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03.05.04 : Spain Puts Last Touches to New Ebro Water Plan

Reuters Mon 3 May, 2004 17:34
By Jeremy Smith

Spain's government will finalize next week cheaper alternatives to a scrapped multi-billion euro plan to divert the country's longest river to irrigate parched regions, the environment minister said Monday. The plan, touted by the previous conservative government as the answer to Spain's historic water problems, would have rerouted the Ebro with 600 miles of pipes taking water from the fertile northeast to the arid south.
One of the first acts of Spain's new socialist government last month was to scrap the plan -- to the delight of green groups that criticized it as an ecological disaster.
Environment Minister Cristina Narbona said she would soon conclude talks with the Spanish regions affected by the earlier Ebro plan and be in a position to publish alternative projects. These would be cheaper and have less impact on the environment than the original Ebro project, the biggest and most controversial part of Spain's wide-ranging $5.2 billion water plan. "We are still holding meetings with the regional governments," she told a news conference held jointly with European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. "Next week I hope we can finalize the details of the projects," Narbona said. "We haven't got a definitive figure of the investment cost and of the European funding that we shall seek. I calculate that the cost will be somewhat below what was foreseen for the Ebro transfer -- very expensive at more than four billion euros."
Spain expected to request a similar amount of EU aid to finance its alternative projects as had been foreseen by the country's previous government, she said. This amount, around 1.2 billion euros, was never formally approved by Brussels.
Ecologists had said the previous Ebro project would wreck the river's delta, one of Europe's most ecologically important wetlands that is home to flamingos, herons and oystercatchers and depends on silt from the river.

Although the details of the new plans are still unclear, a key idea would be to use renewable energy to desalinate sea water, Narbona said, adding that this solution would be cheaper, more feasible and offer better quality water. Wallstrom welcomed what she called Spain's new "holistic approach" to solve its historic water problems, worst in the southern and eastern areas. "They will look at both the cost-benefit analysis as well as the environmental aspects of this plan. I'm hopeful for the future," she said.

more information about the OLD PLAN:

23.04.04 : Activists Say World Bank Dam Projects Detrimental

WASHINGTON - The World Bank is accelerating its funding for large dam
projects to the detriment of the environment and locals in the
countries where the projects are built, a report released on Thursday
"So often it's the poorest that pay the price for projects that are
supposed to bring development," said Peter Bosshard, main author of
the International Rivers Network report.
"Bank-funded dams have displaced more than 10 million people, flooded
millions of hectares of lands and pushed many countries deeper into
debt. Yet the bank is set to repeat its mistakes all over again," he
The report, published on Earth Day and presented as the IMF and World
Bank hold their spring meetings in Washington, underlines what it
calls the dangers of the World Bank's renewed interest in engaging in
big dam projects.
Richard Uku, spokesman for the World Bank's infrastructure branch,
said the bank is indeed reinvigorating its development of water,
communications, sanitation, energy and transportation infrastructure.
The agenda is outlined in the Infrastructure Action Plan released in
September 2003.
The world spends about $60 billion on the water sector, including
sanitation, irrigation, hydro power and water supply in developing
countries, said a World Bank spokesperson. About 90 percent of that
comes from domestic sources.
The World Bank accounts for 50 percent of external financing or $3
billion a year.
World Bank supporters and bank President James Wolfensohn say the
lender's involvement in the projects helps ensure that some social
and environmental regulations are met.
"If we withdrew, in one case, it would have been financed separately
by people who didn't give a damn," Wolfensohn told reporters on
Thursday. "Sometimes there's criticism of us for staying in when it
would be a lot easier for us to move out."
However, Bosshard said, large dam projects often do more harm than
good to the environment and the displaced people.
The report, which focuses on India as a case study, calls on the bank
to look more into alternative projects like rainwater harvesting
systems. The report also suggests the World Bank apply the
recommendations of the 2000 World Dam Commission review.
The review was the first global assessment of dams and was
co-sponsored by the World Bank.
The Bank has its own environmental and social safeguard policies, Uku
said. Critics argue, however, that the bank has a poor track record
of implementing those safeguards.
Alok Agarwal is a long-time activist with Save the Narmada, a group
against a controversial dam project in India with which the World
Bank was involved.
"On paper there is a policy that people should be given land for
land, but the government is not following those principles," Agarwal
said. Nor, he said, did the bank provide adequate compensation for
the displaced people.
"The WCD analysis showed that in the past, those safeguard policies
... generally have not been implemented," said Deborah Moore, a
former commissioner on the World Commission on Dams. "If you're going
to reengage with those kinds of projects, what is it that you will be
doing differently this time?"

Asian Times, April 24, 2004
IMF, World Bank butt heads with critics
By Emad Mekay
WASHINGTON - Leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) on Thursday disputed charges from critics and activists
that the lenders have aggravated poverty in the developing world and
devalued the rights of millions of people affected by their programs.
During the institutions' spring meetings here, the officials took
credit for helping to stabilize the world economy, pull people out of
poverty, and educate millions of children. But the opposite is true,
argued critics.
"The world economy as a whole has enjoyed a rate of economic growth
never before realized in world history," IMF acting managing director
Anne Krueger said on the 60th anniversary of both the IMF and World
"We have had a growth of international trade. We've had
liberalization of trade, which has spurred that growth. We've had
living standards, life expectancies, any measure you name - not just
incomes - life expectancies, educational attainments and what have
you, going up."
Krueger, whose Washington-based institution is often blamed for the
resounding financial meltdown in Asia in the 1990s and in Argentina
two years ago, said that the IMF and World Bank had brought about a
"better framework internationally, where international financial
stability is important".
She also gave the IMF credit for price stability, steady inflation
and a better general understanding of governments' role in the
economy. "Even though we still have many poor peoples, even though we
have a lot to do, what we're forgetting is where things were 50 years
ago," added Krueger.
World Bank president James Wolfensohn echoed those statements during
a press conference, disputing some of the accusations of activists
and critics from the so-called "global justice movement". "We're
saying that there has been good progress over 20 years, over the last
20 years, and that is true ... and it's been good progress on a
number of things: on literacy, on life expectancy."
The IMF and World Bank came into existence at Bretton Woods in the
United States state of New Hampshire following World War II with the
purpose of building a stable global economic framework.
But their critics - who have grown quickly over the past decade as
part of the international anti-globalization movement and include
many people from developing countries - gave the two institutions low
grades on some of the same issues the lenders boasted about.
At a press conference economists and activists grilled the IMF and
the bank about their roles in plunging millions of people into
"On its 60th anniversary, the World Bank seems to be suffering from a
case of institutional amnesia," said Peter Bosshard, policy director
at California-based International Rivers Network.
Bosshard told reporters that the bank - which has continually
supported major infrastructure projects, including dams - has had a
part in displacing more than 10 million people and flooding millions
of hectares of land.
Because of its insistence on such mega-projects and its financial
backing for them, which eventually found its way to large
multinational firms based in rich nations, the World Bank had also
helped to push many countries deeper into debt, he added. "In its
60th year, one would hope that the bank would be a bit wiser by now,"
Bosshard said.
But Wolfensohn argued that his organization is much improved, and
that critics were focused on old problems. "I'd say to them that
we're doing a 10 times better job than we ever did in the '80s,
because I think everybody now is coming to understand that the issue
of human rights, that the issue of effectiveness of programs on
relocation, is not just a fringe activity but that it is central,"
Wolfensohn said.
But the international advocacy group Oxfam also contradicted the rosy
assessment of the top officials. "The bank and donor countries are
still failing the poor," said Max Lawson, Oxfam policy advisor.
"Urgent increases in both debt relief and donor aid are vital. After
60 long years, the bank is old enough to know better."
"Donor decisions are crippling countries twice over - through failing
to deliver debt relief while at the same time refusing to provide aid
so that millions of children will never complete a basic education,"
Lawson added.
The critics, who include religious groups and other civil society
organizations, said the institutions need to act on many fronts. They
demanded that the bank and the IMF open their meetings to the media
and the public and end proposals, including privatization of national
assets and introduction of user fees, which hinder people's access to
food, clean water, shelter and health care.
They also called on the bodies to stop supporting socially and
environmentally destructive projects, like oil and gas developments
and dams. They insisted that the two lenders cancel impoverished
nations' debts, a call that Wolfensohn rejected. "No one wants to not
have social programs, but as with an individual who has some debts,
it would be much better to be able to spend it on things that you
want, and ignore obligations," he said.
"And at some point as an individual, you can't just go on not paying
your credit cards and not paying your bank and not paying your
mortgage, and saying 'but really what I want to do is to educate my
kids'. Well, of course you want to educate your kids," Wolfensohn
added, "but at a certain moment the rules are that if you want to
keep playing the game, you do have some other obligations."
(Inter Press Service)


20.04.04 : RAMSAR mission report 20-23 march 2004 : ecology expert group meeting of the danube convention

The Danube Commission (ICPDR) established for the period 2001-2004 an Ecological Expert Group. In view of the 7th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Danube River Protection Convention and Ministerial Conference, to be held in Vienna on 13-14 December 2004, all Expert Groups established by the ICPDR are now drawing their current work to a conclusion and exchanging their draft outputs to include other experts' comments. more information: Source: Ramsar

19.04.04 : Colorado River: most endangered US river for 2004

Last week the Colorado River was proclaimed the most endangered river in the United States for 2004 by American Rivers. AR identified three specific threats to the water quality of the Colorado River: uranium mill waste from Moab, Utah; rocket fuel waste from Henderson, Nevada; and septic sewer waste from riverside development in the Lower Basin. Living Rivers, local citizens and regional scientists are currently working on a plan to provide accurate scientific information to the Department of Energy concerning the potential of flooding, which could wash Moab's uranium waste pile into the Colorado River. This effort is in response to a statement issued by National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that the integrity of the uranium waste pile could be compromised by historic type flood events. Many concerned citizens and scientists believe that Moab's uranium waste pile must be removed from its floodplain location and contained at a place that is safe and stable. In the press coverage of this event, which follows, Living Rivers and the Colorado Riverkeeper stressed the importance of moving Moab's uranium waste away from the Colorado River to ensure that drinking water and river ecosystems downstream are safe from radioactive poisons.
MORE INFORMATION: LIVING RIVERS & COLORADO RIVERKEEPER Electronic Information Services PO BOX 466 Moab, UT 84532, Tel: 435.259.1063 , Fax: 435.259.7612

17.04.04 : New Spanish leader to scrap controversial water transfer plan

The new Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has ordered a review of the entire workings of the Spanish National Hydrological Plan and cancelled its most controversial project, the Ebro Transfer. In a speech to parliament, Prime Minister Zapatero said: "This review will imply halting some specific infrastructures and replacing them with more efficient, cheaper and less disputed projects." He added that the environmental consequences of any decisions would be taken into account. SNHP was one of the biggest water infrastructure projects in the world, along with the Three Gorges Dam in China. The plan has caused outrage among environmental groups (Plataforma en defanes del Ebro, COAGRET , WWF, Greepeace, ERN and and man,y more NGOs) , since it was first suggested . It proposed a massive transfer of water from the north of the country to the south, which suffers severe water shortage difficulties due to such things as intensive agriculture and tourism. The cancellation of the Ebro Transfer was not a huge surprise, however. The European Commission delayed funding on the project in December last year and Margot Wallstrom, the Environment Commissioner, said she was not in favour of the project last month. more information on SNHP:

07.04.04 : Commission takes Italy to court to prevent Hydro- Electric plant from damaging river habitats

The European Commission has decided to refer Italy to the European Court of Justice with regard to a hydro-electric project in Lombardy that involves abstracting water from the Schiesone River (Sondrio). The Commission is concerned that this project will lead to the deterioration of important fluvial habitats within a site that is nominated for special protection under the EU's Habitats Directive. Read more...

02.04.04 : Spain: Itoiz Dam Protester Imprisoned

Ibai Ederra of Solidarios con Itoiz imprisoned in Pamplona . Support the Solidarios in prison! On 15 March 2004 Ibai Ederra was arrested in a routine traffic police check. Ibai is one of the 8 Solidarios who famously cut the cables of the concrete pump at the construction site of the Itoiz Dam (Ebro Riverbasin), stopping the construction for a year. Ibai now faces 4 years 10 months in prison for the action. Inaki Garcia Koch, from the same group, is already in prison having been detained in similar circumstances in 2001. After a 20-year struggle by tens of thousands of people against the dam, and despite the fact that experts believe it is unstable and could endanger the lives of thousands, the dam is currently being filled. Those who know the beautiful area will be saddened to hear that the flooding is now extensive, brutal deforestation has taken place and a road is being built very close to the peaceful village of Lakabe. The dam was declared illegal by the Supreme Court due to the fact that it will flood several nature reserves, but this was overturned in 2001 by the Constitutional Court which changed the law specifically for Itoiz. Since the arrest Solidari@s have done several noise emos outside the prison, and their struggle continues. It's very important that people write to Ibai and Inaki in prison. A letter in any language is better than no letter at all. Ibai Ederra or Iņaki Garcia > Carcel de Pamplona. Apdo. 250. Iruņa. Nafarroa.
more information :

23.03.04 : Romania reports river pollution with cyanide (Reuters)

Romania's Environment Ministry said that toxic waste containing cyanide
had spilled into a river in the northeast of the country and could pose
health hazards and kill fish. Cyanhydric acetone, used in production of
detergents, leaked from a storage tank at the Metadet chemical plant in
Falticeni, 500 km (300 miles) north of Bucharest, into Somuzul Mare, a
tributary of the Siret river which flows into the Danube.
Source: Reuters
complet texte:

22.03.04 : World Water day : EU agrees to set up new water facility to boost access to clean water and sanitation
The European Union agreed today World Water Day to set up a special Water
Facility to promote access to clean water and sanitation for people in
Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The facility, originally proposed
by President Prodi in 2003, could in a first phase be worth up to € 500
million and is designed to have an important catalytic effect in
generating additional funds for water and sanitation.

complet text : (in english, french, german and spanish)

14.03.04 : International day against dams, for rivers, water and life 2004

go to: general/movement/14mars.htm

10.03.04 : Dam building threatens China's 'Grand Canyon'

by Jim Yardley, The New York Times, March 10, 2004

Dimaluo, China: The highest villages in the mountains above the Nu River seem to hang in the air. Farmers grow cabbage and corn nearly a quarter-mile up, as if cultivating ski slopes. Necessity has pushed them into the sky; land is precious along the river. They may have to move higher still, perhaps into the clouds.

The Nu, which flows through a region that is home to old-growth forests, some 7,000 species of plants and 80 rare or endangered animal species, is the latest waterway coveted by a Chinese government that is planning to build a new generation of dams to help power its relentless, booming economy.

Unlike the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project and the subject of a bitter international debate, the Nu River plan has barely stirred a ripple outside China. But in China the project, which calls for 13 dams in all, has unexpectedly touched a nascent chord of environmental awareness and provoked rare public rifts within the government.

The reason is that the Nu is one of the last pristine rivers in one of the world's most polluted countries, running through a canyon region unlike any other, which a United Nations agency has designated a World Heritage Site. Last year, China's State Environmental Protection Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences publicly criticized the Nu project.

"If this river system is destroyed, it would be a terrible blow," said Li Bosheng, a prominent Chinese botanist. "This area has been called the Grand Canyon of the Orient. It forms one of the world's most special canyon environments."

For China, which already has more large dams than any other country, environmental awareness has been slowly growing since the long fight over the Three Gorges, where ground was broken a decade ago for a project that will cost at least $25 billion and displace more than a million people by the time it is finished in 2009.

No estimate has been made public for the cost of the Nu project. In Yunnan Province in southwest China, the Nu project would force the relocation of as many as 50,000 people, many descended from Lisu, Nu, Drung, Tibetan and other ethnic hill people. Many are farmers and herders who cannot speak Chinese and who choose to live on the land as their ancestors did.

complet article see :


08.03.04 : EU Commission pans Spanish water transfer plan

The European Commission's environment directorate has recommended
provisionally withholding €1.26bn funding requested by Spain for its
planned north-south water transfer project, it emerged on Friday. The
leaked report rejects government claims that the Ebro river basin can
sustain the transfer, expreseses "worries" about "exaggeration of
benefits and systematic undervaluing of costs" and criticises the
plan's environmental impact assessment. The Commission's competition
directorate is understood also to have criticised aspects of the plan.
The news comes days before Spanish elections in which the transfer
project has become an issue (ED 05/03/04

source: Environment Daily 1623, 08/03/04
See European Commission

more information on the PHN on RiverNet:

05.03.04 : New initiative to clean up the Nairobi Dam

New project launched to restore Kenyan water supply
A new initiative to clean up the Nairobi Dam, in an attempt to restore water supplies to the 'chronically water scarce' Kenya, was launched this week by the United Nations.
Friends of the Nairobi Dam has launched a trust to restore the water supply for residents
The Nairobi Dam Trust Initiative needs to raise US$600,000 to return the reservoir to its original supply of 98,422 cubic meters of potable water. Representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the project.
A lack of proper waste management, in terms of solid waste, liquid waste and industrial waste, along with a high-density population from the surrounding settlement and increased recreational activity in the water has seen a gradual degradation of the supply. The Dam was originally commissioned in 1953.
High coliform counts, indicating high sewage contamination, have consistently registered in water samples taken from the Nairobi Dam. This and other pollutants have rendered the waster in the river system and the dam totally unusable and hazardous to human health, says the UN Environment Programme.
"It is clear that the Nairobi Dam presents a particular problem," said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UNEP. "We congratulate the newly formed Friends of the Nairobi Dam for launching this new Trust Initiative and call on all actors, including the private sector, to wholeheartedly back the scheme."
"Cleaning up the dam and the water sources of Nairobi will directly benefit the urban poor," said Mrs. Tibaijuka Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. "However, it is important to realize that successful completion of the project will require a commitment by all stakeholders to slum upgrading and to providing decent shelter, adequate sanitation and clean water to the poor, especially those living in Kibera."
In the immediate stages the Initiative will work to raise money to meet the investment need to restore the Dam and the Kenyan water sector in general.
By Sorcha Clifford
source: edie news 5.03.04

01.03.04 : New map shows impact of human activities on lakes and rivers in Germany

Structural map of waters provides overview of impact of human activities on lakes and rivers Of
the 33,000 km of flowing waters investigated in Germany, a mere 21% are
semi-natural and have been changed little by man. This is clearly
illustrated by a newly published and convenient structural map of waters
which classifies changes in the structure of bodies of water from their
natural state on a scale of 1 (unchanged) to 7 (completely changed).
This free DIN A3-sized map with explanations on the reverse side is
especially suited for schools and universities and was published by the
Federal Ministry for Environment (BMU) and the Federal Environmental
Agency (UBA).It is important for natural ecosystems and for good water
quality in general to have as natural a water structure as possible.
The new structural map of waters is based on the December 2002 map
published by the Working Group of the Federal States on Water Problems
(LAWA) on a scale of 1:1,000,000. It offered the first ever overview of
the structure of all of Germany’s creeks and rivers as well as the
condition of their flood plains. The new map in its convenient format aims
to make the issue more accessible to a broader public.The fold-out map is
available from the UBA, Central Services Unit, P.O. Box 33 00 22, 14191
Berlin (postcard), fax: 030/8903-2912, email: and from the BMU,
PR Office, tel: 01888/305-3355, fax: 01888/305-3356, email:
The 2000 leaflet on the biological quality of waters is also
available.Further information on the development of water quality can be
found online at and, under the “Gewässer” heading.Berlin, 1 March 2004


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