08.05.05 : Gangetic river
dolphins struggling to survive
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is frantically appealing
to save the Gangetic
Dolphins in Garmukhteshwar, home to some of the world's rare fresh
dolphins now being driven to extinction due to poaching and excessive
The World Conservation Union had recently changed the status of
Platanista Gangetica, one of the only four freshwater dolphins
in the world,
from vulnerable to endangered.
Latest surveys show the population, which swam freely in India's
Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems, had fallen to just 1500 from
already moderate 5000 from the 1980s.
WWF says fragmentation of their habitat by barrages and dams,
awareness and education of the river's stakeholders, pollution
stretches in the rivers and killing for oil and its blubber are
The international body has now roped in local fishermen, school
local environmental groups and even armymen, for a riverboat rally
awareness about saving the beautiful animals.
The group is campaigning all along the dolphin habitat in the
educating people of the threat these extremely docile mammals
Parikshit Gautam, Director-Fresh Water and Wetlands Programme,
said the river dolphins are the watchdogs of the water and keep
it clean off
natural toxins and pollutants ensuring clean water for millions
the river plains.
Gautam said the locals are extremely aware of their environment
but did not
know about conservation and this campaign was designed precisely
"Local people know that the presence of dolphins and all
but they do not
know what threat they are facing. You must have realised during
they do care about the nearby areas including the river, including
species but exactly they are not aware that there is such a serious
to the river dolphins. So this campaign basically is part of our
and awareness programme vis-'-vis dolphin conservation and that's
want to do it all along the river so that the major stakeholder,
there all along the river are at least aware. The government departments
coming forward, institutions are coming forward, the schools are
forward, so it has really created a very good forum," he
: Chinese government agrees to protect Yangtze River
Beijing, China Provincial governors and key ministers from
Chinas water, environment, forest and agriculture sectors
in the Yangtze River basin met to develop a common strategy and
action plan for protecting the entire basin.
Participants attending the Yangtze Forum, which
took place in Wuhan, China from 1617 April, discussed sustainable
ways to ensure that the regions development is not at the
expense of the health of the basin. WWF, which has collaborated
with the Chinese government since 1980 in the conservation of
the Yangtze River basin, is a key initiator and supporter of the
"This gathering will give all those involved
in managing Yangtze resources a chance to go beyond their sectoral
or local concerns and interests and work together to balance conservation
with development in the entire river basin," said Li Lifeng,
WWF China Freshwater and Marine Programme Officer.
From its source on the Tibetan Plateau to its mouth in East China
Sea, the Yangtze encompasses a variety of ecosystems from
mountains, grasslands, and forest to marshlands, lakes and streams
all of which are increasingly being impacted by developments
such as roads, dams, factories and cities.
With a length of 6,378km, the Yangtze River is the worlds
third longest river. Its basin, covering 1.8 million km2, is home
to about one third of the Chinese population more than
420 million people and is the habitat of the giant panda,
Siberian crane, leopard and Yangtze River dolphin.
Forty per cent of Chinas freshwater resources more
than 70 per cent of rice, 40 per cent of grain and 40 per cent
of Chinas GDP are the direct result of the Yangtze
Finding a balance between socio-economic development and environmental
needs is an ever-increasing challenge. Dams and thousands of kilometres
of dykes have already cut off the river links to lakes, which
once formed a complex wetland network fulfilling important natural
functions such as spawning and feeding for fish. Intensive land
reclamation has created agricultural and urban settlements on
former floodplains and lakes.
In the past 50 years, more than 800 lakes have
been lost due to reclamation. There has been a 75 per cent decline
in fisheries, and 73 per cent of the basins pollution
an annual waste discharge of about 25 billion tons is dumped
in the main river course, affecting drinking water for more than
500 cities. Severe flooding is now an almost annual event with
thousands of lives lost and economic losses worth more than US$70
billion in the last 15 years.
With China set to become an economic goliath, the launch
of the Yangtze Forum is a crucial moment in history," said
Jamie Pittock, Director of WWFs Global Freshwater Programme.
"It offers a chance for the best pay-off
of any economic development the protection of irreplaceable
natural resources such as wetlands and rivers.
At the conclusion of the Forum, participants signed the Yangtze
Declaration, demonstrating their consensus on the urgent need
to sustainably develop the Yangtze basin.
As the next step, key ministers, with technical
guidance from WWF, will take the lead in developing a master plan
for the integrated management of Yangtze resources. The Hunan
provincial government has also agreed to host the 2nd Yangtze
Forum in 2006.
WWF is demonstrating and advocating the integrated
management of the Yangtze, finding a way to work with, rather
than against, the river. It has been working at both the policy
level and in the field towards restoration of the balance of nature
and people in the central Yangtze since the 1990s.
Notes for editors:
A main component of the solution being
put forward by WWF in China is integrated river basin management
(IRBM), which aims to promote better management and preservation
of water resources, the ecosystem and biodiversity within river
basins, while improving the environmental quality and living standard
of people. WWF co-funded the IRBM Task Force with the China Council
for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED),
a high level international advisory board to the Chinese government.
WWF is also working on the ground in the
Yangtze basin to promote a more sustainable approach to river
management. In Hubei Province, the WWF-HSBC Yangtze Programme
is working with local authorities to re-establish natural connections
between wetlands and the Yangtze in order to restore the areas
web of life. A way has been devised to re-introduce
water and fish fry into the wetland area. The floodgates of a
dam, the sole function of which was once to prevent and drain
off floods, will now be opened seasonally, taking into account
the fish breeding season and allowing fish to flow into the wetlands
from the Yangtze. The programme is also introducing alternative
fishing in Zhangdu Lake and Lake Hong. These two lakes were heavily
degraded due to intensive fish and crab farming, fish nets, and
polders. By restoring aquatic plants in the lakes, water quality
has significantly improved and the highly endangered Oriental
white stork has returned for the first time in ten years.
WWF is also working with farmers in the
Dongting and Poyang Lake wetlands to develop alternative livelihoods,
new land use and flood management approaches to realize an eco-system-based
approach to the Yangtze Basin.
The WWF report, Rivers at Risk, identifies the top 21 rivers
at risk from dams being planned or under construction. It shows
that over 60 per cent of the worlds 227 largest rivers have
been fragmented by dams, which has led to the destruction of wetlands,
a decline in freshwater species - including river dolphins, fish,
and birds, and the forced displacement of tens of millions of
people. The report highlights the Yangtze as the river at most
risk with 46 large dams planned or under construction.
Chinese government support for wetland conservation was
demonstrated with the approval of the Wetland Conservation Project
Plan in April 2004. Under the plan, the Chinese government committed
that by 2030, 90 per cent of natural wetlands will be effectively
protected, the amount of Ramsar sites (wetlands of international
importance) will be increased from 30 to 80, and the amount of
national wetlands nature reserves should be increased from 353
For further information:
Caroline Liou, Communications Manager
Tel: +86 10 6522-7100 ext 3239
Lisa Hadeed, Communications Manager
WWF Global Freshwater Programme
Tel: +41 22 364 9030
21.04.05 : AINA - "Turkish
Dams Violate EU Standards and Human Rights":
21 April 2005
Plans for large dams in southeast Turkey including
the discredited Ilisu
dam project may yet go ahead in spite of adverse impacts on cultural
environmental rights, according to a new report by the National
of Ireland, Galway and the Kurdish Human Rights Project.
The report provides new evidence from hydroelectric
dam projects planned
for the Munzur, Tigris and Greater Zap rivers.
The study, a report of a fact-finding mission
to the region carried out by
Maggie Ronayne, Lecturer in Archaeology at the National University
Ireland, Galway, demonstrates how archaeology in particular supports
case of thousands of villagers adversely affected by these projects,
of whom do not appear to have been consulted at all about the
many of whom want to return to reservoir areas, having already
displaced by the recent conflict in the region....
The overwhelming response in particular from women
and their organisations
is one of opposition to the negative impact on them and those
care; yet women have been the least consulted sector.
The reservoirs would submerge evidence for hundreds
thousands of ancient sites of international importance, including
of our earliest origins as a species, the beginnings of agriculture,
the remains of empires including those of Rome and Assyria.
The heritage of Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians and
others from the last few
hundred years and holy places from several traditions within the
and Christian faiths, many still used in religious practices today
some dating from over 1000 years ago, will go under the reservoir
According to report author Maggie Ronayne: 'The
GAP development project of
which these dams are part is destroying a heritage which belongs
whole of humanity and contravenes the most basic professional
Governments and companies involved with these projects are ignoring
serious implications: the destruction of such diverse cultural
religious heritage in a State with a history of severe cultural
repression. Turkey's progress on cultural rights for the Kurds
has been an object of scrutiny in recent years; the EU must consider
cultural destruction on this scale in that context.'
One of the major findings of the report is that
there is a new consortium
of companies coming together to build the discredited Ilisu Dam
would displace up to 78,000 mostly Kurdish people, and would also
potentially cut off downstream flows of water to Syria and Iraq.
The ancient town of Hasankeyf, culturally important
to many Kurdish people
and of international archaeological significance, will not be
saved by new
plans to build the dam despite the promises of the Turkish prime
and the would-be dam builders.
In any case, the cultural impacts of Ilisu are
much greater than this one
very important town.
From 2000 to 2002, campaigners, human rights and
environmental groups and
affected communities successfully exposed fundamental flaws in
documents and plans for Ilisu, which contributed to the collapse
last consortium of companies planning to build it. But the basis
project this time remains essentially the same.
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish
Human Rights Project
commented: 'It seems that the Turkish State has not learned the
Ilisu: the report finds that a range of international laws and
are not being adhered to. EU standards in particular are met by
the projects. The study also shows that while there have been
improvements and legal reforms, torture remains an administrative
of the State. If this is the climate in which people are to be
about the dams, then we can only conclude that any fair outcome
public appears most unlikely. The GAP development project examined
study raises serious questions regarding Turkey's process of accession
Maggie Ronayne, Department of Archaeology, National
University of Ireland,
Galway, Ireland. Tel: 00 353 91 512298 or 00 353 (0) 87 7838688
Kerim Yildiz / Rochelle Harris, Kurdish Human
Rights Project, London, Tel:
+44 (0)207 287-2772. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
14.04.05 : Damming evidence
of human interference
(Two items on this new SCIENCE study.)
Damming evidence of human interference
Nature.com (UK). Published online: 14 April 2005
New survey reveals the impact of dams on more
than half of the world's large
Humans have interfered with more than half of
the world's large rivers by
building dams, a new survey reports. This first worldwide assessment
highlights the ubiquity of these structures and their impact on
and soil erosion, say the authors.
The survey was led by landscape ecologist Christer
Nilsson at Umeå
University in Sweden. He and his colleagues quizzed hundreds of
authorities and researchers across the world to compile information
much water their rivers carry and how many dams they have.
Nilsson's interest in cataloguing the impact of
dams began in the late
1980s, when an intense debate formed in Sweden over plans to dam
country's remaining free-flowing rivers for hydropower. He says
proponents of the project told him not to worry about the environmental
impact because most rivers elsewhere in the world remained untouched.
"I didn't believe them, so I started looking
around, but there were no
summarized data," he recalls. "This is the first study
that shows the full
His team has now identified 292 large river systems,
of which 172 are
counted as affected by dams. In Europe, more than 60% of these
classified as 'strongly affected', meaning that the constructions
flow by at least 2%. Australasia - encompassing Australia, New
neighbouring islands in the South Pacific - has the smallest proportion
strongly affected large rivers, at only 17%. The findings appear
in the journal Science1.
In another study in Science this week, researchers
led by James Syvitski of
the University of Colorado, Boulder, show that dams prevent significant
amounts of sediment from reaching coastlines2. Without this replenishment,
the regions around river mouths can experience severe soil erosion.
Nilsson says that his survey highlights the global
nature of the damming
problem and notes that most new dams are being planned for Asia
America. Engineers in Southeast Asia, for example, plan to add
49 more dams
to the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) river, already home to China's controversial
Three Gorges Dam. Nilsson hopes that his survey will influence
decision-making on the planned construction.
"When people see the global picture they
will act differently," Nilsson
says. He adds that his study has intensified his own doubts about
projects: "My concern has increased because I see that there
are no pristine
areas in terms of unimpeded rivers."
The broad scope of the new report makes it valuable,
says Mike Dunbar, a
researcher at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford,
says that the data will serve as a "wake-up call" for
people who plan to dam
those rivers that remain free-flowing.
Nilsson C., Reidy C. A., Dynesius M. & Revenga C. Science,
308. 405 - 408
Syvitski J., Vorosmarty C., Kettner A. & Green P. Science,
308. 376 - 380
05.04.05 : China Announces
Plan to Move 400,000 People for Giant Water-Diversion Project
By Joe McDonald, Associated Press
BEIJING - China announced plans Tuesday to relocate 400,000 people
way for a US$60 billion (euro50 billion) network of canals to
supply its dry
north with water from the wetter south.
It will be China's second major forced relocation
of residents, coming after
1.3 million people were moved to make way for the vast Three Gorges
the Yangtze River in the southwest.
The canals are to move water hundreds of miles
(kilometers) from the Yangtze
to Beijing and other parts of the north. The government says building
South-North Water Diversion Project could take up to 50 years
and cost more
than 500 billion yuan (US$60 billion; euro50 billion).
Areas to be cleared stretch across seven provinces,
the official Xinhua News
Agency reported, citing Zhang Jiyao, an official of the water-diversion
project. It didn't say when relocations would begin or exactly
or counties in the densely settled east are to be cleared.
"The task is arduous and urgent," Zhang
was quoted as saying at a conference
on land acquisition for the project.
China says it ranks among the world's driest countries
and providing enough
water for its 1.3 billion people, as well as farms and industry,
chronic government worry.
State media said this week that prolonged drought
in areas throughout the
country might jeopardize the spring planting of rice and wheat.
Relocations for the Three Gorges Dam prompted
protests by residents who
complained that they were paid too little for valuable farmland
forced to move to areas with few jobs or poor soil.
The report Tuesday didn't say whether farmers
would be provided with new
land for the latest project.
Apparently trying to ease such fears, Zhang promised
that residents would be
compensated and get help to start new lives. He said local officials
required to sign a "letter of responsibility" promising
to handle the
"We must ensure that good arrangements are
made for the life and production
of the relocated people, and that the living standards of those
not go down because of the resettlement," he was quoted as
The network consists of three sets of canals.
Work on the central leg
supplying Beijing began in December 2003, a year after the start
construction on the eastern section. The government hasn't broken
the western section.
Parts of the project follows the route of the
Grand Canal, a waterway built
in the 10th century linking Beijing with the city of Hangzhou,
imperial capital southwest of Shanghai.
The government says that by 2050, the water-diversion
network will be
capable of moving 45 billion cubic meters (1.6 trillion cubic
feet) of water
03.04.05 : Le brassage
des eaux du Léman est confirmé
Pour la première fois depuis 1986, le brassage
des eaux du Léman a eu lieu
cet hiver. Les températures très basses qui ont
régné en ce début 2005 ont
permis aux couches supérieures des eaux du lac, bien oxygénées
refroidir suffisamment pour se mélanger aux eaux du fond.
La météo rude du début de lannée-
avec des minima proches de 10°C au
bord du Léman et de fortes périodes de bise- a refroidi
les eaux du Léman
et les a brassées. Les eaux de surface plus froides et
donc plus denses ont
en effet été entraînées vers le fond
du lac, permettant le brassage des
eaux et loxygénation des couches profondes.
Une situation aussi favorable ne sétait
pas produite depuis 1986 dans le
Grand Lac. Un brassage presque total sétait toutefois
produit en 1999.
Dans le Petit Lac, du fait de sa faible profondeur (moins de 80m),
sont homogénéisées chaque année.
Loxygénation des eaux profondes du
Léman : un facteur de santé pour le lac !
En été, il se forme dans les lacs des couches de
qui ne se mélangent pas entre elles, car la densité
de leau est fonction
de sa température, les couches les plus froides, donc les
plus lourdes, se
trouvant au fond du lac. Lors dhivers très froids,
la couche supérieure se
refroidit et leau atteint une densité plus élevée.
Sous leffet des vents,
elle gagne le fond du lac en créant des courants verticaux.
Les eaux sont
ainsi brassées. Ce phénomène permet doxygéner
les eaux du fond du lac.
Cette situation est bénéfique à double titre:
la vie aquatique dans les
profondeurs redevient possible dune part, et dautre
part on évite la
libération du phosphore par les sédiments, phénomène
qui se produit
lorsquil ny a plus doxygène.
Leutrophisation, le mal typique dont peuvent souffrir les
lacs, est due à
un apport exagéré de substances nutritives- notamment
le phosphore- qui
augmentent la production dalgues. Or, cest justement
la décomposition et
la minéralisation de ces dernières qui consomment
de loxygène dissous,
conduisant à un déficit doxygène, particulièrement
dans les eaux du fond.
01.04.05 : La Banque
mondiale approuve le barrage de Nam Theun 2 (Laos) : un
recul de 50 ans ? (Com. presse FOE)
Le Conseil d'Administration de la Banque mondiale
a accordé hier son
soutien au projet hydroélectrique de Nam Theun 2 au Laos.
premier méga-barrage que la Banque finance depuis plus
de dix ans,
illustrant sa nouvelle stratégie « grands risques
grands bénéfices »
décidée en 2003 pour justifier son retour dans le
controversé des grandes infrastructures. Les risques du
immenses et ses avantages aléatoires. La Banque mondiale
joue sa propre
réputation déjà très affaiblie par
le passé dans ce secteur, mais elle
parie aussi sur les conditions de vie de plus de 100 000 paysans
« Le Laos a un besoin désespéré
de développement », explique Sébastien
Godinot des Amis de la Terre. « Mais ce projet est tellement
complexe qu'il est peu probable qu'il bénéficie
aux populations pauvres.
Dans un contexte opaque et antidémocratique, nous craignons
bénéfices reviennent essentiellement aux élites
gouvernementales et aux
entreprises étrangères - dont EDF, leader du projet
- comme ce qui s'est
vu par le passé. La Banque mondiale a-t-elle oublié
les échecs et les
luttes des cinquante dernières années, et les débats
au sein de la
Commission Mondiale des Barrages ? »
« Concernant les impacts locaux, les plans
de compensation sont très
flous et irréalistes. Ils ne se basent pas sur les projets
Laos aujourd'hui », précise Sébastien Godinot.
« Nos analyses ont montré
de nombreuses lacunes, mais nos propositions n'ont été
prises en compte
que très partiellement. Nous suivrons de très près
la mise en oeuvre des
compensations, car les populations locales n'ont quant à
droit de recours dans le projet ».
« Mais les conséquences sont également
lourdes pour l'ensemble du bassin
du Mékong », rajoute Sébastien Godinot. «
Le bassin abrite 1300 espèces
de poissons dont dépendent 50 millions de personnes. Un
projet de la
taille de Nam Theun 2 bouleversera à lui seul l'écosystème
affluents. Or la Chine a elle aussi des projets dans ses cartons
utilisera l'implication de la Banque dans Nam Theun 2 pour justifier
propres barrages sur le Mekong et ses affluents. Les impacts cumulés
l'ensemble du bassin risquent d'être dramatiques ».
D'un coût minimum de 1,3 milliards de dollars,
le barrage doit être
achevé en 2009. Il exportera 90% de ses 1070 MW en Thaïlande.
450 km2, déplacera 6200 personnes et en affectera plus
de 100 000, dont
le mode de vie dépend principalement de la rivière.
La Banque Asiatique de Développement se
prononcera sur le projet le 4
avril, suivie par la Banque Européenne d'Investissement.
L'AFD et la
Coface, l'agence française de crédits aux exportations,
plusieurs banques françaises sont également impliquées.
Pour en savoir plus :
Contact presse Sebastien Godinot, Les Amis de
01 48 51 18 92 / 06 68 98 83 41
Campagne institutions financières
01.04.05 : Montenegro
abandons plans to flood Tara gorge (Reuters)
PODGORICA, Serbia and Montenegro, April 1 (Reuters) :
Montenegro has abandoned plans to build a dam that would flood
parts of its
gorge, yielding to public pressure and warnings from the United
officials said on Friday.
The decision comes after months of demonstrations
calling for the protection
of the Tara River canyon, the deepest and longest canyon in Europe
United Nations World Heritage Site.
The 80 km (50 mile) canyon, part of Montenegro's
Durmitor National Park, is
a tourist attraction in the impoverished former Yugoslav republic.
call it the "tear of Europe" for its clear waters.
"Montenegro has decided to halt the preparation
for and the building of the
hydro electric power plant," Environment Minister Boro Vucinic
letter to the U.N.'s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(UNESCO) as saying.
Montenegro and the Serb half of neighbouring Bosnia
had planned to build the
dam on Bosnia's River Drina which would flood 12 km of the Tara
canyon. It would have provided enough power to cut the coastal
energy deficit by one-third, saving some 17 million euros ($22
UNESCO experts who visited Montenegro in January
urged Montenegro not to
build the dam, saying it was a potential threat to the national
30.03.05 : AFGHANISTAN:
Dam burst causes flooding in Ghazni
ANKARA, 30 March (IRIN) - The Band-e Sultan dam
southeastern Ghazni province burst on early Tuesday causing flooding
area, a UN official told IRIN from the Afghan capital Kabul on
"Initial reports indicated that there was
flooding in two districts,"
Martin Battersby, a public information officer with the United
Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said, although he noted
was hard to get confirmation at the moment.
Battersby also said that the provincial capital
of Ghazni town was
flooded. "The reason was that big metal containers were blocking
[causing] water to run into the town. A crane was used to remove
containers and once that was done the river water levels went
said, adding that according to preliminary reports the situation
control as of Wednesday.
Some reports claimed that there were casualties
due to flooding, but
Battersby said that there were lots of different figures circulating
nothing had been verified yet. Assessment teams have been sent
out to the
area to get a clearer picture of the situation, he added.
The BBC reported on Tuesday that the flooding
had killed at least six
people and caused widespread devastation. The governor of Ghazni
reportedly said that thousands of hectares of land had been washed
hundreds of shops destroyed.
Battersby explained that even if information
was patchy at present on the
number of houses destroyed or number of casualties, they would
able to send initial assistance to areas reportedly affected by
According to UNAMA, the Afghan Ministry of Defence
deployed very rapidly to help get an understanding of the problem
was also food and tents sent from the Afghan government which
quickly in the affected area.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society is also sending
tents, kitchen kits and
blankets to the affected population, with around 70 volunteers
In addition to this, the US-led Coalition forces
were also working to
help people in the area, the American Forces Information Service
"The coalition quickly responded by providing
helicopters and truck
support at the site of the break to help victims of the flooding.
engineers were also sent to the dam to make assessments,"
the report said.
Afghanistan has suffered heavy flooding in recent
weeks caused by melting
snow, with some 200 people dead.
Meanwhile, a special one-day training course
aimed at introducing a
uniform system of reporting on humanitarian needs and providing
and timely information for improving humanitarian coordination
way in Kabul, according to UNAMA.
Plagued by conflict for more than 20 years, Afghanistan
is prone to
various natural disasters, including earthquakes, avalanches,
landslides. Flooding and mudslides are common, particularly in
when snow starts melting. It is estimated that natural disasters
killed more than 19,000 people and affected about 7.5 million
the early 1980s, according to a recent report by the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP).
Dam breached in Afghanistan
29 March 2005
Flooding has caused a dam in southeastern Afghanistan
to burst, resulting
in severe damage to communities downstream.
Heavy rain and snow caused the Sultan lake irrigation
southwest of Kabul to breach at around 0900 local time (0430 GMT).
Ghazni river rose by 1m within half an hour of the breach, sending
towards the Oari district.
US-led forces stationed in Afghanistan said they
had sent military
helicopters to help with rescue operations.
Hundreds of shops and houses have been destroyed
in Ghazni city,
according to reports on Aljazeera.net.
No official information has been reported on
casualties as of yet.
26.03.05 : Dam construction
destroying mangroves in Pakistan
OneWorld UK. 26 March 2005.
A natural source of fighting huge waves, mangroves
are being destroyed by
development programmes and dams in Pakistan, say environmentalists,
concerns are redoubled by the terrifying Asian tsunami disaster
December that killed over 227,000 souls.
One of the world's most threatened habitats, mangrove
swamps provide double
protection from cyclones and large waves. Their first layer of
branches and tangled roots absorbs the initial shock, while the
of tall mangroves serves as a wall capable of fighting with huge
A local WWF official in Pakistan said that Indonesia,
country with 173,981 confirmed deaths, had been planning to initiate
project of mangrove plantation spanned over a period of five to
with an idea to combat huge killer waves in future.
"We [in Pakistan] are destroying the eco-system
as mangroves provide a
nursery to fish and help shrimps and other marine life to breed.
to review our policies and look at the disaster in Asia. Mangroves
erosion due to heavy winds, storms, are excellent wind-breakers
and serve as
a wall against giant waves," Dr Ejaz Ahmad, the deputy director
Wide Fund for Nature, Pakistan, (WWF Pakistan), told OneWorld.
"How important mangroves are could be judged
from the fact that where there
were less or no mangrove forests there was more destruction, especially
Thailand, India and Bangladesh. But if we see Myanmar there was
It was obviously because of heavy mangroves there that saved the
from major disaster."
Formed in estuaries and muddy inlets on tropical
coasts, mangrove swamps
often serve as the border between dry land and the seas. In Pakistan
are three patches of mangroves in province of Balochistan in Sonmiani,
Kalmat and Jiwani, while Indus Delta has swamps at Sandspit, Rehri
The Indus Delta mangroves are the biggest arid climate swamps
in the world
and Avicennia marina is the major specie called "Timer"
in Sindhi language.
Due to high tide, they seem half submerged in the mix of sweet
water considered natural breeding ground for trees.
Besides acting as a nursery for fish, shrimps,
sponges, crabs snails, Pakistan's mangroves are also frequented
30,000 migratory birds to save themselves from hard Central Asian
Among the birds that visit mangroves are gulls, coots, terns,
pelicans, flamingos, osprey dowitchers, dunlin oystercatchers,
duck. Birds that are permanent residents of the mangroves are
egrets, black-winged stilts and cormorants.
Ironically, mangrove forests in Pakistan face
threat of elimination. "The
developmental projects, dams and barrages are the major reason
destruction of mangroves. The network of barrages and large dams
the freshwater supply to sea which is eliminating the mangroves,"
According to a Space and Upper Atmosphere Research
study conducted through satellite images in 1988-89, the mangroves
Pakistan covered 160,000 hectares. They were found to be reduced
half - just 80,000 hectares - when WWF Pakistan studied the mangroves
through their Lahore-based facility in 2002.
Describing the situation as alarming, Dr.Ahmad
says that extent of the
damage is colossal as it has not only reduced the mangroves but
species have also been cut from eight to four during the past
four to five
decades. "Tarbela and Mangla dams and barrages at Kotri and
played vital role in destroying mangroves. Freshwater is rare
and only rains
provide solace to mangroves in this case, he asserted.
The government and agriculturalists lay emphasis
on watercourses for
agriculture sector for better yields, but Dr Ahmad lamented the
attitude of government officials. They are ignoring what he calls
multiple benefits of the mangroves as compared to the narrow economic
"Ironically, the decision-makers think that
freshwater should be utilised
only for agriculture. But they don't know what they could get
gallon of freshwater to agriculture sector and what they could
supplying the same amount of freshwater to mangroves. They are
unaware of the multiple benefits that mangroves offer", said
Dr.Ahmad did not mince words in admitting that
activists must strengthen
their case: "as an organization and environmentalists, it
is our fault that
we are yet to determine the dollar value of mangroves. If we know
hectare of cotton crop will give us Rs200 and mangroves on the
same area are
giving us Rs1000, then things will definitely change. Had we done
that I am
sure our priority would have been different," he opined.
Surprisingly, the WWF official said logging, marine
pollution and even
timber mafia was not as damaging as were the large dams -- largely
responsible for reducing freshwater supply to mangrove forests.
"When we started working on saving mangroves
we inculcated local poor
population to save mangrove and catch prawns and fish. And it
We also provided fuel-efficient stoves to the locals so that mangroves
be saved from being used as fuel wood.
"We are working on a project at Port Qasim
Authority near Karachi where we
have 60,000 hectares area which could be covered with mangroves.
Forest Department is also working along with us at Keti Bandar.
could be no lifelong presence of organization like us and somebody
take over. We believe on sustainability and for that community
involved in our project," said Dr Ahmad.
Laos: Dam a watershed for World Bank
Sydney Morning Herald:
Controversy surrounds a proposed large hydro-electric project
writes Connie Levett in Bangkok.
The World Bank is poised to approve a large hydro-electric
dam in Laos,
despite a long-running campaign by environmental groups and Thai
organisations to stop its construction.
The battle for the Nam Theun river is much greater
than the 450 square
kilometres that will be flooded on Laos's Nakai plateau.
This is a watershed decision that could, if the
$US1.2 billion ($1.55
billion) dam gets the green light, signal a significant revision
policy, its critics say. The bank has not been involved in large
projects for 10 years.
"The World Bank is under pressure from powerful
dam building countries like
China and India to get back in, and the current US administration
favour [of dam building]," said Aviva Imhov, of the International
Network, which opposes the project.
For Laos, the poorest nation in South-East Asia,
hydro-electric power is
seen as an export industry. Thailand has already agreed to buy
90 per cent
of the electricity generated if Nam Theun 2 goes ahead. The Laotian
Government plans to build a further 10 dams to take advantage
Asia's burgeoning energy demands, but it needs the World Bank
the projects to reduce the risk for private investors.
Both sides agree the dam will displace 6200 indigenous
people from 17
villages on the Nakai plateau.
"The Laos Government does not have the capacity
nor the political will to
ensure its people are compensated for their losses," Ms Imhov
had already built five dams, and the 58,000 people affected had
properly compensated, she said.
The World Bank's board of executive directors
is due to make its decision
this Thursday, and the Asian Development Bank is expected to meet
later to consider the project.
The World Bank's charter requires that any project
it supports be aimed at
the reduction of poverty and be technically, financially, managerially
economically sound. The bank issued a statement this week saying
were satisfied that the project had been prepared in a way that
these criteria to be met fully".
"If Nam Theun 2 were the sort of destructive
proposal described by the
International Rivers Network, the World Bank would not even consider
presenting it to our board of executive directors," the statement
Milton Osbourne, a political analyst and Mekong
River expert, wrote in the
English-language Thai newspaper The Nation this week: "The
strength of the project relates to the capacity to boost the Government's
future export earnings and play a major part in poverty alleviation."
However, Thai activists are questioning the economic
viability of the dam.
The price Thailand has agreed to pay for electricity
is too low for Laos to
profit from it but too high for Thailand, which could source its
cheaply elsewhere, said Premrudee Daorung, director of Terra,
a Thai civil
The impacts of the project will be environmental
and social. They include
the dam diverting water away from the Nam Theun river system into
Bang Fai river, a tributary of the Mekong. The hydro-power water
would make the dry season flow in the Xe Bang Fai 10 times greater
present, affecting a further 100,000 people who live downstream
on the river.
"Rapids where fish spawn will be flooded,
water coming from the plateau
will be colder. The [Nam Theun 2 power] company admits this will
the collapse of the aquatic food chain," Ms Imhov said.
"The [6200 displaced] people will be moved
to a very small piece of land at
the edge of the reservoir ... The company admits the land is basically
infertile, and nothing can be grown on the land without a lot
fertiliser. The project provides support for three years then
are on their own."
Mr Osbourne, who has assessed the project for
the World Bank, did not
dismiss the environmental and social impacts, but said he had
alternative strategies from the dam's opponents to address Laos's
source: Sydney Morning Herald / International
23.03.05 : New slow-current
turbine invention can change the world
Alexander's Marvelous Machine
From OnEarth, Spring 2005, by Jill Davis
It looks like an oversize eggbeater, but Professor
Gorlov thinks his
turbine can change the world.
It seems impossible that anything of technological
emerge from the basement of Richards Hall, the engineering building
Northeastern University in Boston. It is a haphazard warren, home
discarded office chairs, old lockers, and unclaimed pencils, all
a coat of fine gray dust. But it is also the home of the Hydro-Pneumatic
Power Laboratory, where a 73-year-old Russian-born mechanical
professor named Alexander Gorlov spent a decade redesigning one
world's oldest and simplest machines, the turbine.
Smiling, Gorlov walks over to a cluttered corner
of the lab and wheels out
a gurney. Strapped to it is an object that looks remarkably like
oversize beater from an old hand-held mixer. Still, this is it,
Helical Turbine, which may someday help turn hydroelectric power
of the most important and environmentally benign renewable energy
on the planet. Gorlov's turbine received the 2001 Thomas A. Edison
Award, given each year by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers,
which hailed its potential "to alleviate the world-wide crisis
The first thing to understand is that this is
not hydropower as we know it.
Just as wind turbines harness the kinetic energy of moving air,
turbine has been designed to harness the kinetic energy of moving
even slow-moving currents -- without the need for dams. Remove
the equation and electricity can be generated almost anywhere
flows--in man-made canals, tidal straits, the open ocean, and
rivers. "Ocean and river currents contain a huge amount of
says. "The question has always been: How can we get it without
the environment?" He is convinced that his turbine provides
This innovative form of hydropower is so new that
its pioneers haven't even
settled on a name for it. Some call it free-flow hydropower; others
kinetic, low-head, or simply unconventional hydropower. Gorlov's
one of many jostling for attention and investors. Companies in
States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Canada are building and
their own free-flow turbines, but while the engineering can vary
developers agree that free-flow hydropower has enormous potential.
The amount of power that could be produced from
ocean currents almost
defies comprehension. The currents flowing through San Francisco's
Gate alone, for instance, could produce an estimated 2 gigawatts
per day --
more than twice what the city needs at times of peak demand. The
potential is some 3,000 gigawatts, according to the United Kingdom's
Department of Trade and Industry. The agency estimates that 3
that total, or 90 gigawatts, is economically recoverable using
Source NRDC onearth via IRN International Rivers Network
16.03.05 : Parliament's
environment committee puts future of groundwater protection at
The EEB, Europe's largest federation of environmental
organizations, together with their German and UK members BUND,
Liga and RSPB, are disappointed by European Parliaments Environment
Committee report adopted today, which could endanger Europe's
important drinking water resource - groundwater.
21.03.05: EU Urged to
Stop Water Privatisation :
Civil society groups are calling for a change of course in the
European Union's approach to water
and sanitation in developing countries
By Stefania Bianchi, Inter Press Service (IPS)
A consortium of civil society groups, led by the
Dutch campaign groups
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and Both ENDS, and the Belgian
non-governmental organisation (NGO) 11.11.11, says the European
must end its preoccupation with private sector expansion and instead
support "workable public water delivery options."
In a letter sent to EU commissioner for development
humanitarian aid Louis
Michel to coincide with World Water Day (Mar. 22), the group of
they are concerned about the way "European aid money and
influence is being used to promote policies that are not working
on providing extra money to European companies, rather than meeting
development needs in water and sanitation."
The EU launched a 500 million euro (665 million
dollar) Water Facility for
the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries last
European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, says the facility
"watershed" in EU development strategy and will drive
progress towards the
achievement of the millennium development goal of halving the
people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
About 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking
water, and 2.4
billion people to sanitation.
Approximately 5 percent of the world's water is
run by the private sector
but 95 percent of that is by European companies.
But the group of NGOs says the "water privatisation
wave" during the last
decade has "proven a failed experiment."
"Concrete experiences in developing countries
have shown that multinational
water corporations are ill-equipped to deliver clean and affordable
to the poor. Private sector investment has not brought the expected
financing for water and sanitation for the poor," they say
in the letter.
"We believe that faced by experiences of
what works combined with the
failure of the global private sector, the time has come to refocus
global water debate to the key question: how to improve and expand
water delivery around the world?"
The group says that instead of developing new
policies "based on what
works," European governments and international financial
devising "new mechanisms for attracting the private sector
into water and
sanitation, including various financial instruments to guarantee
"This ignores the fundamentals behind the
private sector's failure and the
fact that public utilities continue to supply water to an overwhelming
majority of those with access to water in developing countries,"
The NGOs are calling for the EU to provide funding
political conditions", and say the bloc should use its powers
other international institutions.
"European public water utilities should be
enlisted to assist in meeting
the water MDGs through not-for-profit public-public partnerships.
international fora, the EU must use its influence to reorientate
policies of the World Bank and other international financing institutions
to end privatisation conditions linked to financial support to
Olivier Hoedeman, research coordinator at the
CEO says the group's appeal
is timely. "We are writing this letter now because there
has been a major
change over the last few years and it's become obvious that private
companies are not the people to deliver affordable water to the
"The moment has come to say that public water
is working and delivers to 95
percent of the population also in developing countries. We need
to look at
how to make it work for the rest of the population. The EU should
take the lead in promoting this for a number of reasons - it's
donor and so has a big responsibility.. There is also enormous
expertise within European public water utilities and this expertise
to be mobilised to achieve the MDGs," he added.
During his confirmation hearing at the European
Parliament in October,
Commissioner Michel said public services were "key to meeting
in developing countries" and that "essential services
should be exempt from
While the NGOs welcome Michel's comments, they
insist that he must act upon
"Michel said some very encouraging things
and made it clear that he does
not support privatisation as the solution to the water crisis,
so that is
something to build on. He now needs to make that clear to his
staff in the
Commission and we hope that he will follow up on those statements,"
The civil society groups say that such action
must come over the next 12
"We urge you to ensure that by the next World
Water Forum in Mexico in
March 2006 the EU will champion a different approach to water
sanitation in developing countries," they said. "By
providing the necessary
financial and political support for workable public solutions,
the EU will
be part of the solution rather than the problem."
18.03.05 : Asia : Rivers threatened as
Himalayan glaciers retreat
Hundreds of millions of people in China, India
and Nepal could suffer water
shortages as a result of glaciers retreating in the Himalayas
due to global
warming, a WWF report has warned.
"The rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers
will first increase the volume of
water in rivers, causing widespread flooding," said Jennifer
Director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme. "But,
in a few decades
this situation will change and the water level in rivers will
meaning massive economic and environmental problems for people
China, Nepal and northern India."
The report states that glaciers in the region
are now receding at an
average rate of 10 - 15 metres a year.
Himalayan glaciers feed into seven of Asia's greatest
rivers - the Ganges,
Indus, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Huang He - ensuring
round water supply to hundreds of millions of people. As the glacier
dwindle, however, reduced irrigation will mean lower crop production,
the energy potential of hydroelectric power will decrease causing
As a result of the glacial retreat so far, the
report shows that three of
Nepal's snow-fed rivers have shown declining trends in discharge;
the Qinhai Plateau's wetlands have seen declining lake water levels,
shrinkage, the absenceof water flows in rivers and streams and
of swamp wetlands. In India, the Gangotri glacier, which supports
India's largest river basins, is receding at an average rate of
23 metres a
The report was released to coincide with a two-day
of the world's 20 largest energy using economies, including China
"Ministers should realise now that the world
faces an economic and
development catastrophe if the rate of global warming isn't reduced,"
Jennifer Morgan. "They need to work together on reducing
increasing the use of renewable energy and implementing energy
By David Hopkins