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


22.12.02 : Russia : diverting the Ob river ?

Russia - To divert this Siberian river which flows northwards to bring its waters to the barren regions of the old USSR in central Asia is an idea which has just been presented by Iouri Loujkov the mayor of Moscow, to President Poutine! This work consists of digging a canal 2500 kilometres in length, 2020 metres wide and 16 metres in depth!

22.12.02 : Russie : détourner l'Ob ?

Russie - Détourner l'Ob, ce fleuve sibérien qui coule vers le nord pour amener ses eaux dans les régions désertiques de l'ancienne URSSS en Asie centrale, c'est l'idée que vient de lancer Iouri Loujkov, maire de Moscou, au président Poutine! Ces travaux comportent le creusement d'un canal long de 2.500 kilomètres, large de 2.020 mètres et profond de 16 mètres!

21.12.02: ALCOA (AA.N) finalises Iceland smelter talks

Alcoa Inc., the world's largest aluminium producer, said on Friday it had finished negotiating for a 295,000 tonne aluminum smelter in Iceland and a ministry official said a deal could be signed before year-end. (…) The smelter and the hydropower plant Landsvirkjun plans to build to power it have caused controversy in Iceland due to environmental concerns. The plant
will dam two of the country's largest glacial rivers and turn valleys and canyons in the country's highlands into reservoirs.
Source: Reuters News Service via Planet Ark

20.12.02: Conference River Basin Management 2003, 28 - 30 April 2003, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria - Spain

River Basin Management 2003 is the second conference in this new series, which marks the growing international interest in the planning, design and management of river basin systems. The conference will aim to communicate recent advances in the overall management of riverine systems, including advances in hydraulic and hydrologic modelling, environmental protection and flood forecasting.
More information at

19.12.02: Final nail in the coffin of Finnish dam plan

Source: Environment Daily
Finland's supreme administrative court yesterday rejected power company Kemijoki Oy's appeal against an earlier decision by lower administrative courts to refuse permission to build a large hydroelectric scheme in eastern Lapland. The controversial proposal now appears to be dead.
Behind a proposed dam, 237 square km of land rich in bird life would have been submerged. The region, which includes the Kemihaara Mires, was controversially excluded from Finland's proposed Natura 2000 sites Environment minister Jouni Backman believes the area should now be considered for addition to Finland's conservation network.
Nature conservationists are celebrating the verdict, which was reached purely on environmental grounds, as a landmark in their work aimed at raising the profile of environmental considerations in major planning decisions.
But local politicians in eastern Lapland criticised the decision as a blow to employment prospects. Industry minister Sinikka Mönkäre also regretted it, claiming that the project would have provided a vital source of emission-free renewable energy.
Follow-up: Finland's supreme administrative court, tel: +358 9 185 3382.

19.12.02: Polish Parliament’s refusal to allocate public spending on building the Nieszawa Dam in the Lower Vistula. (WWF Pressrelease)

19, Dec 2002: WWF welcomes Poland's decision on Nieszawa Dam WWF applauds the Polish Parliament’s refusal to allocate public spending on building the Nieszawa Dam in the Lower Vistula. WWF hopes that this decision will put Poland on a new track for water management, moving from river-regulation projects to implementation of integrated river basin management, in line with the requirements of the EU’s key water law: The Water Framework Directive.

WWF has worked on the Nieszawa Dam case for the last three years. In 2001, WWF published a comprehensive analysis (A Study of a Comprehensive Solution to the Problems of the Wloclawek Dam and Reservoir: Anticipated Social, Economic and Environmental Effects) which showed that the dam would not be the best technical solution to address problems caused by the aging Wloclawek Dam. Moreover, the new dam would also cause significant damage to the environment and negatively effect the sustainable development of the whole Vistula river valley. Parliamentary voting on next year’s state budget showed that there are more and more supporters for alternatives — such as modernization of the existing Wloclawek dam or its decommissioning — that are better from the environmental, social, and economic points of view. “The decision not to finance the Nieszawa Dam with state funding should become a precedent, guiding decisions about water infrastructure projects in Poland and elsewhere,” said Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF’s Living Waters Programme. “Such plans should always be developed on the basis of the recommendations from the World Commission on Dams, including a “needs” analysis, an assessment of environmental and social consequences, as well as tests for economic efficiency.”

WWF’s study showed that the Nieszawa Dam project had not taken environmental requirements into account and was not in line with several pieces of the EU environmental acquis, such as Directives on Environmental Impact Assessment, Wild Birds, Habitats, and Access to Environmental Information, as well as the above-mentioned Water Framework Directive. “The European Union, in particular the European Parliament, has been monitoring these types of investment in EU Accession countries and how they fit with the requirements of EU environmental legislation,” said Torben Lund, Member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee and the European Parliament Delegation to Poland. “We welcome the decision of the Polish Parliament not to finance the Nieszawa dam, since it shows that Poland is able to modify its strategic planning in order to comply with EU Directives and the principle of sustainable development enshrined in the EU Treaty.”

Many European countries are already exhibiting good examples of a new approach to river management, and more are expected with the implementation of the Water Framework Directive. For example, the German government has recognised that the ferocity of recent floods has been caused by past and present mistakes in water management. As a result, it has proposed an end to building infrastructures on floodplains and the removal of some dykes and flood defences within comprehensive and all-stakeholder-inclusive plans for river basin management. Other governments must follow suit and recognise that unless river basins are managed sustainably — including the restoration and conservation of wetlands and floodplains — problems such as severe flooding, droughts, water scarcity, pollution, and biodiversity loss will continue to prevail.

“WWF encourages the Polish government to continue its good work, and declares full support in preparation of the “Vistula 2020 Programme” as a comprehensive management plan for the Vistula river basin,” said Jacek Engel, WWF Poland “Vistula” Project Leader. “This modern programme should be developed in an open and participatory way.”

For further information: Jacek Engel Vistula Project Leader, WWF Poland Tel.: +48 608 38 42 42 E-mail:
Tania Paschen Communications Manager, WWF European Living Waters Programme Tel.: +33 490 97 29 43 E-mail:
Marta Kaczynska Communicatoins Officer, WWF Poland Tel.: +48 608 322 153 E-mail:

12.12.02: UN embarks on International Year Of Freshwater 2003

NEW YORK, New York, December 12, 2002 (ENS) -
Today, four out of every 10 people worldwide live in areas experiencing water scarcity. By 2025, as much as two thirds of the world's population - an estimated 5.5 billion people - may be living in countries that face a water shortage. To address this crucial issue, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2003 the International Year of Freshwater.

09.12.02: Drinking water is a human right

"The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses."
GENEVA, Switzerland, December, 2002 (ENS) - Safe and secure drinking water is a human right, a United Nations committee has declared formally for the first time. "Water should be treated as a social and cultural good, and not primarily as an economic commodity," the committee said, siding with those who object to the privatization of water supplies.
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights took the unprecedented step of agreeing on a General Comment on water as a human right, saying, "Water is fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights."
A General Comment is an interpretation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This one was signed on November 27 as the Committee wound up its three week autumn session.
Although the Covenant does not expressly refer to the word "water," the committee determined that the right to water is "clearly implicit" in the rights contained in two sections of the Covenant.
The General Comment means that the 145 countries which have ratified the Covenant "have a constant and continuing duty" to progressively ensure that everyone has access to safe and secure drinking water and sanitation facilities - equitably and without discrimination.
"Countries will be required to 'respect, protect and fulfil' individuals' rights to safe drinking water and sanitation," said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, quoting from the General Comment.
The General Comment specifically recognizes that water, like health, is an essential element for achieving other human rights, such as the rights to adequate food and nutrition, housing and education.
"This is a major boost in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of halving the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015 - two pre-requisites for health," Dr. Brundtland said.
An estimated 1.1 billion of the world's people, roughly one in six, do not have access to clean drinking water, according to WHO figures. Sanitation progress has also been slow, and some 2.4 billion people, about one in every 2.5 individuals, still do not have access to a safe latrine.
Inadequate water and sanitation is "a major cause of poverty and the growing disparity between rich and poor," WHO said.
"The fact that water is now regarded as a basic human right will give all members of the Global Alliance an effective tool to make a real difference at country level," said Dr. Brundtland, a physician and former Norwegian prime minister.
The General Comment provides a tool for civil society to hold governments accountable for ensuring equitable access to water. It is intended to focus attention and activities on the poor and vulnerable, the committee says.
The General Comment states, "The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses."
"While those uses vary between cultures, an adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, to reduce the risk of water related disease and to provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements," the text states.
"The right to water contains both freedom and entitlements," the committee states in its Comment. "The freedoms include the right to maintain access to existing water supplies necessary for the right to water; and the right to be free from interference, such as the right to be free from arbitrary disconnections or contamination of water supplies."
Sufficient water should be obtained in a sustainable manner, the committee said, to ensure that "the right can be realized for present and future generations."
The formal statement of water and sanitation as a human right is intended as a framework to assist governments in establishing effective policies and strategies that yield "real benefits for health and society," WHO said.
The world health agency associates 3.4 million deaths each year with inadequate water and sanitation. Diseases such as malaria, cholera, dysentery, schistosomiasis, infectious hepatitis and diarrhoea are the killers.
Dr. Brundtland estimates that one third of the global burden of disease, in all age groups, can be attributed to environmental risk factors. Over 40 percent of this burden falls on children under five years of age, even though they make up only about 10 percent of the world's population. The director-general calls this area "an urgent priority for WHO's work."
reporting: Environment News Service (ENS) 2002.

05.12.02 : Powerful new corporation plans more Yangtze megadams

by Patricia Adams and Mu Lan

China’s newest power giant, created with much fanfare in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People in September, aims to finance not only the completion of the Three Gorges project on the Yangtze River but also the construction of many more huge dams upstream, a respected Chinese publication reports.

China Yangtze Electric Power Corporation is expected to raise about US$500 million a year on the domestic stock market to help finance its development dreams in the Yangtze Valley, the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Economic Report (Ershiyi shiji jingji baodao) said in an analysis piece. The new name – Yangtze Power Corp., for short – was chosen over the “Three Gorges Power Corporation” to reflect the firm’s expanded dam-building ambitions, the newspaper said in the article published Oct. 16. The major player in the new power entity, with an 89.5-per-cent stake, is the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation (or Three Gorges Corp.), builder of the Three Gorges dam and also owner of the downstream Gezhouba dam. In addition, Huaneng International Power Development Corporation (China’s largest independent electricity producer, run by the son of Three Gorges dam enthusiast Li Peng), China National Petroleum Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation will each have a 3-per-cent stake. The Gezhouba Group (the largest contractor working on the Three Gorges dam) and the Changjiang Water Resources Commission’s Design Institute will hold 1-per-cent and 0.5-per-cent stakes respectively.
Li Yongan, vice-manager of the Three Gorges Corp., went to Hong Kong in February to drum up interest in the new firm from local companies such as CLP China Power and foreign corporations such as the U.S. energy giant Mirant. But in the interests of speed, a decision was later made to set up the new power entity without foreign involvement, 21st Century Economic Report said, adding that foreign investors might be invited on board in future. The central government has decided not to fund any more dams after Three Gorges, forcing the Three Gorges Corp. to find ways of raising money not only to complete the world’s biggest dam, but also to realize its now much broader ambitions. Mr. Li said the Yangtze Power Corp. will launch an immediate domestic listing, and a future listing in foreign markets, to finance the third phase (2004-2009) of the Three Gorges project as well as the construction of other huge dams – such as Xiangjiaba and Xiluodu – on the Jinsha River, as the Yangtze is known upstream of Chongqing. China’s ruling State Council is moving forward with its plan to reorganize the power sector, separating the generation and the distribution of electricity.
The State Power Corporation is being broken up into five regional generating companies, each with an average generating capacity of 40,000 MW, and two grid corporations. The Yangtze Power Corp. will face stiff competition as a result of these changes, and its hasty birth was a result of the pressure it felt from other rapidly expanding power companies, 21st Century Economic Report said.
Guodian Power, for example, a subsidiary of the State Power Corp., is leasing and acquiring new assets and also diversifying its means of capital injections, which now include raising funds on the domestic stock market. And Huaneng International, which owns 10 power plants with a total generating capacity of 10,810 MW, is raising capital through domestic listings in Shanghai, as well as on the Hong Kong and New York stock exchanges. Until the first turbines are put into operation at the Three Gorges dam next August, the Three Gorges Corp. will be puny by comparison, with a generating capacity of just 2,715 MW from the Gezhouba dam. (Gezhouba was a separate entity until 1996, when the State Council bundled it together with the Three Gorges project to form the Three Gorges Project Development Corp.
Since then, $500 million in Gezhouba revenues have been used to help finance construction of the Three Gorges dam.) Despite the competition, the Yangtze Power Corp. is expecting to expand rapidly. Based on a study by Nei Kun at the Northeast China Institute for Finance and Industry, the new firm is likely to be the largest power generator in China by 2008-2009, with a generating capacity of 18,000 MW. It hopes to expand that to 20,000 MW by 2012, and to 40,000MW by 2022. While details are still sketchy, 21st Century Economic Report says the new corporation plans to raise money to finance the acquisition of generators for the Three Gorges dam over the next seven years.
The 26 generators (with generating capacity of 700 MW each) will be installed at the rate of four a year starting in 2003, though only two in 2006. About $375 million to $500 million will need to be raised each year, with a projected 15 to 20 per cent of the funds coming from the stock market. Stock-market analysts have expressed optimism about the new power giant, predicting that its stock will be attractive in domestic markets because of the firm’s potential for growth, reputation for providing clean energy and, perhaps most significantly, strong support from the central government. For example, Mr. Li told reporters in August that the State Council has approved a favourable tax policy for Three Gorges. The average value-added tax for the hydropower sector is 17 per cent, but that rate has been lowered to 8 per cent for the Three Gorges Corp. The corporate restructuring of the Three Gorges project is aimed at strengthening its ability to raise money directly from capital markets, and at diversifying its fundraising channels.
On Sept. 20, the Three Gorges Corp. issued domestic bonds worth five billion yuan RMB ($604 million) to help finance construction of the dam. Chen Dalin, manager of the corporation’s finance department, disclosed that domestic bonds totalling $2 billion have been issued since the dam project started in 1993. While yet more domestic bonds would be issued, he said his company’s preferred means of fundraising would be through the equity markets.

- Patricia Adams is an economist and the publisher of Three Gorges Probe. Mu Lan is the editor of the Chinese edition of Three Gorges Probe.

source : (Probe International)

02.12.02: Farmed sturgeon 'only hope for caviar'

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent in Atyrau, Kazakhstan

A fish that can live for 150 years and grow to six metres (19 feet) in length appears doomed to extinction.
The fish is the beluga, one of the seven species of sturgeon living in the Caspian Sea.
Environmentalists say there is no hope that any sturgeon can survive in the wild. But they say farming them for their caviar carries great risks.
An estimated 95% of the world's caviar comes from the Caspian. But the problems besetting this landlocked central Asian sea are multiplying.
It used to be shared by the Soviet Union and Iran, but the end of the Cold War saw Soviet control parcelled up between Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
Since the Soviet break-up, poachers have taken increasing numbers of sturgeon, including many immature fish.
The rush to exploit the Caspian's massive oil reserves puts all the sea's wildlife under growing pressure.
And the problem is being compounded by the arrival in the Caspian of an alien species, the comb jellyfish Mnemiopsis leidyi, which competes for food with the sprats (kilka) on which the sturgeon depend.

Full article:

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