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    "Newer" News
  • 17.05.00 : Thailand : The Pak Mool dam is worse than useless
  • 17.05.00 : Thailand :"Decommissioning the Pak Mun dam, open the water gate, regain the fertility of the river"
  • 16.05.00 : Narmada : Novelist seeks to bring a sense of reality to Cannes
  • 15.05.00 : Native Americans Win Reparations for 1957 Dam
  • 11.05.00 : Letter to 'Down to Earth' on World Water Forum
  • 11.05.00 : China three gorges : Press Advisory: New Corruption Scandal further Discredits Wall Street Financed Project
  • 10.05.00 : Mining Industry: A Heavy Legacy to the Environment
  • 05.05.00 : :Water framework leak undermines EU governments ENDS Daily -
  • 30.04.00 : Dam building in Lesotho : Multinationals judged for corruption
    older news

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17.05.00 : Thailand : The Pak Mool dam is worse than useless

The Nation, May 15, 2000

Let's admit it. The Pak Mool dam is one of Thailand's worst mistakes. The hydroelectric project not only falls short of expectations on economic gains, but also generates economic losses for thousands of fishing families in the Mool river basin.

Today more than 2,000 fishermen living along the river will march to the notorious dam site and demand that the government take action. They vow to make the site their stronghold until the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) agrees to open all of the dam's gates to restore fisheries.

We find the proposal to decommission the Pak Mool dam highly sensible. Since its completion in 1994, the Pak Mool dam has done more harm than good to the country's economy, not to mention its ecology. The dam was suppose to have an electricity generating capacity of 136 megawatts. But today it does not generate more than an average of 40 megawatts, partly because of a miscalculation on water flow by Egat engineers. In August and September when the Mool rises to become even with the level of the Mekong, the dam at the confluence of the two great rivers generates almost no electricity. There is simply no headwater to run the turbines. The latest important study of the Pak Mool dam's economic viability by the World Commission on Dams (WCD) found that the more Egat runs the dam, the higher operation costs it has to bear. The study indicates that the miscalculation on water flow raises the dam's daily operating costs. The WCD is an internationally recognised independent organisation founded by the World Bank and the dam building industries in developed countries to assess the performance of dams worldwide. Other projects under WCD investigation include the gigantic Grand Coulee Dam in the United States, the Tucurui dam in Brazil and a system of 37 dams in Norway.

Although dam building more often than not involves cost overruns, the cost of Pak Mool dam was almost double its original estimate. In its first >feasibility study, the construction cost was calculated at Bt3.3 billion while the actual cost when the dam was completed was Bt5.8 billion.

Egat as a state enterprise simply passes the prices of its mistakes onto consumers and taxpayers. If one traces Egat's performance, Pak Mool is not the only dam having such economic problems. Needless to say, the agency >would have gone bankrupt if it were a private corporation.

Now look at what the Pak Mool dam has done to riverine ecology and the local fishing industry. The WCD recorded that 169 out of 265 species of fish in the Mool River were affected by the construction of the dam. Of >these, 56 species have completely disappeared.

Before the dam, Thailand's largest tributary of the highly genetically diversified Mekong, the Mool River, was considered one of the most fertile fishing grounds in Southeast Asia. A writer once noted that if the Mekong were a monarch, the Mool would be the closest to the throne in terms of natural fertility.

Such a dramatic depletion of fish in the Mool is directly linked to the dam at the mouth of the Mool River. The dam blocks migratory fish from swimming up from the Mekong to feed and spawn in the Mool River during the rainy season.

Opposition against the dam from fishermen, who predicted the consequences, prompted Egat to build a fish ladder to serve as a passage for fish. But as predicted again by the villagers, the ladder provided little help.

Last year, a fisherman found a nearly 100-kilogramme fish struggling to get past the concrete dam and into the Mool. The fish was found to have bruises all over its body and finally died of exhaustion.

By opening wide the water gates, the river can be restored almost to its natural condition with no need to remove the concrete structure itself. Due to its unique design as a run-of-the-river dam, the dam does not have a large storage reservoir. The electricity from the Pak Mool dam can also be replaced by other alternatives. The WCD report found that it is cheaper to generate the same amount of power by using natural gas and bio-mass fuel.

The decommissioning of the Pak Mool dam involves little technical complication, but requires strong political will. Public support is needed to boost the courage of the government. Only by admitting that the dam is a mistake can a correction be made. Thailand is not the only country in which >people cry out loud for dam decommissioning. The world's major dam builders, such as the United States, have gone through the same process.

For decades, the Pak Mool and other dams - which affect people's livelihood by taking away their land and resources - have been symbols of unjust economic development policy. The poor and powerless have always been told to sacrifice for the good of the nation. But we seem to forget that the poor, who happen to be the majority in this country, are also a part of our nation.

Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN) 25/5 Moo 2 Soi Sukhapiban 27 Changkhien-Jed yod Rd. Chang Phuek Muang Chiang Mai 50300 Thailand

Tel&Fax (66) 53-221157


17.05.00 : Thailand :"Decommissioning the Pak Mun dam, open the water gate, regain the fertility of the river"

Holding a 14-month-long demonstration next to the Pak Mun Dam since March 23rd, 1999, at 2.00 am of May 15th, 2000, 2,500 villagers, who are members of the Assembly of the Poor at the Mae Mun Man Yeun Village No.1, occupy the crest of Pak Mun dam and the fish ladder. Mr. Thongcharoen Srihadham, the villagers' leader said that "our experience has proved that the Pak Mun Dam has destroyed the river's fertility. It has also caused the end of the peaceful livelihood of the Pak Mun community. The fish ladder, which was proposed to be a solution to the fish's breeding, could not be a substitution to natural river for fish to migrate upstream to breed in the Mekong river. Hence, we are demanding that the Pak Mun dam's gate be opened in order to regain the abundance of the Mun river. The gate opening will also prove that if the river is not dammed, fish will >be able to move upstream to breed"

Mr. Thongcharoen also said that "this action is done in a peaceful manner. We are holding fast to non-violent means. We will not block any roads, nor will we destroy public properies. We will definitely not use any violent actions, which will cause harm to the general public. If any violent incidents happen, it is certain that the AOP has nothing to do with it. It is most likely that the incident may be created by the government officials or the EGAT's officials to deligitimize the non-violent action of the AOP."

Mr. Thongcharoen insisted that the Pak Mun dam's seizure will continue until the villagers' demands are achived.

Regarding the villagers' activity, since today is the Puudchamongkon day, which is a great day for farmers, at 11.00 am. villager did a "Keun Pla Klap Wang" ceremony, which is symbolically meant to return fish to their origin and to prolong life of fish in the Mun river. The villagers brought a 25-kg Mekong Giant Catfish, from the foot of the fish ladder and walked up across the dam and let it return to the Mun River upstream of the Pak Mun dam.

Declaration of the Assembly of the Poor at the Mae Mun Man Yeun Village, No.1

"Open the Pak Mun dam's gate, regain the fertility of the river"

Since March 23rd, 1999 the Assembly of the Poor has been holding a demonstration so as to demand the Thai Government to provide a solution to villagers' problems, which are as follows; 1. Solving problems resulting from the construction of the Pak Mun, Sirindhorn, Lam Khan Chu and Huay La Ha Dam.

2. Stop the construction of the Pong Khun Phet and Lam Dom Yai Dam

3.Solving problems stemming from the Chong Meg Checkpoint Developmental Project

4. Solving problems resulting from the Royal Forestry Department's implementation of a protected areas stategy through the demarcation of forest areas, where has long been inhabited by villagers, as national reserve forest and national parks.

Throughout the 14-month-long peaceful demonstration, it is evident that the Thai Government led by Mr. Chuan Leekpai has not at all tried to solve the problems. Consequently, we, about 2,500 members of the Assembly of the Poor at the Mae Mun Man Yeun Village, are compelled to occupy the crest of Pak Mun Dam and seize the fish ladder at 2.00 am of May, 15th, 2000. We are demanding the Thai Government and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to open the Pak Mun Dam's gate so that fishes can migrate up from the Mekong to the Mun river to breed as before. The Pak Mun Dam has destroyed the river's abundance and livelihood of local fishermen and the >fish ladder could not be a substitution to the natural migration route of fish.

We are demanding that the government solve the above mentioned problems. We declare that the protest will be held in a non-violent manner. We will not destroy any public properties, nor will we block a road, nor use any other violent means.

As thousands of police are ordered to stand by at the Pak Mun site, which has a tendency to lead to the use of force in order to disperse the protesters. We are anticipating that the EGAT may create a situation which will justify the suppression of demonstrators by using the government's armed polices. We declare that any violent actions will definitely not be caused by us.

Lastly, we would like to request our alliances, the media and other concerned people not to let our struggle go in insulation. We are fighting for the rights, livelihood and future of our younger generation on behalf of the poor people, who has long been deprived of the process of decision making in any developmental projects and resource allocation for the past four decades. With solidarity,

The Assembly of the Poor at the Mae Mun Man Yuen


16.05.00 : Narmada : Novelist seeks to bring a sense of reality to Cannes

the Guardian Thursday May 11, 2000

Arundhati Roy brought a sharp dose of reality to the Cannes film festival yesterday by calling for an end to a massive Indian dam project she said would impoverish millions of the world's poorest people.

The emotional plea from the Booker prize-winning novelist - a member of the jury which will decide the Palme d'Or - came as a typically Cannes tantrum over a ban on late night beach parties threatened to overshadow the first day of the festival.

Roy, 36, who was a screenwriter in India before The God of Small Things brought her worldwide fame,said that having just arrived from the Narmada valley in central India, where farmers have been arrested for protesting against their land being flooded, she found it "hard to connect" to > the media circus of Cannes.

She said: "I have just come from a world where terrible things are happening and the lives of millions of people are being ruined. One journeys between powerlessness and power. I wish that only a few of the cameramen and journalists who are here today could have been in the Narmada valley to witness the terrible things I have been seeing."

Roy, who has campaigned against the network of 165 dams, the world's biggest, since she won the Booker three years ago, said: "It's a sign of the times that I have been called an activist here today. It's a writer's business to comment on the world we live in - but when you do you get called an activist." She said the dam would be an environmental as well as an economic disaster for the valley, swamping a 150-mile stretch of some of the most beautiful and fertile land in India. Her comments were met with an awkward silence in the Palais du Cinema, where the main films in the Cannes competition are shown. Roy was hurried out of the building by security guards when the Guardian tried to question her further.

The Independent, London 11 May 2000

Moral responsibility (and early closing) give the first day of Cannes an unusual sobriety

The organisers of the opening day of the world's most glamorous film festival didn't know what hit them yesterday, as movie glitz and excess came under attack from all directions.

First, the Cannes festival's decision to have a Booker Prize-winning political activist on the jury rebounded when Arundhati Roy told the journalists and photographers at the opening press conference that they should be elsewhere in the world "where terrible things are happening".

Next, the town's mayor decided to order all beach parties to end just after midnight. And then, with a French prime minister visiting the festival for the first time, police went into overdrive, raiding incoming trains toweed out undesirables.

It was down to the Hollywood actress Uma Thurman, starring in the opening film Vatel, to smile seductively and say: "I love France and I love this festival. It celebrates film and utterly indulges the highest levels of glamour." But she must have wondered if she'd come to the right place.

It was Roy, the author of The God of Small Things, who first set the cat among the pigeons. Flanked on the festival jury by performers Kristin Scott Thomas and Jeremy Irons, and directors Luc Besson and Jonathan Demme, she admitted she was not part of the film world. She said she had just come from the Narmada Valley in south India where there had been anti-government protests against the construction of a massive dam.

In an emotional and impassioned outburst she said she felt it hard "to connect" between that and the glamour of Cannes. She said: "To be honest, I've just come from a world where terrible things are happening. One journeys between powerlessness and power. I so wish that all the cameramen and all the journalists [here] were in the places where terrible things were happening."

Having been reminded of their moral responsibilities, the movie world was also reminded of the need for sobriety. Cannes' mayor, Maurice Delauney, sent off a memo to hotels and party organisers informing them that all beach parties (the high point in Cannes glitz >and exclusivity) must end promptly at 12.30am.


15.05.00 : Native Americans Win Reparations for 1957 Dam

Lincoln Journal Star, 27 March, 2000

River trust would help area tribes SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP)

-- A $200 million Missouri River trust fund would move American Indian tribes closer to compensation for land lost to federal dams, a tribal leader said.

"In the spirit of what our people gave up, it could never entirely make up for that," said Michael Jandreau, chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. "But this is realism. South Dakota gets the benefit totally, and the individual interests of the state and the tribes also get assistance. It puts us in a situation where we really have to work together for the preservation of our resources." Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has introduced legislation to create a Missouri River Trust Fund to help control silt and erosion, improve recreation >and protect cultural sites along the river.

At current siltation rates, the Lewis and Clark reservoir near the>Nebraska-South Dakota border -- will be completely clogged with silt within 75 years, he said. When fully realized in 11 years, the fund >would provide $12 million a year in interest for work primarily in South Dakota, Daschle said Friday. He said he will ask for an annual appropriation of $10 million.

The legislation also sets up a 25-member board to oversee spending from the fund. Fifteen members would be appointed by South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow and 10 would be from American Indian tribes -- including nine in South Dakota and North Dakota's Three Affiliated >Tribes. > >The makeup of the board gives tribes fair representation, said Jandreau.

"It can't be much better than that, can it?" he said Friday. "We'll be able to access trust funds allowing us to deal more significantly with our natural resources." The Lower Brule, Crow Creek, Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes lost thousands of acres of land to federal dam projects on the Missouri.

For years, the tribes and the state have been seeking full compensation for those losses. Congress already has approved legislation introduced by Daschle returning thousands of acres of federal land along the reservoirs to the state and to the Lower Brule and Cheyenne River tribes. That legislation also creates separate trust funds that eventually will reach $108 million for the state, $42.4 million for the Cheyenne River reservation and $14.9 million for the Lower Brule. Interest >from those funds will be used to manage and improve recreation and wildlife habitat.

The $200 million trust fund could provide additional money for an even greater variety of work including bank stabilization, sediment control and the protection of historic grave sites. Daschle said Missouri River concerns must be addressed immediately.

Plugged channels already have caused flooding in Pierre and Fort Pierre, where a $35 million home buyout project is in the works.

Springfield Mayor Norm Schelske said he hopes restoration work can begin soon. Silt has filled in channels and hurt recreation in his community, he said.

"If would be nice if Senator Daschle could get that money all at once, but I'm sure he knows getting some each year to get started will be easier. I think he's on the right track," said Schelske. Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., said the trust fund was a good idea. But he wonders whether enough funding can be found. "I question how they will capitalize the trust fund," said Thune. "The dollar amount that the senator has proposed is totally inadequate for remedies he has suggested." Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said he would co-sponsor the bill.

"It will give those who have concerns about the river an opportunity to voice their opinions and make certain the Missouri will be protected for years to come," he said.


11.05.00 : Letter to 'Down to Earth' on World Water Forum

Letter to 'Down to Earth' on World Water Forum

Dear Editor

Down to Earth's special report on the Hague World Water Forum (Vol. 8, No. 23) states that "the real issues of global water management took a backseat" as anti-dam protesters "hijacked" the meeting. I suppose it is a compliment for anti-dam groups that you believe we were able to hijack the massive jamboree, but I find it puzzling that Down to Earth should imply that large dams are not a "real issue" in global mismanagement of water and that activists should not have sought to respond to the deluge of pro-dam propaganda at the Forum.

You also state that CSE's message that the problem is not one of water scarcity but rather water mismanagement, was a "lone, odd voice". Yet the statement released at the meeting from International Rivers Network and a global coalition of anti-dam groups including the Narmada Bachao Andolan discusses the "myth of a global water shortage crisis" and says that "the >>problem is largely one of mismanagement and politics - of overconsumption, waste, pollution, watershed degradation, rampant dam building". It appears to me that CSE and the anti-dam groups have the same message on the global water situation so I wonder why Down to Earth seeks to drive a wedge between us?

I was also rather surprised to see myself quoted as being dismissive of the speech on community water management by Sunita Narain, deputy director of CSE. In fact I started my speech (which focussed on the big dam lobby's influence at the World Water Forum) by saying that I would not address the issue of sustainable water management precisely because this had already been so eloquently covered in the two previous talks by both Ms Narain and >>Reema Nanavaty of SEWA.

I believe that groups opposing large dams and those implementing sustainable water management are fighting the same battle. Movements against dams have opened political space for debates and practical work on sustainable and equitable alternatives, while those working on alternatives (such as CSE) have strengthened the case against large dams. It would be helpful if Down to Earth did not seek to fabricate a spurious split between us.

Yours faithfully McCully Campaigns Director International Rivers Network

Berkeley, California, USA

11.05.00 : China three gorges : Press Advisory: New Corruption Scandal further Discredits Wall Street Financed Project

Press Advisory May 8, 2000 International Rivers Network

Contact: Doris Shen Tel: 510-848-1155 ext 317

Chinese Engineers Petition Government to Delay Three Gorges Dam New Corruption Scandal further Discredits Wall Street Financed Project

A group of 53 Chinese senior engineers and academics has made an urgent appeal to China's leaders to rethink plans for the Three Gorges Dam.

The petition(1) warns that filling the reservoir as planned could have dire consequences for hundreds of thousands of people living in the Three Gorges area and for navigation along the Yangtze River.The petition was submitted on March 3rd, 2000. About one-third of the signatories are former members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the official political advisory body to the state government. The petition, written by Lu Qinkan, a leading hydrologist who worked on the dam's original feasibility study, calls for a return to the original plan of delaying reservoir filling so that experts would have time to monitor sediment buildup and to determine if higher water levels are viable. This would also provide some relief for resettlement authorities, the experts argue, who are faced with the costly and difficult task of resettling up to 1.8 million people out of the Three Gorges region.

Maintaining the Three Gorges reservoir at 156 meters would reduce the number of people who have to be moved by an estimated 520,000. The original plan, approved by the National People's Congress in 1992, aimed to keep water levels behind the Three Gorges dam at 156 meters for the first ten years of operation. During this time, experts could evaluate the impact of sedimentation on navigation and ports at the reservoir's uppermost end. If feasible, the water level would then be raised to a final operating level of 175 meters between the dam's 17th and 20th year of operation. In 1997, dam officials changed the plans to maximize the dam's power output. The water level is currently scheduled to rise to 175 meters in the sixth year of operation. Three Gorges Dam proponents have announced that two more dams will be built on Yangtze tributaries upstream of the Three Gorges reservoir to trap the inflow of sediment. The experts' petition claims the proposed dams will have no effect on sedimentation at the reservoir's upper end.

The petition listing the experts' concerns comes at the same time as yet another corruption scandal engulfs the dam. The Hong Kong South China Morning Post, revealed on May 3rd that the head official at the Three Gorges Economic Development Corporation (TGEDC) has embezzled at least one billion RMB, about 125 million. The TGEDC, a subsidiary of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, and supervised by the Three Gorges Resettlement Bureau, went bankrupt in1999. The company, which employed 2,600 people, has ceased operations.

This news comes on the heels of a government audit that revealed resettlement officials embezzled about $57.7 million - equivalent to 12 percent of the total 488 million resettlement budget. Embezzled money was used to speculate on stocks, real estate and was also transferred to personal accounts.

Earlier this year, the China Business Times reported that Yuan Guolin, who until January 2000 was the deputy general manager of the China Three Gorges Project Corporation, the company responsible for construction and administration of the dam, said the corporation would not be floated on the stock market because of its economic and technical problems. Mr. Yuan also said that a review was needed on whether the project could sell its output after it began generation in 2003.

International environmental and human rights groups have targeted global investment banks including Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Salomon Smith Barney of Citigroup, Credit Suisse First Boston and Merrill Lynch for their participation in underwriting China Development Bank Bonds in January 1997 and May 1999. China Development Bank lists the Three Gorges Dam as its top loan commitment. "The U.S. Wall Street financing of non-performing enterprises that were not designed to be effective development tools, but rather, monuments to corruption and political vested interests, is highly irresponsible" says IRN.

"From the beginning, the Three Gorges Dam has been a political project, promoted only by those who would have personal financial and political gain" says Dai Qing, the project's most outspoken critic. Dai Qing's 1989 publication of "Yangtze! Yangtze!", a collection of essays by hydrologists, sociologists, and engineers critical of the project, led to her eleven month imprisonment. Distribution of "Yangtze! Yangtze!" and other criticism of the project's impacts is not allowed. Public access to the state conducted environmental and social impact assessments is denied.

(1) For a copy of the petition, translated and summarized by Canadian NGO Probe International, please see


IRN is currently working with an international coalition of NGOs to halt all foreign support for Three Gorges Dam until public debate of the project is allowed in China and the civil and economic rights of those facing displacement by the project are secured. A North American consumer boycott of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's Discover Card Credit Services is underway until the company adopts environmental and social policies governing core >>business operations.

For more information, please see:

International Rivers Network

10.05.00 : Mining Industry: A Heavy Legacy to the Environment

New Risk Assessment by WWF

Vienna, 4. May 2000. Romania will need international support in order to cope with the effects of the mining industry on the environment. This show first results of an investigation, con-ducted by mining experts in the ore mining area at the Upper Tisza River. The report has been commissioned by the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme Office and will be published by mid-May

. "We have to avoid a heavy environmental legacy of not only local, but regional scope for the whole Tisza area", states Prof. Karl E. Lorber in an initial risk assessment, recently performed in the Mara-mures region. He is assuming that, in the long run, the mining industry in this Northern Romanian region will have to be abandoned due to economic reasons, and in spite of the difficult social situation.

The recent spills at mining tailing lagoons highlight a specific problem for this area. In addition to gold and silver, copper, zinc, lead, iron and arsenic are present in a sulphide state. Upon contact with air, pyrite oxidation occurs. Micro-organisms are forming sulphuric acid, and heavy metals become soluble, thus getting into surface and groundwater that is being used for drinking. "It is time to take appropriate protection measures", says the WWF expert.

"At present, the NOVAT Dam, broken on March 10, 2000, is still a risk to the environment," states Prof. Lorber after his recent mission to the area. A new analysis of the reasons for the breaking of the dam includes:

· Absence of a security system: There was no gravity overflow device for the water in order to prevent high waters;

· Insufficient capacity of the pumps, making them unable to cope with the additional rain, melting snow, and slope water;

· The safety distance between the water surface and the top of the dam was too little. Due to a set-back in production, the main dam was only built up to a fourth of the level it should have achieved at the time of the accident. Extreme conditions, like exceptional precipitation (e.g. once in a century) had not been taken into consideration.

"Urgent safety measures have still not been taken", Philip Weller, Director of the WWF Danube Carpathian Programme Office in Vienna states. He is requesting immediate reconstruction of the lowest of the protecting dams and the sedimentation pond, as at present, particles contaminated with heavy metals can still make their way into the Tisza river. "Additionally, a draining system for high waters has to be installed immediately to prevent the catastrophe from recurring. The AURUL gold processing plant is still reason for concern," says Weller. The reason for this is that the safety distance between the water surface and the top of the dam is insufficient. The gold production has ceased, and repair work is ongoing. WWF experts point out that several security measures have to be put in place immediately, one of them being a tailing pond for hypo-chloride treatment of over-flowing water.

For further information, please contact: Philip Weller, Director, Tel. +43 488 17 257 Jasmine Bachmann, Freshwater Office, Tel. +43 1 488 17 270 Claire Thilo, Communications Coordinator, +43 1 488 17 271

10.05.00 : Bergbau in Maramuresch hinterlässt schweres Umwelt-Erbe

Fazit einer WWF-Risiko-Analyse

Wien, 4. Mai 2000. Rumänien benötigt dringend internationale Unterstützung bei der Bewälti-gung der Auswirkungen der Minenindustrie auf die Umwelt. Dies zeigen erste Resultate einer Untersuchung, die Bergbau- und Umwelt-Experten im Auftrag des WWF Donau-Karpaten-Programmes an der oberen Theiss vorgenommen haben. Der detaillierte Bericht wird Mitte Mai vorgestellt.

Das Experten-Team unter Leitung von Prof. Karl E. Lorber geht in einer ersten Risikoeinschätzung davon aus, dass der Bergbau in der nordrumänischen Gegend von Maramuresch aus wirtschaftlichen Gründen - trotz aller damit verbundenen sozialen Probleme - mittelfristig eingestellt werden wird. „Dabei dürfen keine Altlasten zurückbleiben. Sie würden nicht nur lokal, son-dern im gesamten Raum der Theiss (Tisza) enorme Umweltprobleme bewirken", betont Prof. Lorber. Ein Grund dafür liegt in dem für diese Bergbauregion speziellen Problem: Neben Gold und Silber liegen dort Kupfer, Zink, Blei, Eisen und Arsen in sulfidischer Form vor. Bei Luft-Kontakt tritt die sogenannte Pyrit-Oxidation auf, wobei Mikroorganismen Schwefelsäure bilden und Schwermetalle löslich werden. Diese gelangen dann ins Oberflächen- und Grundwasser, welches auch als Trinkwasser genutzt wird, was entsprechende Schutzmassnahmen erfordert.

"Zur Zeit stellt der am 10. März 2000 eingebrochene "NOVAT"-Damm in Baia Borsa noch ein Risiko für die Umwelt dar", meint Prof. Lorber nach seinem kürzlichen Besuch vor Ort. Es liegen nun auch weitere Erkenntnisse über die Ursachen für den Dammbruch vor:

· Es gab kein Sicherheitssystem. Ein Ueberlauf mit Schwerkraft-Ableitung des Wassers zur Hochwasser-Entlastung fehlte.

· Die Kapazität der Pumpen reichte nicht mehr aus, um das zusätzliche Niederschlags- und Hang-wasser abzupumpen.

· Der Sicherheits-Abstand zwischen Wasseroberfläche und Dammkrone war zu gering: Erstens wurde der Hauptdamm langsamer als geplant aufgebaut und hatte deshalb zur Unfallzeit eine zu geringe Höhe. Zudem wurden bei der Planung keine Extrem-Ereignisse wie Jahrhundert-Nieder-schläge berücksichtigt.

„Dringende Schutzmassnahmen lassen noch immer auf sich warten", stellt Philip Weller, Direktor des WWF Donau-Karpathen-Programmes, fest. Es müsse so schnell wie möglich der unterste Schutzdamm mit den Sedimentationsbecken wiederhergestellt wird, damit die mit Schwer-metallen belasteten Schlammteilchen nicht weiterhin in die Theiss gelangen. "Zudem muss sofort ein Sicher-heitssystem zur kontrollierten Abführung von Hochwässern installiert werden, damit sich die Katastrophe nicht mehr wiederholen kann, sagt der WWF-Vertreter.

Auch die AURUL Goldaufbereitungs-Anlage in Baia Mare bereitet dem WWF noch Sorgen. Bei diesem Damm ist eben-falls das Freiboard (der Abstand zwischen Wasseroberfläche im Teich und der Dammkrone) zu ge-ring. Zwar ist die Goldproduktion eingestellt und die Reparaturarbeiten sind noch in Gange. Verschie-dene Sicherheitsvor-richtungen wie z.B. ein Auffangbecken zur Hypo-chlorit-Behand-lung von Ueberstandswasser fehlen aber nach Angaben des WWF-Experten nach wie vor.

Weitere Informationen: Philip Weller, Direktor, Tel. +43 1 488 17 257 Jasmine Bachmann, Feuchtgebiets-Spezialistin, Tel. +43 1 488 17 270 Claire Thilo, Kommunikationsbeauftragte, +43 1 488 17 271 Please note: English version available with C. Thilo


05.05.00 : Water framework leak undermines EU governments ENDS Daily -

A leaked memo from the legal service of the EU Council of Ministers has confirmed fears that a key part of a new law setting the framework for European water protection in coming decades will be unenforceable. In an opinion on the current wording of the law, the legal service says it is "difficult to understand" how the European Commission will assess whether member states are meeting the directive's water quality objectives.

The Commission and European Parliament are using the revelation to cajole member states into plugging the loophole, while environmentalists have called the development a "major turn-around" in its campaign to convince ministers of the law's weaknesses.

.Under the draft water framework directive EU countries will have to set water quality objectives and take measures to achieve them. In its March 1997 legislative proposal, the Commission called for both the objectives and the measures to be legally binding requirements. At their first reading environment ministers accepted this for the measures to be taken but said member states should only be required to "aim to achieve" the objectives (ENDS Daily 9 December 1999).

Commission officials complain that they will be "unable to handle the directive properly" if the requirement is not reinstated, while the Parliament is using the current "conciliation" procedure finalising the law to demand a strong wording ensuring member states are obliged to meet the objectives (ENDS Daily 16 February). Environmentalists, meanwhile, say that acceptance of the ministers' changes would result in a catastrophic "deregulation" of water policy.

Now the ministers' own legal service has backed their opponents' views: it says both the text agreed by ministers and a compromise suggested by diplomats during the conciliation "offer considerable room for diverging interpretation [of whether the objectives are binding]" and even "provide some ground" for member states to argue that they only have to "make an effort" to achieve the objectives in order to comply with the law.

Campaigners from the European Environment Bureau (EEB) have pounced on the leak. "The [ministers] can no longer deny the implications of what they're doing," one said. Passing the law would set a precedent by "repatriating responsibility for water quality back to member states." This would eliminate the role of the European Court of Justice, make NGOs powerless to challenge national water protection rules and leave member states affected by water pollution from a neighbouring country "vulnerable and without any comeback," he said.

Follow-up: European Commission (, >>tel: +32 2 299 1111; EEB (, tel: +32 2 >>289 1090.


30.04.00 : Dam building in Lesotho : Multinationals judged for corruption

It takes two to tango when it comes to corruption

Sunday Times Editorial

A LANDMARK case against international corruption begins in the Maseru High Court this week, with a number of huge companies in the dock on charges of bribery.

These multinational companies have all been involved in building or tendering for aspects of the massive hydroelectric dam project in the mountains of Lesotho. They are charged with improperly paying millions of rands in foreign currency to intermediaries who, after taking a cut, deposited the balance into a secret Swiss bank account held in the name of the top executive of the dam project.

The consortiums have not yet been asked to plead, and we carefully avoid prejudging the question of whether they are guilty of the crimes with which they are to be charged.

But the trial raises several important legal issues likely to be significant for any subsequent case of this kind.

One is the difficulty of proving bribery if it means showing exactly what favours were exchanged for what payments.

Suppose the prosecution has evidence of money paid secretly by big business into the pockets of someone in a position to influence decisions in their favour; suppose the executive concerned takes the money without declaring it to the authorities; that all this takes place at the very time that tenders and contracts are being considered and awarded; and that no one involved offers any satisfactory explanation. Would this be sufficient for a conviction?

Another problem is the question of jurisdiction. Would the court of any country be entitled to charge and sentence companies whose head offices and chief executives are based on the other side of the world?

But the case also illustrates that there is another side to the popular view of the Third World as almost inherently corrupt and corruptible. It takes two to tango. If influential government officials in a developing country are offered enormous bribes and succumb to the temptation, the fault must be shared equally by those who offer the funds to secure some considerable unfair advantage for themselves.

Often those with the cash to spend on tempting officials come from the wealthier parts of the world, and from those very countries whose governments and business communities complain about the corrupt practices of the Third World.

African delegates to the AfricaEurope summit in Cairo earlier this month made this point strongly: when donors and investors complain about corruption in Africa, they neglect to consider the inevitable partners in crime - those First World conglomerates which offer huge and illegal financial incentives to secure business for themselves.

They corrupt officials and whole societies with offers of unimaginable wealth, and then, when their contract is complete, they pull out and return to Europe or the US, leaving widespread moral and financial contamination in their wake.

It is a serious problem which must be urgently addressed to ensure that blame is properly apportioned, that corruption is stamped out and that development funds are properly spent so that the poorest nations of the world can finally experience some improvements in their lives. Many governments have complained about international corruption and its impact on their societies; many say they have committed themselves to taking tough action against it.

But so far, only Lesotho has actually done anything to charge those it suspects of such cross-border crimes. Last year, the Maseru government passed the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act, making it easier to deal with future corruption of this kind. Now it is fighting a determined battle to expose the truth behind allegations of large-scale bribery associated with its hydroelectric dam project.

It is a nice irony that this small, isolated country should be setting an example to the rest of the world.



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