating that they would go ahead with their proposed 11-member panel regardless of dissenting opinions. The letter was accompanied by a statement from Prof. Asmal. IRN and other NGOs had until Friday been working toward reaching consensus on the composition of a balanced Commission which would reflect the opinions of dam-affected people and environmentalists as well as the dam industry.

"The Bank, IUCN and Asmal have said basically that they know best and that if others don't agree with them they can opt out. This is not how consensus-building works. We are very disappointed that they have torpedoed the months of hard work that has gone into the sensitive process of building agreement between critics and supporters of dams," says Mr. Patrick McCully, Campaigns Director of International Rivers Network.

NGOs believe that the Commission as currently proposed is unbalanced for a number of reasons, particularly because while it includes three dam-industry representatives it includes no one from organizations representing people displaced by dams. NGOs also believe that the World Bank and IUCN have reneged on commitments to a consensus process by selecting the Commission members on their own and by disregarding suggested changes from others involved in the process.

"Recent statements and positions taken by Prof. Asmal, the World Bank and IUCN show that these key players do not possess the consensus-building skills required for putting this Commission together," says Ms. Mishka Zaman of the Sungi Development Foundation in Pakistan. "We remain convinced of the need for an independent and unbiased assessment of the performance of dams around the world, but we are now convinced that the World Bank and IUCN need to be more inclusive of the views given to them by non-governmental actors."

The NGOs which were most closely involved in the Commission process are Berne Declaration (Switzerland), International Rivers Network (USA), Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Brazil), Narmada Bachao Andolan (India), Sobrevivencia (Paraguay), and Sungi Development Foundation (Pakistan).

Patrick McCully
Campaigns Director
International Rivers Network
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703, USA
Tel. 510 848 1155 Fax. 510 848 1008



25.November : Two more dams for the danube ?

Subject: Two more dams on the Danube: A plea for help

From: (Andras Fodor)

Secretary of State Janos Nemcsok declared today, that instead of the
decomposed Nagymaros Dam Hungary will build two 'smaller' ones.

This statement made even the Slovak delegation astonished!

The time is urgent - please write your IMMEDIATE INDIVIDUAL LETTER to every place we can hope support as well as to those who are behind this shocking decision!

Stop the dam-builders! Protest at the Hungarian Prime Minister (, at the President of the Republic (! Motivate your senator to act trying to convince against this decision which is againts the ruling of the World Court in The Hague!

Protest against ignoring of the people's whishes, the humilitation of the democracy in this country which intends to be a part of the civilized world! Realize the weakness of the democracy in this country and help to change this situation!
Act before it will be too late!
We can destroy the Danube and the only inland sea delta of Europe (the Szigetkoz) only once! We ask for the help of all environmentalist organosations of the world. Please help!

prof. Andras Fodor Eotvos University


20.November : Swiss Government subsidizes 3 Gorges contract

From: EnviroLink News Service
BERNE, Switzerland, November 20, 1997 (ENS)
Against much public opposition, the Swiss government awarded an official export risk guarantee to ABB's contract for the controversial Three Gorges project in China in late September.
Today, the Berne Declaration (BD), a Swiss non-governmental organization, revealed that the government is subsidizing the guarantee fees to the tune of US$12.7 million.
In August 1997 the Chinese government awarded a contract to the Swedish-Swiss ABB corporation for eight generators of the Three Gorges project. The contract amounts to US$143.1 million. On September 23, 1997, the Swiss Export Risk Guarantee board confirmed an earlier decision to cover ABB's Three Gorges contract with an official export risk guarantee.
The Berne Declaration criticized the subsidy as "politically insensitive and shortsighted," and called for a revision of Swiss export risk guarantee regulations.
The Berne Declaration is an advocacy group with 18,000 individual members in Switzerland. Through research, public education and advocacy work, the group has supported "more equitable economic, cultural and environmental relations between Switzerland and the countries of the South" since 1968.
By law, the Swiss export risk guarantee (ERG) is required to be autofinanced. ERG fees are determined based on country risk, the amount and the duration of the guarantee.
Studies by the Berne Declaration show that ABB was originally required to pay a fee of 15.8 per cent of the contract value for its Three Gorges guarantee.
After much lobbying, the ERG board agreed to reduce the fee to 6.9 per cent of the contract value. The 8.9 per cent reduction amounts to US$12.7 million.
ABB estimates that the Three Gorges contract will create 120 jobs for a period of six years in Switzerland. The reduction thus constitutes a subsidy of more than US$17,000 per person-year of employment. ABB had argued that the respective guarantee rates were much lower in Germany, Italy or Spain.
Swiss ERG regulations allow the reduction of guarantee fees if extraordinary securities such as World Bank loans are provided, or according to (undefined) market conditions.
But the World Bank has declined to finance the Three Gorges Dam project. The project was controversial even within the Chinese state and party apparatus, as the tumultuous vote of 1992 in the People's National Congress demonstrated. And China's country risk has deteriorated since the East Asian currency crisis broke out.
Peter Bosshard, secretary of the Berne Declaration, said today, "A reduction of ERG fees which is not based on special securities amounts to a subsidy to ABB and the Three Gorges project. Given the project's negative impacts and the public opposition against it in Switzerland, this public subsidy is politically insensitive and shortsighted."
The huge Three Gorges Dam will be the world's largest dam when completed. The target year for completion is 2009. It will dam China's longest river, the Yangtze, a thousand miles from the sea. The dam will rise 607 feet high and more than a mile wide. The reservoir behind it will extend for 370 miles and will incorporate a system of locks designed to improve navigation in the interior of China. The power generated by the 26 turbines planned for the dam is expected to be 18,200 megawatts at peak load. The project will displace nearly two million people and flood many ancient Chinese cultural sites.
American engineers visiting the project last month brought back a report of unstable geological foundations and insufficient precautionary planning on the Three Gorges project.
In November 1996, the Berne Declaration had commissioned a study which demonstrated that respective public funds would better be invested in innovative technologies than in large hydropower companies. A subsidy of US$ 2.7 million could, according to the BD's study, create more than 500 person-years of employment in renewable energy companies. "Subsidies should support pioneer sectors which are more important for the future of the Swiss industry than the Three Gorges contract," Bosshard commented.
The Berne Declaration today called on the Swiss government and the ERG board to allow non-governmental organizations more input in ERG's decision-making process. As part of a postcard writing campaign, more than 25,000 supported the BD position.


18. November : Announcement: 1st Workshop of EEB's Water CampaignWater problems in Europe: How to find sustainable solutions?

Dear water experts, dear friends!!

EEB Water Campaign is planing the first initial workshop that will be held in Lisbon, December 12th (afternoon) to 14th (noon) 1997.

In respect to the reactions I had to the draft agenda of our workshop in December I have modified the paper and send you herewith the „End Version“.
As you all know there is this time problem - the workshop has to take place in 1997 for budget reasons. I am very sorry for this useless pressure but it is very important that you react quickly: Please read this letter and the attached program immediately! Please decide soon if you are willing and if you are able to attend. If you can’t decide on it know, please let us know at least weather you’re interested or not! If you know an interested water expert within your organisation please let him know about the workshop.
The Workshop is meant as a brainstorming with inspiring presentations to some subjects. Its aim is to identify subjects for further workshops. These workshops should lead to future co-operation and activities of EEB members within the Water Campaign.
Nevertheless all participants are invited to present a brief paper on their own activities and their ideas about possible co-operation among EEB members.
A limited budget is available for a small number of persons to cover transport and accommodation. Selection criteria are: contribution to the workshop and origin (we want to have all countries to be represented). By all means we will try to make it possible for everybody to attend the meeting.
Last not least: please fill in the attached formula and send it back to our Brussels office before 1st of December. Hope to see you in Lisbon! Best regards,
Dieter Boymanns (Co-ordinator of EEB's Water Campaign)
NB.: We will send you the invitation and final agenda on Friday, 5th December 1997 !


Lisbon / Portugal, 12 - 14 December 1997

Dieter Boymanns - EEB, European Environmental Bureau
34, Bd. de Waterloo, B-1000 BRUSSELS - BELGIUM
Tel : + - Fax : + - e-mail:



PRESS RELEASE September 5, 1997 Patrick McCully Campaigns Director (510) 848-1155


Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahatir Mohamad, announced yesterday that the controversial Bakun Dam would be "delayed indefinitely". The announcement was made as part of a package of measures to reestablish investor confidence in the Malaysian economy.

The announcement vindicates the dam's many opponents who have long claimed that the $5.5 billion project would be an economic disaster, as well as being socially and environmentally destructive. It is unlikely that it will be possible to finance the project in the foreseeable future.

Bakun was to have been built by a consortium led by Swiss-Swedish engineering giant ABB Asea Brown Boveri and Brazilian construction company CBPO.

German engineers Lahmeyer International, whose involvement with the project dates back two decades, were the lead consultants on feasibility and design studies for the dam. Lahmeyer also played a lead role in drawing up the project's controversial construction contract and on supervising construction on its problem-stricken diversion tunnels.

Chicago-based Harza Engineering advised the Malaysian government on the economic, technical and financial aspects of Bakun.

Patrick McCully, Campaigns Director of International Rivers Network says: The Bakun cancellation highlights the economic inviability of large hydro projects. Bakun was the dam industry's flagship for privatized hydro projects - and the flagship has sunk.

Bakun's woes call into question the advice given by Malaysia's foreign hydropower advisors. Other governments and companies should take Bakun as a warning to treat with caution dam feasibility studies written by those who stand to benefit from building dams.

Bakun's demise leaves the $1.5 billion Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos as the largest hydro project in Asia which is seeking private investors. Lahmeyer International is one of a number of hydropower consultants working on the project with funds lent to Laos by the World Bank.

For more information: Patrick McCully, IRN, Tel. (510) 848 1155




INTERNATIONAL RIVERS NETWORK 1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703 USA Tel: (510) 848-1155 / Fax: (510) 848-1008 /

PRESS RELEASE September 4, 1997 Patrick McCully Campaigns Director (510) 848-1155



Swiss-Swedish engineering giant ABB-Asea Brown Boveri was yesterday informed of the termination of its largest ever contract - a $5.4 billion agreement to build Malaysia's controversial and crisis-ridden Bakun Dam.

The Bakun Hydroelectric Corporation (BHEC) issued a press release today stating that "an agreement is no longer possible" in a long-running dispute over the terms of its contract with ABB. As the project's difficulties mount, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how it can be financed.

Malaysian and international human rights and environmental activists have long opposed ABB's involvement in the 2,400 megawatt Bakun Dam. Last September, International Rivers Network warned the multinational that if it built Bakun it risked "both losing a huge sum of money and gaining many years of atrocious publicity."[1]

The dispute is believed to center on allocating the risk of cost overruns. The current contract reportedly allocates all the risk to the project sponsor, BHEC, which has found it impossible to raise project finance with such huge potential liabilities.

As the project is already substantially behind schedule before full-scale construction has even begun, cost overruns are likely to be high. The ABB-led construction consortium signed the contract last September and expected to start work at the project site in January 1997. Delays in the completion of river diversion tunnels, however, have so far prevented ABB and its partner, Brazilian firm CBPO, from starting dam construction.

Latest estimates are that the tunnels will not be completed until March 1998 at the earliest. The tunnels, which have suffered a succession of disastrous rockslides and floods, are being built by Korean construction company Dong Ah and German engineers Lahmeyer International.

While ABB has spent recent months coping with contractual disputes, the 10,000 local people whose ancestral homes and lands would be flooded by Bakun's huge reservoir have had to deal with food shortages and the psychological anguish of total uncertainty over their future.

In preparation for the expected evictions, local people have abandoned thousands of hectares of land planted to rice and other crops over the past three years. The residents have also lost access to the food and other resources in the huge areas of forests which have been clear-felled in preparation for reservoir impoundment.

Patrick McCully, Campaigns Director of International Rivers Network says: "ABB was repeatedly warned by NGOs in Malaysia and around the world that this dam was socially and environmentally destructive and economically unviable. By ignoring these warnings and by continuing to lend support to the dam, ABB shares a large part of the responsibility for the local people's present suffering.

"The Bakun fiasco has shown ABB to be lacking in basic business sense and to be utterly hypocritical in its claimed commitment to "environmental responsibility, sustainable development and transparency".[2]

"If ABB has any intention of stopping its reputation sinking any lower it should get out of the discredited international hydro industry. A first step would be to withdraw its bid to build generating equipment for China's gargantuan Three Gorges Dam."

Bakun residents were initially told that evictions and the payment of compensation would begin in 1996. They were then told moving would begin in July 1997, and then in late July were informed that it would not happen until December. Residents have still not been told how compensation payments will be calculated.

In August, residents were told that 30 per cent of total compensation would be paid by the end of the month. In fact only 15 community leaders receivedchecks which totalled only 0.002 per cent of total compensation promised. Within hours, all but one of the elders had returned their checks in protest.

The situation at Bakun will likely diminish whatever investor interest there may still be in the only other major dam project in South-East Asia which is seeking private financing - the $1.5 billion Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos. ENDS

References: 1. Bakun Contract Signing Postponed For Second Time: NGOs Warn Contract Will "Irreversibly Tarnish Reputation" of Swiss-Swedish Multinational ABB, IRN Press Release, 27 September, 1997.

2. Letter from Jan Strömblad, Senior Vice President, ABB, to Kua Kia Soong, Concerned NGOs on Bakun, 6 June, 1997.

For more information: Patrick McCully, IRN Tel. (510) 848 1155 Peter Bosshard, Berne Declaration, Switzerland Tel. +41 1271 6425 See also IRN's web site



1. August :WWF Pressemitteilung: Hochwasserschutz in Deutschland

Abkehr von der Gummistiefelpolitik: WWF fordert Gesamtplan fuer den Hochwasserschutz Rastatt, 31. Juli / 1. August 1997. Ein klares Konzept der Bundesregierung fuer den Hochwasserschutz forderte der WWF heute in Rastatt. Der Naturschutzverband unterstuetzt die Forderung des Bundeskanzlers vom letzten Wochenende, den ²Fluessen mehr Raum² zu geben. Jetzt muessten den Absichtserklaerungen Taten folgen.

² Nach seinem Marsch in Gummistiefeln ueber zerbroeselnde Deiche waere Kohl als Deutschlands oberster Deichgraf gut beraten, schleunigst ein schluessiges Konzept fuer die Zukunft zu entwickeln,² forderte Georg Rast, Referent fuer Wasserbau des WWF- Auen-Instituts. Schuldig sei er dies nicht nur den Menschen in den Hochwassergebieten an Oder, Rhein und Main. So koenne man auch grossflaechige und langfristig wiederkehrende Umweltschaeden vermeiden.

Zwar gibt es keinen 100prozentigen Schutz vor Hochwasser, allerdings bestimmt der Mensch weitgehend selber das Ausmass der Schaeden. ²Wer Chemiewerke und Tanklager in Hochwassergebieten baut, braucht sich ueber ernste Folgen fuer die Umwelt durch Wasserverseuchung und ueber wirtschaftliche Einbussen nicht zu wundern², betonte Rast. Der WWF fordert, den Neubau von wassergefaehrdenden Anlagen in Ueberflutungsgebieten zu untersagen. Ein Alarmplan fuer Hochwasservorhersagen kann Schaeden deutlich mindern.

Den Fluessen ²mehr Raum² zu geben, bedeutet, Ueberflutungsraeume zu schaffen beziehungsweise wieder freizugeben. An der Loire hat man diese Erkenntnisse schon vor einiger Zeit erfolgreich umgesetzt. Fuer die Oder kann ein wirksamer Hochwasserschutz nur in Zusammenarbeit mit Polen entwickelt und umgesetzt werden. Staustufenprogramme, wie derzeit unterhalb Breslaus vorgesehen, seien aber nicht der richtige Weg, betonte Rast. Landwirtschaft in Hochwassergebieten ist unverhaeltnismaessig teuer. ²Deichertuechtigungsprogramme zum Schutz von Aeckern sind wirtschaftlich unsinnig², sagte Rast. Sowohl fuer die Oder als auch fuer Rhein und Elbe muessten dringend Plaene fuer die Rueckverlegung der Deiche erstellt und Ueberflutungsraeume geschaffen werden.

Naehere Informationen erhalten Sie bei Dipl.-Ing. Georg Rast, WWF-Auen-Institut, Referent fuer Wasserbau, Tel.: 07222 / 3807- 22 oder bei Erik Morgenthal, Pressestelle, Tel.: 07222/ 3807 - 14.



Abandon du projet canal Rhin Rhone

Après une première annonce de Dominique Voynet, Ministre de l’Aménagement du Territoire et de l’Environnement le 7 juin, le Premier Ministre Lionel Jospin a confirmé le 19 juin l’abandon définitif du canal Rhin-Rhône, prévu par un accord entre les Verts et les Socialistes.

Les préfets ont d’ores et déjà reçu des instructions pour arrêter les procédures d’acquisitions foncières liées au canal. Du côté de la SORELIF, société constituée à parité entre la Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR) et EDF pour réaliser le canal, et qui a déjà acquis 800 hectares sur les 4 400 prévus, il semble qu’acquisitions de terrains, embauches de personnel et transfert du personnel CNR vers la nouvelle entité ont été stoppés.

La coordination Saône-Doubs Vivants-Sundgau Vivant-WWF demande d’ailleurs que soit justifiée au centime près la destination des fonds, constitués d’argent public, qu’EDF a versés à la SORELIF (1 milliard au total). La coordination, rappelant que le canal se serait traduit par le gaspillage de plusieurs dizaines de milliards de francs et par le saccage de l’environnement sur une longueur de 215 kilomètres, demande l’annulation de la Déclaration d’Utilité Publique. La coordination appelle également à une réflexion sur la question de l’acheminement des marchandises, écrivant dans son communiqué de presse du 10 juin : “ L’absence suicidaire de politique des transports qui prévaut depuis des années conduit aujourd’hui à la fermeture de lignes [ferroviaires], à l’abandon des triages et... à l’engorgement des autoroutes. Le nouveau gouvernement a, dans ce domaine, une action essentielle à jouer. Les contraintes d’économies budgétaires d’une part et le souci d’associer aux activités économiques le respect de l’environnement (le “ développement durable ”) imposent le choix de la réhabilitation et de l’utilisation du réseau ferroviaire existant. ” A noter que le “ toilettage ” des lignes entre Dijon et Mulhouse coûterait environ 250 millions de francs, contre 23 milliards (hors TVA, hors intérêts des prêts, etc.) pour le canal Rhin-Rhône. Une belle économie !


Rhine-Rhone Canal Cancelled

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin confirmed on June 19th the cancellation of the Rhine-Rhone canal project, on the grounds that the environmental costs would be too high and the economic viability of the project too uncertain.
The decision was first announced shortly after the victory of the Left-wing coalition in the general election by Dominique Voynet, the new Territory Management and Environment Minister and leader of the Green Party. The cancellation of the Rhine-Rhone canal was part of the common political program agreed on by the Socialist, Communist and Green Parties in the general election campaign. This political alliance between the « classic » Left and the ecologists led to the installation of seven Green Party representatives in Parliament - a first for France.
The decision arrived just as work was about to begin in the Saône and Doubs valleys. The process of buying 3,700 hectares (9,000 acres) along the Saône and Doubs rivers for the canal works has been halted. The approximately 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) already purchased by project authorities Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR) and the State will be either returned to the former owners or put up for sale. The government has promised the decree cancelling the 1978 State-approval would be out quickly.
The Rhine-Rhone canal had been postponed many times by successive governments hesitant to invest very large amounts of public money (up to $9 billion, according to latest estimates) into a scheme whose economicviability had been shown by several studies to be doubtful. But the previous government decided in 1996 to go ahead with the canal. The project would have turned the Saône and Doubs rivers in eastern France into a canal permitting year-round navigation for multi-barge convoys. The goal was to link the Rhône to the Rhine, notably the port of Rotterdam at the mouth of the Rhine (North Sea) to that of Marseilles on the delta of the Rhône (Mediterranean). However, studies show that between Rotterdam and Marseilles, the sea route by Gibraltar is actually faster: the project's 24 locks, in addition to numerous locks already on the Rhône and Rhine, would have considerably slowed traffic.
For several years, environmentalists united in the "Saône-Doubs Vivants - Sundgau Vivant" coalition, supported by WWF-France, campaigned against the project, arguing that 215 kilometers of the Saône and Doubs rivers, with their beautiful landscapes, rich fauna and flora and high-quality waters, would be totally destroyed. A massive popular movement arose against the project. The last demonstration gathered more than 10,000 people in Montbéliard - a town located on the Doubs river which would have suffered great damage from the canal - on March 27th.
The coalition is now calling for a deeper reflection on the transport of goods in France, embodied by a coherent, comprehensive transport policy that gives priority to restoring and using the existing railway network. It should be noted that restoring the lines between Dijon and Mulhouse would cost approximately $45 million, as opposed to $9 billion for the canal between the same towns.
The cancellation of the Rhine-Rhone canal is a blow to the TransEuropean Transport Network (TEN), a European policy which aims to transform many European rivers into wide-gauge inland waterways. This decision, which comes after the defeat by river activists of a scheme of navigation dams on Germany's Elbe River last September; the postponement of the channelization of the last free-flowing section in Germany of the Danube river last fall, and the publication of the bad economic results of the Rhine-Main-Danubecanal, which destroyed the Altmühl valley, could mean the beginning of the end for projects aiming at adapting rivers to ships, and not ships to rivers in Europe.


through its banks. The blocking of the river began when six trucks emptied their loads into the river. For story click here

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