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20.12.03 : A project to save the Aral Sea

The desiccation of the Aral Sea was caused to a large extent by the
irrigation of cotton crops during the Soviet era. This is considered to be
one of the worst ecological disasters in recent decades. However there
should be a partial recovery of the Aral sea.

The river Syrdarya which drains into the Aral sea flows into the strait
between the Small Aral Sea and the Great Aral Sea. The aim is to fill up
the Small Aral Sea by building a dike which is sufficiently high and
resistant (the previous one built in 1993 broke up rapidly). The dike, 15
km in length, will bring water from the Syrdarya to the southern part of
the sea. Several years will be needed for the level of the Small Aral Sea
to rise by 4 metres. Then a sluice will direct the surplus water into the
Great Aral Sea.
The level of the Aral Sea has fallen by 22 metres since 1960. The Small
Aral Sea only represents one tenth of the overall surface. It seems
impossible for the water to rise to its former level simply due to the fact
that the flow of the two rivers, the Syrdarya and the Amudarya (the latter
has been dry for several years) has decreased sharply. The dams on the
Syrdarya will permit sufficient flow to be maintained. Although this is not
the answer to the whole problem it is better than nothing as in view of the
present situation and the limited means available it is difficult to do any
better. Experts all agree on this point.
Nikolaï Aladin from the academy of science in Saint-Petersburg has stated
that disasters caused by man can be put right by man. The dike should be
completed by the end of 2004. This project has raised hopes in Aralsk (35
000 inhabitants) which was the main port on this sea until 1970 but which
is today situated 80 km from its shores! The closure of the canning
factories preceded the economic collapse of the region at the same time as
the break up of the Soviet Union. This region is poor and the sanitary
conditions are deplorable: infant mortalities are very high and there are
many cancers of the digestive tract due to the salinity of groundwater, etc.
The climatic conditions in the region have changed: storms whip up clouds
of dust which are difficult to bear. The fish have disappeared from the sea
species by species following the increased salinity of the water and
current levels in the waters of the Great Aral Sea are 85 g/l in some
places and 49 g/l on average compared with 10 mg/l in 1960! With such
levels all trace of life seems to have disappeared except for artemia which
proliferate in pools. Some 600 km² of uncovered seabed will be recovered
which will modify the local climate. More frequent rainfall should resume
and revive pastures and make the water drinkable once again. Dilution with
rainwater should lower the levels of salinity (10 to 17 g/l) which would
permit the return of numerous species.

At the same time the irrigation of cotton must be managed together with
that of vegetable crops along the rivers.
The world bank is financing 70% of the cost of the project which is
estimated at 85 million dollars.

source : sea-rivers N° 125

17.12.03 : EU : Decision delayed on Spanish water transfer

Margot Wallstrom, European Environment Commissioner, has said she will delay any decision on funding for a controversial Spanish water transfer project until she sees further proof that it doesn't break EU environmental laws.

The delayed Ebro Transfer project is one part of the Spanish National Hydrological Plan. The Plan consists of two parts: first a big water transfer from the Ebro River, impacting the Pyrenees, Lower Ebro basin and Ebro Delta. The water would be transferred to the drier region around Alicante and Benidorm, for use in both the agribusiness and tourist sector.
Secondly, a huge investment programme to build more than 100 dams and associated reservoirs and canal networks throughout the rest of the country, re-routing not just the river Ebro, but another 35 rivers and tributaries including the Douro, Tajo, Segura, Guadiana and Guadalquivir.

It has caused huge controversy in Spain, with an estimated one million people taking to the streets in protest. It has an estimated cost of €18 billion, with a third of that expected to come from taxpayers.
Environmental groups have expressed delight with the delay over the Ebro transfer section of the plan. In a joint statement, WWF, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Birdlife International, said: "The Commission is not falling under the Spanish Government's political pressure and will take the time to properly analyse the Ebro transfer, the major element of the SNHP."
They added that the Commission needed to, "consider climate change forecasts and determine the environmental flows from the whole river."
However, a European Policy spokesperson for WWF told edie that they were still angry over EC approval on another section of the plan, the Jucar Vinalopo project. This has been treated as a separate project by the EC, but relies entirely on the water from the Ebro Transfer project in order to work, the spokesperson said. In this regard, the two projects should be treated as one, edie was told.
The groups have claimed that the SNHP contravenes many European rulings including the EU Sustainable Development Strategy, which expresses concern about, "unsustainable water management schemes across Europe", and the European Water Framework Directive, which contains a "no-deterioration in water status" clause.
The groups also claim that no environmental impact assessment was carried out on the SNHP before it was implemented in the Spanish legislation.
The Commissioner is expected to review the decision on funding for the project early in 2004.

(Source Edie News)
more information on PHN on ERNs RiverNet Pages ( in french, spanish and english)


14.12.03 : Nile: Work to start on Sudan dam

KHARTOUM, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Work on a Sudanese dam expected to
triple electricity capacity in the northern African nation will start
on Monday, and the first turbine will come online in 2007, an
official with the project said on Sunday.
The $1.73 billion dam, located at Merowe on the Nile 400 km (250
miles) north of the capital Khartoum, will have ten turbines that
will have a capacity of 1,250 megawatts (MW) when completed, three
times Sudan's current capacity.
"Work will start on it tomorrow (Monday)," said Mutaz Musa Abdalla
Salim, finance director for the dam project.
"The first unit is supposed to come on stream in June 2007, while all
the 10 turbines are expected to be fully operational by July 31,
2008," he said.
France's Alstom <ALSO.PA> said in November it had a 250 million euro
($306 million) contract to supply a hydroelectric unit.
Sudanese industry currently operates well below capacity because of
electricity restrictions, while offices are often empty in Khartoum
and other cities due to frequent power cuts, some of them lasting for
12 hours a day.
Salim said all 9,500 families in the area of the dam had agreed to
relocate and would receive compensation. He said 600 families had
already moved to newly built homes with water, electricity and
agricultural land. ($1=.8164 Euro)

Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service

11.12.03 : Twelve reasons why large hydro should be excluded from global efforts to promote renewable energy

A new report co-published by 13 organizations* working on climate change, development, sustainable energy and water management gives a dozen reasons why large hydro should be excluded from global efforts to promote renewable energy.

The report cites the negative impacts of large hydro** on people, ecosystems, energy security, and efforts to adjust to climate change. These provide compelling evidence that a major expansion of large hydro would hinder efforts to eradicate poverty and reduce the environmental impacts of energy production.

"Large hydro does not have the poverty reduction benefits of decentralized new renewables, like wind, solar and biogas, and it will increase our vulnerability to climate change. It must be stopped from capturing subsidies aimed at promoting environmentally friendly and socially appropriate technologies," says Patrick McCully, Campaigns Director of the California-based International Rivers Network, coordinator of the report.

The rate of large dam construction has fallen sharply in recent decades, due in particular to the technology's poor economic viability, and public opposition. The dam industry now sees the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism and new government initiatives to promote renewables as a solution to their problems.

"The World Bank and the dam industry are calling for large hydro to get a carte blanche to benefit from renewables funds. If they succeed, new renewable technologies would get little more than crumbs from these initiatives," says Antonio Tricarico of Reform the World Bank Campaign, Italy.

The paper was presented at an NGO press conference at the 9th Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention in Milan, in the Lecce Room, 11am, 10 December 2003.

* The report, Twelve Reasons to Exclude Large Hydro from Renewables Initiatives, is co-published by International Rivers Network; Friends of the Earth International; CDM Watch; CEE Bankwatch Network; Intermediate Technology Development Group; Campaign to Reform the World Bank (Italy); Oxfam America; European Rivers Network; Rivers Watch East & SE Asia; South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People; Network for Advocacy on Water Issues in Southern Africa; Energy Working Group of the Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements for the Environment and Development. The report is available at

** Large hydro is defined as hydro with an installed capacity greater than 10 MW. The report recognizes the potential benefits of small hydro schemes, conditional upon them meeting the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD).

*** Citizens United for Renewable Energy and Sustainability (CURES) states that: "New renewable sources include modern biomass, WCD-compliant small (up to 10 MW) hydro (mechanical as well as electric), geothermal, wind, all solar, tidal, wave and other marine energy." (see

The report is available as pdf file on ERNs Website

Patrick McCully, International Rivers Network +1 510 2133 1441 (mobile in Milan)
Antonio Tricarico, Campaign to Reform the World Bank +39 328 8485448 (mobile in Milan)
Roberto Epple, European Rivers Network (ERN) +33 4 71 02 08 14



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