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


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 water
dolphins now being driven to extinction due to poaching and excessive

The World Conservation Union had recently changed the status of the
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 sprawling
Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems, had fallen to just 1500 from the
already moderate 5000 from the 1980s.

WWF says fragmentation of their habitat by barrages and dams, lack of
awareness and education of the river's stakeholders, pollution of large
stretches in the rivers and killing for oil and its blubber are its biggest

The international body has now roped in local fishermen, school children,
local environmental groups and even armymen, for a riverboat rally to raise
awareness about saving the beautiful animals.

The group is campaigning all along the dolphin habitat in the Ganges,
educating people of the threat these extremely docile mammals are facing.

Parikshit Gautam, Director-Fresh Water and Wetlands Programme, WWF-India
said the river dolphins are the watchdogs of the water and keep it clean off
natural toxins and pollutants ensuring clean water for millions alongside
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 to plug
this loophole.

"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 the campaign
they do care about the nearby areas including the river, including the
species but exactly they are not aware that there is such a serious threat
to the river dolphins. So this campaign basically is part of our education
and awareness programme vis-'-vis dolphin conservation and that's why we
want to do it all along the river so that the major stakeholder, who are
there all along the river are at least aware. The government departments are
coming forward, institutions are coming forward, the schools are coming
forward, so it has really created a very good forum," he said.(ANI)

21.04.05 : Chinese government agrees to protect Yangtze River

Beijing, China – Provincial governors and key ministers from China’s 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 16–17 April, discussed sustainable ways to ensure that the region’s 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 Forum.

"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 world’s 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 China’s freshwater resources – more than 70 per cent of rice, 40 per cent of grain and 40 per cent of China’s GDP – are the direct result of the Yangtze River.

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 basin’s 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 WWF’s 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 area’s ‘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 world’s 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 to 713.

For further information:
Caroline Liou, Communications Manager
WWF China
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 and
environmental rights, according to a new report by the National University
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 of
Ireland, Galway, demonstrates how archaeology in particular supports the
case of thousands of villagers adversely affected by these projects, most
of whom do not appear to have been consulted at all about the dams and
many of whom want to return to reservoir areas, having already been
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 in their
care; yet women have been the least consulted sector.

The reservoirs would submerge evidence for hundreds and potentially
thousands of ancient sites of international importance, including evidence
of our earliest origins as a species, the beginnings of agriculture, and
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 Muslim
and Christian faiths, many still used in religious practices today and
some dating from over 1000 years ago, will go under the reservoir waters.

According to report author Maggie Ronayne: 'The GAP development project of
which these dams are part is destroying a heritage which belongs to the
whole of humanity and contravenes the most basic professional standards.
Governments and companies involved with these projects are ignoring its
serious implications: the destruction of such diverse cultural and
religious heritage in a State with a history of severe cultural
repression. Turkey's progress on cultural rights for the Kurds and others
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 which
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 minister
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 project
documents and plans for Ilisu, which contributed to the collapse of the
last consortium of companies planning to build it. But the basis for the
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 lessons of
Ilisu: the report finds that a range of international laws and standards
are not being adhered to. EU standards in particular are met by none of
the projects. The study also shows that while there have been some
improvements and legal reforms, torture remains an administrative practice
of the State. If this is the climate in which people are to be consulted
about the dams, then we can only conclude that any fair outcome for the
public appears most unlikely. The GAP development project examined in this
study raises serious questions regarding Turkey's process of accession to
the EU.'


Maggie Ronayne, Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland,
Galway, Ireland. Tel: 00 353 91 512298 or 00 353 (0) 87 7838688 (mobile)

Kerim Yildiz / Rochelle Harris, Kurdish Human Rights Project, London, Tel:
+44 (0)207 287-2772. Email:

14.04.05 : Damming evidence of human interference

(Two items on this new SCIENCE study.)
Damming evidence of human interference
Roxanne Khamsi (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 water flow
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 local
authorities and researchers across the world to compile information on how
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 the
country's remaining free-flowing rivers for hydropower. He says that
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 rivers were
classified as 'strongly affected', meaning that the constructions alter the
flow by at least 2%. Australasia - encompassing Australia, New Zealand and
neighbouring islands in the South Pacific - has the smallest proportion of
strongly affected large rivers, at only 17%. The findings appear this week
in the journal Science1.

Current change

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 and South
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 dam
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, UK. He
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 (AP)

By Joe McDonald, Associated Press
BEIJING - China announced plans Tuesday to relocate 400,000 people to make
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 Dam on
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 the
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 which towns
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, is a
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 and were
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 were
required to sign a "letter of responsibility" promising to handle the
relocations properly.

"We must ensure that good arrangements are made for the life and production
of the relocated people, and that the living standards of those people will
not go down because of the resettlement," he was quoted as saying.

The network consists of three sets of canals. Work on the central leg
supplying Beijing began in December 2003, a year after the start of
construction on the eastern section. The government hasn't broken ground for
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, a former
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
per year.

source: via IRN

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 de se
refroidir suffisamment pour se mélanger aux eaux du fond.
La météo rude du début de l’année- 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 l’oxygénation des couches profondes.

Une situation aussi favorable ne s’était pas produite depuis 1986 dans le
Grand Lac. Un brassage presque total s’était toutefois produit en 1999.
Dans le Petit Lac, du fait de sa faible profondeur (moins de 80m), les eaux
sont homogénéisées chaque année.

L’oxygénation des eaux profondes du Léman : un facteur de santé pour le lac !
En été, il se forme dans les lacs des couches de températures différentes
qui ne se mélangent pas entre elles, car la densité de l’eau est fonction
de sa température, les couches les plus froides, donc les plus lourdes, se
trouvant au fond du lac. Lors d’hivers très froids, la couche supérieure se
refroidit et l’eau atteint une densité plus élevée. Sous l’effet des vents,
elle gagne le fond du lac en créant des courants verticaux. Les eaux sont
ainsi brassées. Ce phénomène permet d’oxygéner les eaux du fond du lac.
Cette situation est bénéfique à double titre: la vie aquatique dans les
profondeurs redevient possible d’une part, et d’autre part on évite la
libération du phosphore par les sédiments, phénomène qui se produit
lorsqu’il n’y a plus d’oxygène.
L’eutrophisation, le mal typique dont peuvent souffrir les lacs, est due à
un apport exagéré de substances nutritives- notamment le phosphore- qui
augmentent la production d’algues. Or, c’est justement la décomposition et
la minéralisation de ces dernières qui consomment de l’oxygène dissous,
conduisant à un déficit d’oxygène, 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. C'est le
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 secteur très
controversé des grandes infrastructures. Les risques du projet sont
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 locaux.

« Le Laos a un besoin désespéré de développement », explique Sébastien
Godinot des Amis de la Terre. « Mais ce projet est tellement risqué et
complexe qu'il est peu probable qu'il bénéficie aux populations pauvres.
Dans un contexte opaque et antidémocratique, nous craignons que les
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 existants au
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 elles aucun
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 de deux
affluents. Or la Chine a elle aussi des projets dans ses cartons : elle
utilisera l'implication de la Banque dans Nam Theun 2 pour justifier ses
propres barrages sur le Mekong et ses affluents. Les impacts cumulés sur
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. Il noiera
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, ainsi que
plusieurs banques françaises sont également impliquées.

Pour en savoir plus :

Contact presse Sebastien Godinot, Les Amis de la Terre(France)
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
cherished Tara
gorge, yielding to public pressure and warnings from the United Nations,
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 and a
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. Locals
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 quoted a
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 River
canyon. It would have provided enough power to cut the coastal republic's
energy deficit by one-third, saving some 17 million euros ($22 million) a

UNESCO experts who visited Montenegro in January urged Montenegro not to
build the dam, saying it was a potential threat to the national park.

Source: Reuters

30.03.05 : AFGHANISTAN: Dam burst causes flooding in Ghazni

Source: IRIN

ANKARA, 30 March (IRIN) - The Band-e Sultan dam in Afghanistan's
southeastern Ghazni province burst on early Tuesday causing flooding in the
area, a UN official told IRIN from the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday.

"Initial reports indicated that there was flooding in two districts,"
Martin Battersby, a public information officer with the United Nations
Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said, although he noted that it
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 the river
[causing] water to run into the town. A crane was used to remove the
containers and once that was done the river water levels went down," he
said, adding that according to preliminary reports the situation was under
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 and
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 province
reportedly said that thousands of hectares of land had been washed away and
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 still be
able to send initial assistance to areas reportedly affected by the flooding.

According to UNAMA, the Afghan Ministry of Defence helicopters were
deployed very rapidly to help get an understanding of the problem and there
was also food and tents sent from the Afghan government which arrived
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 working in
the area.

In addition to this, the US-led Coalition forces were also working to
help people in the area, the American Forces Information Service said on

"The coalition quickly responded by providing helicopters and truck
support at the site of the break to help victims of the flooding. Coalition
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 reliable
and timely information for improving humanitarian coordination was under
way in Kabul, according to UNAMA.

Plagued by conflict for more than 20 years, Afghanistan is prone to
various natural disasters, including earthquakes, avalanches, floods and
landslides. Flooding and mudslides are common, particularly in the spring
when snow starts melting. It is estimated that natural disasters have
killed more than 19,000 people and affected about 7.5 million Afghans since
the early 1980s, according to a recent report by the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP).

IRIN news

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 reservoir 120km
southwest of Kabul to breach at around 0900 local time (0430 GMT). The
Ghazni river rose by 1m within half an hour of the breach, sending waters
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

No official information has been reported on casualties as of yet.

26.03.05 : Dam construction destroying mangroves in Pakistan
Shazad Ali
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, whose
concerns are redoubled by the terrifying Asian tsunami disaster last
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 flexible
branches and tangled roots absorbs the initial shock, while the second layer
of tall mangroves serves as a wall capable of fighting with huge waves.

A local WWF official in Pakistan said that Indonesia, the hardest-hit
country with 173,981 confirmed deaths, had been planning to initiate a
project of mangrove plantation spanned over a period of five to 10 years
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. It's time
to review our policies and look at the disaster in Asia. Mangroves stop
erosion due to heavy winds, storms, are excellent wind-breakers and serve as
a wall against giant waves," Dr Ejaz Ahmad, the deputy director of World
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 in
Thailand, India and Bangladesh. But if we see Myanmar there was less damage.
It was obviously because of heavy mangroves there that saved the country
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 there
are three patches of mangroves in province of Balochistan in Sonmiani,
Kalmat and Jiwani, while Indus Delta has swamps at Sandspit, Rehri and Keti
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 and saline
water considered natural breeding ground for trees.

Besides acting as a nursery for fish, shrimps, crustaceans, oysters,
sponges, crabs snails, Pakistan's mangroves are also frequented by about
30,000 migratory birds to save themselves from hard Central Asian winters.
Among the birds that visit mangroves are gulls, coots, terns, dalmatian
pelicans, flamingos, osprey dowitchers, dunlin oystercatchers, waders and
duck. Birds that are permanent residents of the mangroves are herons,
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 for
destruction of mangroves. The network of barrages and large dams has reduced
the freshwater supply to sea which is eliminating the mangroves," said Dr

According to a Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco)
study conducted through satellite images in 1988-89, the mangroves in
Pakistan covered 160,000 hectares. They were found to be reduced to almost
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 their
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 Guddu have
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 indifferent
attitude of government officials. They are ignoring what he calls the
multiple benefits of the mangroves as compared to the narrow economic value
of agriculture.

"Ironically, the decision-makers think that freshwater should be utilised
only for agriculture. But they don't know what they could get providing a
gallon of freshwater to agriculture sector and what they could gain by
supplying the same amount of freshwater to mangroves. They are perhaps
unaware of the multiple benefits that mangroves offer", said the official.

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 that one
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 really worked.
We also provided fuel-efficient stoves to the locals so that mangroves could
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. Sindh
Forest Department is also working along with us at Keti Bandar. But there
could be no lifelong presence of organization like us and somebody has to
take over. We believe on sustainability and for that community is being
involved in our project," said Dr Ahmad.

25.03.05 : Laos: Dam a watershed for World Bank

Sydney Morning Herald:
Controversy surrounds a proposed large hydro-electric project in Laos,
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 civil
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 of bank
policy, its critics say. The bank has not been involved in large dam
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 is in
favour [of dam building]," said Aviva Imhov, of the International Rivers
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 of east
Asia's burgeoning energy demands, but it needs the World Bank to underwrite
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 said. Laos
had already built five dams, and the 58,000 people affected had not been
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 two days
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 and
economically sound. The bank issued a statement this week saying "staff
were satisfied that the project had been prepared in a way that would allow
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 said.

Milton Osbourne, a political analyst and Mekong River expert, wrote in the
English-language Thai newspaper The Nation this week: "The potential
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 power more
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 the Xe
Bang Fai river, a tributary of the Mekong. The hydro-power water releases
would make the dry season flow in the Xe Bang Fai 10 times greater than at
present, affecting a further 100,000 people who live downstream and depend
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 result in
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 of
fertiliser. The project provides support for three years then the villagers
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 seen no
alternative strategies from the dam's opponents to address Laos's problems.

source: Sydney Morning Herald / International Rivers Network

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 significance could
emerge from the basement of Richards Hall, the engineering building of
Northeastern University in Boston. It is a haphazard warren, home to
discarded office chairs, old lockers, and unclaimed pencils, all covered in
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 engineering
professor named Alexander Gorlov spent a decade redesigning one of the
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 an
oversize beater from an old hand-held mixer. Still, this is it, the Gorlov
Helical Turbine, which may someday help turn hydroelectric power into one
of the most important and environmentally benign renewable energy sources
on the planet. Gorlov's turbine received the 2001 Thomas A. Edison Patent
Award, given each year by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers,
which hailed its potential "to alleviate the world-wide crisis in energy."

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, Gorlov's
turbine has been designed to harness the kinetic energy of moving water --
even slow-moving currents -- without the need for dams. Remove dams from
the equation and electricity can be generated almost anywhere water
flows--in man-made canals, tidal straits, the open ocean, and unimpounded
rivers. "Ocean and river currents contain a huge amount of energy," Gorlov
says. "The question has always been: How can we get it without destroying
the environment?" He is convinced that his turbine provides the answer.

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 design is
one of many jostling for attention and investors. Companies in the United
States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Canada are building and testing
their own free-flow turbines, but while the engineering can vary wildly,
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 Golden
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 global
potential is some 3,000 gigawatts, according to the United Kingdom's
Department of Trade and Industry. The agency estimates that 3 percent of
that total, or 90 gigawatts, is economically recoverable using current

complet story
Source NRDC onearth via IRN International Rivers Network

16.03.05 : Parliament's environment committee puts future of groundwater protection at risk

The EEB, Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens'
organizations, together with their German and UK members BUND, DNR, Grune
Liga and RSPB, are disappointed by European Parliaments Environment
Committee report adopted today, which could endanger Europe's most
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 Union (EU)
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 NGOs says
they are concerned about the way "European aid money and political
influence is being used to promote policies that are not working and hinge
on providing extra money to European companies, rather than meeting real
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 year. The
European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, says the facility marks a
"watershed" in EU development strategy and will drive progress towards the
achievement of the millennium development goal of halving the number of
people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

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 water
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 the
global water debate to the key question: how to improve and expand public
water delivery around the world?"

The group says that instead of developing new policies "based on what
works," European governments and international financial institutions are
devising "new mechanisms for attracting the private sector into water and
sanitation, including various financial instruments to guarantee corporate

"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 letter

The NGOs are calling for the EU to provide funding without "blatant
political conditions", and say the bloc should use its powers to influence
other international institutions.

"European public water utilities should be enlisted to assist in meeting
the water MDGs through not-for-profit public-public partnerships. In
international fora, the EU must use its influence to reorientate the
policies of the World Bank and other international financing institutions
to end privatisation conditions linked to financial support to those
requesting it."

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 water
companies are not the people to deliver affordable water to the poor," he
told IPS.

"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 really
take the lead in promoting this for a number of reasons - it's a major
donor and so has a big responsibility.. There is also enormous amount of
expertise within European public water utilities and this expertise needs
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 basic needs
in developing countries" and that "essential services should be exempt from
market pressures."

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," said

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 and
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 Morgan,
Director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme. "But, in a few decades
this situation will change and the water level in rivers will decline,
meaning massive economic and environmental problems for people in western
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 a year
round water supply to hundreds of millions of people. As the glacier flows
dwindle, however, reduced irrigation will mean lower crop production, while
the energy potential of hydroelectric power will decrease causing problems
for industry.

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; in China
the Qinhai Plateau's wetlands have seen declining lake water levels, lake
shrinkage, the absenceof water flows in rivers and streams and degradation
of swamp wetlands. In India, the Gangotri glacier, which supports one of
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 ministerial roundtable
of the world's 20 largest energy using economies, including China and India.

"Ministers should realise now that the world faces an economic and
development catastrophe if the rate of global warming isn't reduced," said
Jennifer Morgan. "They need to work together on reducing CO2 emissions,
increasing the use of renewable energy and implementing energy efficiency

By David Hopkins

Source: edie newsroom




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