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16.05.06 : Vanishing Jordan River needs Global Rescue Effort

Wahington, DC, USA, May 16, 2006 (ENS)
The Jordan River is dying and the Jordanian and Israeli governments are failing to come to its aid, according to local officials and environmentalists from both sides of the revered river, scene of many events of Biblical history.

The international community needs to make saving the river a priority, the delegation told a Washington, DC audience, and should encourage Jordan, Israel, Syria and the Palestinian Authority to develop a regional environmental and economic rehabilitation effort.
"We cannot say our governments are doing nothing, but they are not doing enough," said Dov Litvinoff, mayor of the Tamar Dead Sea Region Council in Israel.
The river and the ecosystem it supports, including the Dead Sea, face "ecological catastrophe," said Litvinoff, who was joined at the forum by two Jordanian mayors, a fellow Israeli mayor, the mayor of Jericho, and three directors of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME).
The delegation spoke last week to an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan institute for advanced study.
"We are here to tell the world that we need help to preserve this wonder, to preserve one of the most unique places in the world," Litvinoff said. "We came here to shout loudly - all the mayors - for the world to help us."
Although there is growing international concern about the state of the Dead Sea, the delegation said, most of the world is unaware of the sorry state of the Jordan River because much of the river flows through a closed military zone.
"The fates of the two are clearly connected," said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of FOEME. "We must create an integrated rehabilitation plan."
Three sources flow together to form the Jordan River - the Banias, or Hermon, river; the Dan, or Leddan, river; and the Hasbani, or Senir, river - all from the snowy slopes of Mount Hermon, on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The Jordan flows down into Lake Tiberias, or the Sea of Galilee, 212 meters below sea level. It then drains into the Dead Sea which, at 407 meters below sea level, is the lowest point on Earth.

Bromberg cited ample evidence that the river is in dire straits, plagued by pollution and starved of water. In the past half century, the annual flow of the lower Jordan has sunk some 95 percent - from more than 1.3 billion cubic meters per year to less than 100 million cubic meters. Some 20 percent of its dwindling flow is untreated sewage.
The river's plight is the direct result of conflicts and suspicion that permeate the region, said Nader al-Khateeb, Palestinian director of FOEME.
"All the parties have competed unilaterally to use as much of these resources as possible without paying any attention to their neighbors," al-Khateeb said. "If we continue this policy of unilateral utilization, we will just create more problems."
Jordan, Israel and Syria have all diverted upstream waters for domestic and agricultural uses.
In the late 1950s, Israel began drawing massive quantities of water from the Sea of Galilee and "not a drop" from the sea now makes it to the lower Jordan, Bromberg said.
The latest threat to the river's water supply is a new Syrian dam on the Yarmuk River.
The dam should be operational this year, Bromberg said, and then the two major sources of the lower Jordan - the Yarmuk and the Sea of Galilee - will no longer provide any water to the river.
FOEME is calling on the national governments to take a series of steps to revise their water management plans in order to restore the river.
"The irony is that the Jordanian and Israeli governments subsidize water so much that is it is given virtually for free to the farmers," said Munqeth Mehyar, Jordanian chair of FOEME. "We are subsidizing fruits for rich nations and the economic return is so lousy."

Beyond policy changes, there are other options to boost the region's water supply - namely the proposed 200 kilometer (125 mile) long canal to bring water to the region from the Red Sea.
The Jordan River is an indispensible source of water for the entire region. Combined with desalination projects, the canal could bring fresh water not only to the Dead Sea but also to the lower Jordan.
Officials from Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are working with the World Bank to study the feasibility of the canal.
Litvinoff said the canal must be considered as a possible solution despite concerns about cost and environmental impacts - a view echoed by Wajdy Abdelhammed Masaadeh, mayor of Jordan's Tabket Fahel Municipality.
"It may have some disadvantages but we have to think seriously about it," he said.
Mehyar said his organization is not prepared to endorse the project and is keen to see how it compares economically and environmentally to restoring more natural flows into the river and the Dead Sea.
"We don't have enough information to say if it is a good project or a bad one," said Mehyar. "The problem lies in our governments - they are treating this project with great secrecy. There is hardly any transparency here."

Any rehabilitation effort for the river must consider the economic problems of the people of Jordan River Valley, not just the environmental concerns, according to Mohamed Ahmed Abujaber, Mayor of Jordan's Mua'z Bin Jabal Municipality.
For a resident to feel the benefits of preserving the Jordan River, "he must feel that his livelihood is improved as well," Abujaber said.
FOEME outlined their support for tourism as the future economic engine for the Jordan River Valley, especially given the area's remarkable history and its unique environment.
"We are not against farmers," Bromberg said, "but it is an issue of not putting all your eggs in one basket. The poorest people in the region are in the valley and agriculture is clearly not paying."
In addition the region's remarkable history, the valley is at the crossroads of biodiversity, Bromberg said, bringing together species from Africa, Asia and Europe.
Rather than large resorts, the organization is promoting small-scale bed and breakfasts and hotels along with sustainable ecotourism for the region.
"We see tourism as the economic engine that will justify bringing water back to the river and to the Dead Sea," Bromberg said. "The economic returns would far outweigh the current returns from farming."
Yael Shaltieli, mayor of Israel's Beit She'an Regional Council, endorsed the concept and added that allowing closer collaboration and easier travel between the communities on either side of the river is key to boosting tourism and promoting preservation of the river.
Fences and mines keep the public in the area from the river, Shaltieli said, and "we cannot even approach it."

Peace parks are one solution, she said, both to safeguard the river and to encourage closer relations between communities on both banks.
"The civilians need to gain back the Jordan River for themselves," she said. "We need to rehabilitate the physical part of the river, but we have to make an atmosphere a place where the people can build the bridges among themselves."
A peace park at Old Gesher has been proposed by FOEME and the organization is lobbying both governments for support.
The organization is also keen to see the Jordan River Valley declared a World Heritage Site.
Mehyar said Israeli and Palestinian officials have expressed support for the move, but Jordanian officials remain wary of the plan.
They mistakenly think that declaring the area a World Heritage site "will prevent them from having a free hand" to move forward with the "Red-Dead canal," said Mehyar.
"We are trying to lobby UNESCO to bring a delegation to Amman to explain how the whole system works," he added.
Jericho Mayor Hassan Saleh told the Washington, DC audience that any effort to save the Jordan River Valley must be part of a broader effort to bring peace to the region and pleaded for continued international financial support for the Palestinian people.
"We definitely have hope for peace and prosperity," Saleh said. "The Palestinian people are for peace, they want peace. I am personally here with my colleagues from Israel and Jordan to ask you to not to let the Palestinian people drown in darkness and hunger."

Author : J.R. Pegg
Source : Environment News Service, 16.05.2006

12.05.06 : Black Water Market Drying out Spain Says WWF

Madrid, SPAIN - May 12, 2006
Enough water to supply 58 million people is stolen from Spain's underground reserves each year, drying out already-parched land to feed the lucrative property, tourism and agricultural sectors, a report warned on Thursday.

WWF, formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, said there was a hugely profitable black market in water extracted from around 510,000 illegal wells throughout Spain.
Southern Spain is already one of the driest parts of Europe and according to the government, a third of the country is in danger of turning into a desert.
"In most cases it supports businesses related with agriculture and disproportionate urban development, at the expense of legal users and the environment," the WWF said.
In the driest area of the country, near the south eastern city of Murcia, reservoirs are less than 20 percent full. However, an area about the size of Manhattan -- 6,500 hectares -- is turned into irrigated farmland each year, the group said.
Wetlands that rely on groundwater seeping to the surface are drying out, dropping water levels have left legal users without supplies and some coastal areas now have saltwater in their wells, it added.
Rivers and streams are also drying out as they drain into aquifers -- underground reserves -- starving animals and plants of water.
The report called on Spain's national and local governments to crack down on law-breakers and change policies that encourage water-hungry developments and agriculture, which suck up huge amounts of water.
Spain was hit by drought for much of the 1990s and the last year's dry spell was the worst in 60 years.
The report estimated that around 3,600 cubic hectometres of water are stolen each year -- only 25 percent less than the whole country uses legally.

Source : Reuters News Service for Planet Ark


03.05.06 : Montenegro seeks investor for Ada Bojana

The Government of Montenegro is searching for an international investor for the Ada Bojana Island in the heart of the Bojana-Buna Delta. Based on Euronatur's rapid assessment of the ecological value in the coastal zone between Albania and Montenegro, the island is a unique virgin area and habitat for many endangered species as Logger-head Turtles, Jackal, Spoonbill, Pygmy Cormorant, Stone Curlew and Levant Sparrowhawk. As the human use has been restricted to a small area used for buildings and a part of the beach, over 90 % of the five square kilometers large islands is covered by virgin habitats as forest, marshes and dunes.
"The developer has to protect the ecological value of the Ada Island, as a unique area in the whole Mediterranean Basin. Montenegro offers a great chance to include the preservation of the virgin island into the tourism concept and to create a special offer unique in the Mediterranean", explains Dr. Martin Schneider-Jacoby, Euronatur project manager for the Bojana-Buna Delta. Until 1990 the island was part of the Iron Curtain and only a small part was used as a famous nudist camp. In the development concept of Euronatur for the Bojana-Buna Delta, the mouth of the river is proposed as a transboundary core zone connecting the Ada Island with the Albanian protected area Velipoja.
The tender announcement of the Government of Montenegro for ADA BOJANA includes the obligation to construct an exclusive resort complex, but also the protection of a unique nature site of international importance.

Source : Euronatur, 01.05.2006

You can find more documents about Ada Bojana Island on Euronatur website :
>Euronatur Paper on Ada Island,
> Euronatur Map of the delta with Ada Island,
>and links to the Montenegro Government webpage.


01.05.06 : FEATURE - Tigris Dam Project Stirs Hopes, Fears in Turkey (Reuters).

Hasankeyf, TURKEY - May 1, 2006.
For the people of Hasankeyf, this sleepy, once-mighty town on the banks of the River Tigris is a historic treasure: for those who want to build a massive dam here, it is a backwater in need of development.

"We have to stop the dam, our town will be destroyed," said Hasankeyf's mayor, Abdulvahap Kusen, a staunch opponent of the Ilisu dam project, which would swallow up more than 80 villages and hamlets by the time of its planned completion in 2013.
"Our valley is part of ancient Mesopotamia, where human history began," he said. "When you visit our caves, you get a sense of how people lived millennia ago."
In the sun-baked valley, the minaret of a 14th century mosque soars above a cluster of cottages and tombs. Locals say the waters will rise to the mosque's speakers if the dam -- set to be Turkey's second biggest -- goes ahead.
Only the bleating of goats on the steep hillsides and the Muslim call to prayer disturb the midday silence. A stork flaps lazily across an azure sky. A falcon swoops.
But Hasankeyf's tranquility belies a long history of struggle between rival empires -- and more recently between sharply differing visions of what Turkey's priorities should be.
Opponents of the dam project say the valley's unique archaeological heritage that includes Sumerian, Roman and Ottoman monuments must be preserved, and townspeople allowed to continue their ancient, unhurried way of life.
In a last desperate effort to halt a project due to start at the end of May, they have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in the distant French city of Strasbourg. They are also urging foreign creditors to shun the project.
The dam's supporters stress the need to regenerate the poor, southeastern region, create jobs, build modern infrastructure and provide much-needed energy for Turkey's booming economy.

Open-air museum.
Uncertainty over the dam project -- first mooted in the 1980s, begun, abandoned, now resumed -- has scared away much-needed investment over the years, Hasankeyf's mayor said.
"This is a natural open-air museum. We could make lots of money, but nobody wants to build hotels or restaurants because they don't know what is going to happen," said Kusen.
Nearly 1,000 km (620 miles) away in the Turkish capital Ankara, things are seen very differently.
"This project will save Hasankeyf, not destroy it," said Yunus Bayraktar, coordinator of the Ilisu dam and hydroelectric power plant project in a consortium led by his company Nurol, one of Turkey's major construction firms.
Bayraktar says the 1.2 billion euro (US$1.45 billion) project will create 80,000 jobs and lure tens of thousands of tourists to an area hit hard by years of Kurdish rebel conflict.
"It will inject 300 million euros (US$373 million) into the Turkish economy every year (with the energy generated)."
The dam is part of a much bigger, decades-old strategy to harness the Tigris and Euphrates rivers -- the Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP) -- that envisages a total of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants across the region.
Eighty percent of Hasankeyf's historic sites, including 4,200 caves, are above the projected waterline of 64 metres (210 ft) and so will be unaffected by the dam, Bayraktar said.

Relocating people, monuments.
The monuments that would be submerged -- including mosques, a hamam and the remains of an ancient bridge spanning the Tigris -- will be transported to a purpose-built park and open-air museum nearby. The new lake created by the dam will be opened to water sports. Roads will be built to improve access.
The project allocates 25 million euros (US$31 million) to protect Hasankeyf's historical heritage -- a key condition of the Turkish government for backing the scheme, Bayraktar said.
A new town will be built to house those whose homes are lost. Residents who prefer to leave will receive compensation.
"Around 90 percent of the 3,800 people of Hasankeyf are currently unemployed," Bayraktar said, adding that they would now get work in construction and later in tourism.
Archaeological work will continue in the Hasankeyf valley until the dam is completed in seven years' time, Bayraktar said.
Opponents are not convinced by such arguments.
"If they manage to transfer the monuments successfully, they will still have destroyed the ensemble and its special relationship with the landscape," said Zeynep Ahunbay, an Istanbul-based architect and veteran campaigner against the dam.
"Hasankeyf is a spectacular site ... It has still not been fully understood or excavated. The dam would mean a great loss," she said. Ahunbay is a member of the conservationist group which in March lodged an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.
Environmentalists fear the area's biodiversity, especially its rich birdlife, will suffer.
"(The area) is one of the best-preserved examples of river ecosystems in Turkey," said Jose Pedro Tavares, the Turkey representative of Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. "Unfortunately, the environmental impact assessment study done by the project promoters fell short of international standards and lacks crucial information and recommendations."
In Hasankeyf, populated mostly by ethnic Kurds and Arabs, some even spoke darkly of a political conspiracy.
"The state wants to drive us Kurds from the area, to put our lands under water. They don't like the Kurds," said one man selling trinkets and rugs. He gave his name only as Ahmet.
"If Hasankeyf had been in western Turkey, this project would never have been allowed to go ahead," Ahmet said.

Story by Gareth Jones
Source : Reuters News Service

More information on Rivernet Turkish pages.


01.05.06 : Romania Struggles as Floods Leave 4,000 Homeless (Reuters)

Bucharest, ROMANIA - May 1st, 2006.
Romania is struggling to prevent a humanitarian disaster after floods around the Danube river this month left at least 4,000 homeless, authorities said on Sunday.

Large swaths of land and hundreds of houses along the river, Europe's second-longest, remain under water after weeks of flooding and 14,000 Romanians are still displaced, living in improvised shelters, military tents or with relatives.
"Around 30 percent of the displaced people have no place to go and are staying in schools and in camps we had created for them ... They won't have a place to return to after waters recede," an interior ministry official told Reuters.
"Our efforts are now concentrated to prevent water-borne diseases," he said.
Flooding risk from the Danube has gradually subsided over the past days but officials said many waterlogged dikes could still give way because of the prolonged water pressure.
The Danube poured over dams and burst defences throughout central and southeastern Europe this month as melting snow and heavy rains raised water levels to century highs.
Health authorities in Romania have been distributing anti-dysentery tablets to the evacuees and vaccinated them against tetanus and water-borne diseases such as typhoid.
TV footage has shown military helicopters spraying disinfectants and anti-mosquito insecticides onto villages over a 1,000-km (620 mile) stretch of the river to prevent malaria threat.
But the effort may not be enough, officials say.
"The longer our 1,200 people stay in tents, the shorter the way to an epidemics," Iulian Silisteanu, mayor of the worst hit village of Rast in southwestern Romania told Reuters.
"I've lost hope," says Ion Bita, a 52-year-old farmer from the village of Rast who has spent two weeks in a tent pitched on higher ground.
In Bulgaria, civil defence units are working on draining and disinfecting flooded houses and land along the Danube, officials said.
A team of experts from Belgium is due to arrive on Sunday to help pump out water in the worst hit town of Nikopol, where more than 80 houses and public buildings are still under water.
Upstream from Romania, in Hungary, about 1,000 people returned to their homes on Sunday, reducing the number of evacuees to 1,642 from 2,645.
(Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Ilieva in Sofia and Gergely Szakacs in Budapest)

Source : Reuters News Service.

Read more about the Danube's floods in the French newspaper Libération : Romania, Serbia, South East Europe.
Find information about the Danube on Rivernet special webpages.


28.04.06 : Poutine sauve le Baïkal et son image.

Le projet semblait pourtant arrêté, le début des travaux était annoncé pour l'été : un oléoduc, prévu pour être le plus grand du monde (4200 km, une capacité de 80 millions de T de pétrole par an) devait passer à 800 m de la "Perle de Sibérie", le lac Baïkal, et relier ainsi les gisements pétroliers de la Sibérie aux marchés asiatiques. Le tracé, proposé par la société Transneft, compagnie russe d'Etat chargée des oléoducs, avait reçu l'aval de toutes les autorités écologiques russes, ainsi que de la Cour Suprême et de la Douma. Ce tracé soulevait de vives inquiétudes chez les ONG écologistes, mais aussi auprès de l'UNESCO (le site du Baïkal est classé site du Patrimoine Mondial).
Mais mercredi, le président Vladimir Poutine a surpris tout le monde en ordonnant que cet oléoduc contourne le Baïkal par un détour de 40 km au Nord. Le président russe a justifié sa décision par la nécessité de penser aux générations futures et de minimiser voire éliminer tout danger.
Cette décision a bien sûr réjoui le monde associatif environnemental russe, qui se félicite de cette "grande victoire pour l'écologie". Les ONG avaient en effet dénoncé ce projet, qui traversait des zones sismiques et risquait donc de polluer le Baïkal avec des tonnes de pétrole.
Si cette décision est porteuse d'espoir pour l'environnement, elle l'est moins pour la démocratie russe. Vladimir Poutine apparaît comme le "bon tsar", qui prend les décisions justes, seul et contre tous. Ce nouveau rôle d'écologiste convaincu tombe de plus à pic : la construction de l'oléoduc devrait s'achever en 2008, juste pour les élections présidentielles en Russie. Enfin, le président Poutine démontre par son coup de théâtre que le Parlement et les autorités censées veillées sur l'environnement n'ont pas été capables de mener à bien leur tâche, prenant leurs décisions "en fonction des pots de vin versées et des pressions exercées sur elles", selon le porte-parole de Greenpeace en Russie.
Pour Transneft, ce nouveau tracé devrait coûter un milliard de dollars supplémentaires. Son président s'est pourtant dit "aux ordres du Président, commandant en chef".

Lire l'article de Libération.
Source : Libé, 28.04.2006

Poutine saves the Baïkal lake and his image.

The project seemed to be decided, the construction was planned to begin during the summer : a pipe-line, the biggest one in the world (4200 km, a capacity of 80 millions Tons of oil per year) was expected to pass 800m from the "Siberian Gem", the Baïkal, and to link so the oilfield and the asian markets. This layout, proposed by the Transneft (a Russian State Company in charge of the pipes-lines), received the approval of all the environmental Authorities, and of the Supreme Court and the Douma. However, it was a cause for anxiety for the environmental NGOs and the UNESCO (the Baïkal Lake is a World Heritage Site).
Last Wednesday, President Vladimir Poutine surprised everyone by ordering that this pipe-line makes a detour of 40 km North. The Russian President explained his decision by the need of thinking of the future generations, and of limiting or avoiding any danger.
Of course, the Russian environmental associative world was quite happy of such a decision, "a great victory for the ecology". The NGOs had indeeed denounced the project, since the pipe-line was planned to cross sismic areas and was likely to pollute the Baïkal in case of accident.
If this decision is source of hope for environment, it is less for Russian democracy. In this affair, Vladimir Poutine appears as the "good Czar", who takes the right decisions, alone and against the world. This new role of an convinced environmentalist arrives just in time for the Russian President : the pipe-line should be achieved in 2008, just for the presidential election. Finally, President Poutine shows through its theatral decision that Parliament and Authorities that should protect the environment were not able to achieve their task, "deciding in function of the given bribe and the pressure put on them", according to the spokesman of Greenpeace in Russia.
For Transneft, the new layout should cost a billion dollars more than the initial one. However, the president of the company summarized the problem : "I am a soldier, the President is a commander-in-chief. We don't question the orders".

Read the article from newspaper Libération (in french).
Source :, 28.04.2006


20.04.06 : Satellite helps detect massive rivers under Antarctica

British scientists have discovered rivers the
size of the Thames in London flowing hundreds of
miles under the Antarctica ice shelf by examining
small changes in elevation, observed by ESA's
ERS-2 satellite, in the surface of the oldest,
thickest ice in the region, according to an
article published in Nature this week.

The finding, which came as a great surprise to
the scientists, challenges the widely held
assumption that subglacial lakes evolved in
isolated conditions for several millions of years
and raises the possibility that large floods of
water from deep within the ice's interior may
have generated huge floods that reached the ocean
in the past and may do so again. Prof. Duncan
Wingham, of the University College London, who
led the team said: "Previously, it was thought
that water moves underneath the ice by very slow
seepage. But this new data shows that, every so
often, the lakes beneath the ice pop off like
champagne corks, releasing floods that travel very long distances."

Source: EurekAlert

22.04.06 : American Rivers blasts army engineers for endangering waterways
Washington, DC, USA. April 21, 2006 (ENS)
In the 2006 version of its annual list of America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers, the conservation organization American Rivers is focused on reversing the damage it says has been done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The organization believes that 2006 will be a pivotal year for addressing the mismanagement of U.S. waterways by the Corps.

Read the whole article  
Source : American Rivers / Environment News Service (ENS)

22.04.06 : Sudan Government Massacres Merowe Dam Affected People
Three killed and more than fifty wounded - civil society demands protection of affected people and immediate suspension of project construction and displacement

Lohap, Sudan. April 22, 2006
Merowe Dam militia armed with machine guns and heavy artillery attacked the affected people while they were gathering in Amri School in the project affected area. The Amri communities have been vigorously resisting displacement in the past months. The attacking militia opened fire on people without warning when they were having breakfast in the school courtyard. Three people were immediately killed and more than fifty injured.
Eyewitness say the dam militia attacked the school using 16 pick up land cruisers equipped with heavy artillery and machine guns and opened fire without warning on people who are using school as their meeting place. At 11.00 am while the people were having breakfast, the school was cordoned by the dam militia who opened fire randomly on the people inside. Three were killed immediately :
1) Atta Al sayed Al Khidir Al Mahi (a farmer)
2) Yassin Mohamed Al Khair (a farmer who was released from detention by dam security two day ago)
3) A third whose details are not yet confirmed.
More than fifty people have been wounded in the attack, eyewitness says injuries of thirty are serious and they are in critical conditions. The wounded were drove by local cars owners to the nearest hospital (25 km) in Kariema town.
Further reports from the area confirmed that the dam security have arrested all the people who drove the injured to Kariema. Unconfirmed reports say the number of detainees could be more than thirty.
The conflict between the dam authority and the affected people is about the resettlement places. Whereas the affected people demand to be resettled around the dam reservoir, the dam authority insists on resettling the people in Bayouda desert, a location rejected by the people. Affected people allege that the dam authority has sold their land to some rich Arab investors.
The Merowe Dam (under construction) is financed by China Exim Bank and different Arab Funds, and executed by Chinese and European companies, including Lahmeyer International, Alstom, and ABB.
The Leadership Office of Hamdab Affected People (LOHAP), the Corner House and International Rivers Network call on the United Nations and Western embassies in Khartoum to take immediate steps to protect the people affected by the Merowe Dam from further atrocities, and to investigate the massacre at Amri School. They call on the Sudanese government and all the companies involved in the Merowe Dam project to immediately halt construction of the Merowe Dam and displacement of the affected people.

For further information about the project, see

Source: IRN International Rivers Network


20.04.06 : Nouvelle relance du projet de canal Rhin - Rhône
par Claude Mislin, 13 avril 2006
Le 6 avril dernier, la relance du canal Rhin - Rhône a été décrite comme une priorité pour Christian Estrosi, ministre délégué à l'aménagement du territoire, et pour le gouvernement. Le projet a même été inscrit parmi ceux qui bénéficieraient de la dotation de l'Agence de Financement des Infrastructures de Transport, lors du Conseil des Ministres du 29 mars.
Rappelons que ce projet avait été longtemps évoqué, jusqu'en 1997 et son abandon par Dominique Voynet, alors ministre de l'aménagement du territoire et de l'environnement dans le gouvernement Jospin. Mme Voynet avait justifié sa décision par le coût élevé de ce projet au regard de sa faible efficacité économique, et surtout par les importants dommages environnementaux qu'il aurait provoqués. A l'époque, de nombreux parlementaires de droite comme de gauche s'étaient ralliés à cette décision.
Aujourd'hui, le canal Rhin - Rhône revient dans les discussions. Le but affiché de ce projet est de réduire le transport de marchandise par la route, et d'augmenter le fret aérien, ferroviaire, fluvial ou maritime. Différents organismes (Voies Navigables de France, Conseil Général du Haut Rhin…) sont chargés d'étudier trois possibilités :
1- Une liaison entre la Saône et le Rhin en passant par la Moselle. Cela nécessiterait le percement d'un canal entre la Saône et Epinal sur la Moselle.
2- Une liaison fluviale par la vallée du Doubs.
3- Une liaison empruntant la Saône jusqu'à Port-sur-Saône, avec un canal entre Port-sur-Saône et Montbéliard. Le Rhin est ensuite rejoint via le canal entre Montbéliard et Mulhouse, dont le gabarit serait augmenté.
Le Ministre ne privilégie aucune piste avant que les conclusions des diverses études ne soient rendues. Cependant, la relance de ce projet soulève déjà des réticences dans les régions concernées, d'autant plus qu'existe en parallèle le projet de TGV Rhin - Rhône. Celui-ci devrait libérer les ligne classiques du trafic voyageurs, offrant ainsi un axe ferroviaire pour les marchandises entre l'Allemagne et l'Espagne, et ceci à un coût vraisemblablement bien moindre que celui du canal.

Lire l'article de C. Mislin et l'interview de M. Christian Estrosi.

Source : ERN - SOS Loire Vivante, d'après L'Alsace - le Pays, 13.04.2006, par Claude Mislin.

18.04.06 : Is hydropower possible under the WFD ?

The WFD is a strong defender of sustainable water
management and therefore also committed to the
protection of water bodies. Apart from its
''no-deterioration clause'', the directive
requires member states to ensure that all their
water bodies revert to a ''good status'' by the year 2015.
The WFD creates a strong echo in the
water/hydropower industry. Does it put a stop to
hydropower and its invaluable benefits for our
climate? A study conducted by TU Graz has the
details. The aim of the study was to look at the
WFD and assess its potential impact on domestic
hydropower from the viewpoint of energy and economic efficiency.

Does the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) put a
stop to hydropower and its invaluable benefits for our climate?
A study conducted by TU Graz has the details

Experts at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
Austria claim that some 80 % of Austrian
watercourses are either penstocked, impounded,
diverted, or flow-controlled and therefore deem
further losses as “unacceptable” to the environment.
Against a background of growing electricity
consumption, such losses resulting from the
construction of new hydropower plants appear
likely. WWF refers to a number of plants which
are located either in “Natura 2000 protected
zones” or in “river national heritage areas” as
defined by the BMLFUW and WWF (e.g. Schwarze
Sulm, Koppentraun, Niedergailbach in Lesachtal,
Ybbs, and several watercourses in Tyrol).
The organisation also denounces the “small is
beautiful” concept, arguing that the impact of a
small hydropower plant on a smaller watercourse
is as dramatic as the one a large hydropower plant exerts on a big river.
Says WWF river expert Ulrich Eichelmann:
“Considering that brooks and rivers are ‘limited
water resources’ and hydropower has only a low to
marginal impact on the energy balance, WWF is
strictly opposed to the construction of both
large and small hydropower plants. If we really
wanted to compensate the current increase in
electricity consumption, we would in fact have to
build a new hydropower station on the Danube every year.”
The WFD, too, is a strong defender of sustainable
water management and therefore also committed to
the protection of water bodies. Apart from its
“no-deterioration clause”, the directive requires
member states to ensure that all their water
bodies revert to a “good status” by the year 2015.

As a compulsory EU directive, the WFD naturally
creates a stronger echo in the water/hydropower
industry than the activities of a nature
conservation organisation, irrespective of its international standing.
The EU has sought to minimise the level of
friction – which for Austria mostly arises in the
hydropower sector – by including a category
defined as “heavily modified water bodies” in the
directive. The goal in such cases shall be to
restore the “good ecological potential” by taking
practicable measures aimed at improving the
living habitats of aquatic organisms.
But even this provision could not dispel all
doubts (which are by no means limited to the
energy sector). Many experts fear that a
potential restriction of hydropower usage might
jeopardise the achievement of the climate
protection targets, which from an ecology viewpoint are just as important.

Study shall clarify situation
These concerns find their expression in a study
which was conducted by the Institute of
Electricity Economics and Energy Innovation
(head: Heinz Stigler) at Graz University of
Technology on behalf of the BMLFUW, the Austrian
Association of Electricity Companies (VEÖ) and
Austrian Small Hydropower Association.
The aim of the study was to look at the WFD and
assess its potential impact on domestic
hydropower from the viewpoint of energy and
economic efficiency. The study results have been
accessible to the public since autumn 2005. Heinz
Stigler describes the purpose of the study:
“Firstly, it shall help to implement the WFD in a
way which ensures that ecological and economic
interests are optimally balanced and that
Austria’s most important primary energy source
continues to be produced in the same quantity and quality.
Secondly, it shall help to accomplish the
environmental goals set out in the WFD and to
secure a sustainable management of our water
bodies.” The range of possible effects on energy
efficiency is illustrated by means of different
scenarios. The study investigates residual water
flow *), surge restriction and fish migration enhancement models.
A distinction is drawn between storage hydropower
plants, run-of-river plants with more than 10 MW
capacity and small hydropower plants (with less
than 10 MW capacity). The following section
summarises the financial implications of the WFD
for hydropower plants with more than 10 MW capacity.

Different implications for storage hydropower plants
Especially storage hydropower plants, which
account for a total capacity of more than 10,000
GWh, are said to require a diversified
investigation due to their different plant
design, usage and contract terms. Residual flow
assessments could be carried out in about 80 % of these facilities.
Based on the future residual water flow according
to the residual flow scenarios 1/3 MJNQT, 1/2
MJNQT, 2/3 MJNQT and MJNQT, production losses
would increase from 3 % up to 10 %. As for MJNQT,
the values of individual plants may vary between 0.3 % and 45 %.
The financial implications for large storage
hydropower plants cannot be assessed on a
standard basis due to their different usage and
contract terms. Especially with respect to surge
restrictions, individual plant data have been shown to vary greatly.
“In one storage plant, restricting surges to
ratios of 10 : 1, 5 : 1 and 3 : 1 would reduce
the number of peak-load hours by 14 % – 85 %,
which equates to a financial loss of e 1.3 to 4.5
million annually. In one extreme case, an annual
loss of up to e 70 million was assessed!
Other storage plants render different individual
results, but still in most cases restrictions are
substantial,” says Heinz Stigler. There is broad
agreement by experts that surge restrictions
exclusively caused by a change of the operating
mode tend to diminish the flexible use of storage plants.
Says Rupert Nocker (head of the hydropower
utility centre of Salzburg AG): “We need this
flexibility to ensure a regular supply and to
balance out fluctuations in consumption and
production as they, for example, tend to occur in
the generation of electricity from wind power!”

Run-of-river plants with more than 10 MW even harder hit
The standard work capacity of all run-of- river
plants over 10 MW totals 3,000 GWh, of which
2,660 GWh were assessed in the study. As for the
residual flow scenarios 1/3 MJNQT, 1/2 MJNQT, 2/3
MJNQT and MJNQT, production losses may vary between 5 % and 20 %.
This results in financial losses in the range of
e 4 to 16 million annually. Experts estimate that
the cost of installing fish migration facilities,
depending on the different sensitivity of the
water bodies, will amount to e 60, 65 and 70 million in the period until 2027.

- Residual water flow is a decisive factor for SHP
The 2,070 domestic small hydropower plants (SHP)
produce about 4,000 GWh, which corresponds to 8 %
of the total electricity generation in Austria.
Due to the large number of facilities on which no
detailed figures are available, the scenario
assessments were based on cumulative data from
the federal provinces of Salzburg and Lower Austria.
About 85 % of the facilities are designed as
run-of-river plants, where the residual flow
issue plays an essential role. Says Heinz
Stigler: “Based on the relevant scenarios,
production losses in the range of 10 % to 32 %
are calculated; related to the current
eco-electricity rates, this corresponds to
financial losses in the range of € 16 to 49 million.
These high values mainly result from the fact
that most of the plants are exempted from
residual flow requirements due to their age.
About 90 % of all SHP plants do not allow
undisturbed fish migration. The installation of
upstream fish passage facilities would amount to
€ 90 million (calculated until 2027)!” Not
surprisingly the study results have exceeded the
“worst fears” of Bernhard Pelikan, President of
the European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA).
He criticises the WFD makers who, he says, would
have been well advised to carry out similar
assessments before establishing the relevant
provisions. In doing so, they would have done
sustainable energy production in Europe a good
service. But now they are trapped in the
predicament of having to limit the damage that has been done.
Unlike Ulrich Eichelmann from WWF, who believes
the acceptance of a revitalisation of existing
plants would adequately compensate for the losses
to be expected, Bernhard Pelikan cannot take much
comfort from this. “What about those who have
invested in small hydropower (SHP) and are paying
off their loans? After the ‘resupply tariffs’,
which have earned us a compassionate smile from
our neighbours, the additional investment imposed
by the WFD (in particular as regards the
subsequent installation of fish ladders) deals
yet another detrimental blow to Austrian SHP!”
According to Pelikan, this additional burden is
in stark contrast to the basic WFD principles of
consensus and proportionality. The ESHA President
suggests a straight solution: “The economic
effects of the WFD on hydropower need to be
buffered by public-sector support such as
investment backing, adjustment of tariffs, or tax
abatement. But even then it leaves us with the
bitter taste that we should neglect environmental
protection (as set out in the Kyoto targets) in order to save nature.”

Study said to reflect worst case
The authors of the study point out that the table
of results on page 10 provides only a rough
overview and does not allow to draw conclusions
as to the accomplishment of targets set out in
the 2003 Amendment to the Water Conservation Act (WCA).
“The implementation of WFD provisions does not
automatically rule out the possibility of
building new hydropower plants in the future,”
says Heinz Stigler. Head of Division Wolfgang
Stalzer from the BMLFUW, on whose behalf the
study was conducted, argues that the study
basically reflects a “worst-case scenario”.
“The assessment fails to address that there is
still the possibility of resorting to the
‘heavily modified water body’ category or the
exemption provisions defined in the WCA, which
could reduce the impact on hydropower. The study
also fails to mention that the requirement to
preserve the ecological function of water bodies
in case of water usage was embedded in the WCA
even before the WFD became effective.
Since 1990 not only new facilities but also
existing plants needing a new permit – because
they have been extensively upgraded or their
permit has expired – have been required to fulfil
ecological criteria to obtain such a permit,” he
explains. The examples he mentions include
adequate residual flow specifications, fish
ladders, measures to minimise the impact of
peaking operations, and various others. The
BMLFUW acknowledges the problems resulting for
the energy sector, yet points out that the
effects of the WFD on domestic hydropower could
be minimised. Wolfgang Stalzer suggests the following remedial options:
- Old plants may be upgraded, such as by
installing state-of-the-art turbines, so as to increase their efficiency.
- The minimum water flow may be adjusted to comply with local needs.
- Surge reduction measures should not be limited
to a change of the operating mode, but also
include structural measures such as surge
chambers, discharge stretches connecting to
larger watercourses, or structural adjustments in the receiving waters.
- The efficiency of old plants may be enhanced.
- Any additional potential should be preferably
used to accomplish an improvement, or at least
prevent a deterioration, of the current
ecological status of a water body.

Like Heinz Stigler, Wolfgang Stalzer does not
deduce from the WFD that it seeks to ban the
future construction of new hydropower plants.
However, it will be essential to choose sites and
plant types which keep the impact on the
ecological status of water bodies to a minimum.
Austria has committed itself to increase the
percentage of eco-electricity (related to 1997
consumption figures) to 78.1 % until 2010. If the
lacking amount of electricity of up to 2,900 GWh
per year were to be produced in thermal power
stations, an additional CO2 emission of 1.8
million t would have to be expected (data source: Salzburg AG).
Reinhard Haas, head of the Institute of Power
Systems and Energy Economics at Vienna University
of Technology, believes it would be more sensible
to implement the WFD into Austrian law in a way
that mainly newly built plants are affected. Haas
basically agrees that the EU’s environmental
ambitions are “fairly contradictory”: “While
there is a directive that promotes the generation
of electricity from renewable resources, the WFD
is heading in the opposite direction.
Especially in terms of small hydropower, a great
deal of caution and sensitivity is required.
After all, there still is an unexploited
potential in the magnitude of the capacity
already in place. Besides, many plants have an
additional ‘repowering potential’ which results
from the upgrade of existing facilities. Here the
WFD should also allow for a technical, scientific
and ecological optimisation.”

Other experts believe that in addition to the
best possible use of “heavily modified water
bodies” as set out in the WFD, only a “delicately
balanced” implementation of WFD provisions would
be beneficial for the whole system.

(Source: aqua press Int. 1/2006, Mag. Christof Hahn)

18.04.06 : The Danube ruptures dikes: thousands flee

A raging Danube River ruptured dikes in Bistret, southern Romania, forcing some 4000 people to flee, while 3400 residents in the northern villages of Rast and Negoi had to evacuate their homes. Neighboring Bulgaria faces the same situation and is preparing to relocate 10,000 people as the river continues to submerge farmlands. In Hungary, both the Danube and the Tisza River are at dangerous heights. In Serbia, thousands of people abandoned their homes and some areas could remain underwater for months.

Source: Corriere della Sera / SAHRA News Watch / EWMN


18.04.06 : Danube Floods: Long-term solutions needed for people and nature (WWF)

Floodwaters have returned to Bulgaria and Romania, menacing towns, villages and human lives. Human interventions in the floodplains of the Danube River and its major tributaries have led to a dramatic situation in downstream areas of the Danube. Long-term solutions for flood management are required that work with nature, not against it, by giving space back to the rivers.

As an important step in this direction, WWF urges the Governments of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova to put into practice the solutions agreed by them in 2000 in the ''Declaration on the co-operation for the creation of the Lower Danube Green Corridor''.

more information : WWF Website
Source: WWF

14.04.06 : Un bon état des eaux en 2015: objectif réaliste ou insurmontable ?
Le colloque parlementaire sur l'eau a été l'occasion de revenir sur la question des méthodes pour parvenir à un bon état écologique des eaux en 2015. Un objectif qui suppose, pour être atteint, de revoir l'ensemble des pratiques agricoles et de simplifier les processus de décision.
par Laurent Richard

Le 4 avril, la table-ronde s'est d'abord concentrée sur les pratiques agricoles. Pierre Stengel, directeur scientifique à l'Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), considère que l'objectif de 2015 fixé par la directive cadre sur l'eau est "difficilement tenable". Les pratiques agricoles génèrent en effet des risques de fuites de polluants vers les nappes, qu'il s'agisse des nitrates, des effluents d'élevage ou des antibiotiques donnés aux animaux. Certes, des solutions techniques existent, telles que les "pièges à nitrate", mais il faut que les agriculteurs se les approprient davantage. Il convient par ailleurs de renforcer les filières de traitement et, surtout, de modifier les pratiques agricoles les plus polluantes telles que les élevages hors-sol.

L'Union des industries de la fertilisation (Unifa) émet un autre son de cloche en la personne de son délégué général Gilles Poidevin. Pour ce dernier, "la quantité d'azote utilisée est maîtrisée": elle n'a pas augmenté depuis 1980 et a même permis de produire 50% de céréales en plus… En outre, les agriculteurs se mettent aux bonnes pratiques, en ayant recours par exemple au "fractionnement" de l'épandage (3 passages ou plus par an au lieu de 2). Les résultats sont là, puisque l'on est passé de 38 milligrammes par litre (mg/l) de nitrate en 1993 à 29 en 2004 (l'OMS prescrivant de ne pas dépasser le seuil de 50 mg/l).

Ce diagnostic optimiste est partagé par Jean-Charles Bocquet, qui s'exprimait au nom des fabricants de produits phytopharmaceutiques (Union des industries de la protection des plantes ou UIPP). Non seulement la norme de 0,1 µg/l pour les eaux de boisson est respectée, mais aussi il convient de souligner les initiatives de la profession: création de la société Adivalor, spécialiste de la gestion des déchets d'emballages issus des produits phyto-pharmaceutiques, en partenariat avec les chambres d'agriculture et la Fédération nationale des syndicats d'exploitants agricoles (FNSEA), réalisations de diagnostics par bassins versants (en vue de vérifier le réglage des pulvérisateurs, la protection des berges des cours d'eau, etc.), et enfin, actions de formation auprès des agriculteurs.

La table-ronde s'est ensuite intéressée aux eaux usées. Les entreprises de services d'eau et d'assainissement, représentées par Antoine Frérot, vice-président du SPDE (1), ont tenu à faire savoir que "les objectifs de la directive-cadre ne seront pas atteints… tant que ceux de la directive précédente sur les eaux urbaines résiduaires ne l'ont pas été". Or, beaucoup reste à faire dans ce domaine, par exemple en ce qui concerne le renforcement de la police de l'eau en amont des stations d'épuration (STEP). Des progrès restent également à faire s'agissant de la récupération et du traitement des eaux pluviales et de l'utilisation des nouvelles techniques de recyclage des eaux usées (irrigation, ré-infiltration dans les nappes ou utilisation comme eau de lavage ou de refroidissement).

L'identification des responsabilités est une tâche ardue. C'est pourquoi Jacques Oudin a tenu, en tant que président du Comité national de l'eau, à rappeler l'utilité de structures telles que les Sage (2), créés par la loi de 1992. Selon Jacques Oudin, ces "petits parlements locaux", réunissant l'ensemble des acteurs, sont la solution, au moins au niveau local, pour une bonne gestion des différents usages de l'eau. A condition toutefois qu'ils montent en puissance (il n'y a que 27 Sage validés à ce jour), et qu'ils disposent de moyens financiers suffisants. La question de l'allocation des ressources financières est centrale, de l'avis du rapporteur du projet de loi à l'Assemblée, François Sauvadet (UDF, Côte d'Or). Elle se double de la question de la clarification du rôle de l'Etat et des différentes collectivités territoriales (communes, intercommunalités, départements, régions), dont certaines voient leur rôle renforcé par le projet de loi. Une tâche autrement ardue, qui laisse planer un doute sur la possibilité que l'Assemblée parvienne à un accord sur le texte au début de l'été.

(1) Syndicat professionnel des entreprises de service d'eau et d'assainissement
(2) (2) Schémas d'aménagement et de gestion des eaux

Source : Le Journal de l'Environnement, 14.04.2006

14.04.06 : L´Islande est en train d'être vendue à de puissantes multinationales !
communiqué de l'association Saving Iceland, 12.04.2006
La construction d'un méga barrage hydroélectrique (190m de haut) au nord du glacier Vatnajökull, dont le seul objectif est de fournir de l'électricité à une fonderie d'aluminium qui sera construite par ALCOA (une multinationale qui a de nombreux antécédents de non-respect des droits environnementaux, des droits humains et des droits des travailleurs) est une catastrophe écologique sans pareil en Occident qui va détruire tout un écosystème dans une zone jusque-là protégée.

Le projet de Karahnjukar détruira une large bande de nature sauvage sur les hauteurs de l'Islande. Il s'agit d'un véritable "écocide" :
>57 km2 de terres seront submergées d'ici 2007, ce qui va avoir un impact irréversible sur la biodiversité : sols, végétation, vie sauvage, le paysage (lacs, canyons, hauts plateaux vont être submergés), sur le climat (pollution, fonte des glaciers) et donc sur tout l'écosystème de la région.
> Karahnjukar étant le plus grand et l'un des premiers en construction, d'autres sites suivront (au total il s'agit de 5 barrages).
> Le projet de Karanhjukar aura un impact direct sur 1000 km2 de terre, cependant on estime que les dommages définitifs toucheront environ 290 000 hectares, c'est-à-dire 3% de l'Islande et ceci sans compter les impacts indirects du projet mené à son terme sur l'environnement.
> Le projet Karanhjukar est considéré comme étant l'un des plus destructifs parmi six des projets de barrages les plus néfastes au monde, et ce seulement pour une fonderie.

Les actions qui ont été menées l'été dernier en Islande, campagnes de sensibilisation, manifestations, camp de protestation sur le site de Karahnjukar, et notamment premier "lock-on" de l'histoire de l'Islande, ont eu un grand impact sur le pays et sur les Islandais qui sont désormais de plus en plus nombreux à se battre contre ALCOA et la construction des barrages.

Cet été (à partir du 21 juillet 2006 et ce jusqu'à ce le temps le permette - jusqu'à la mi-septembre certainement) un nouveau camp de protestation aura lieu.

L'association Saving Iceland, se bat depuis le début du projet contre les travaux.
Aujourd´hui, celle-ci fait une campagne de sensibilisation à travers l'Europe et sera à l'Assemblée Nationale le 19/04 de 8h30 à 12h30 pour un colloque organisé avec le soutien de M. Jean-Luc TOULY, Président de l'ACME et SOS Loire Vivante.
Soutenez Saving Iceland dans son action en participant aux débats !
Envoyez un mail à Camila VEGAN pour vous inscrire à la liste des participants.
Pour d'autres infos concernant les actions de Saving Iceland, le projet Karanhjukar et autres détails de la Campagne Européenne, consultez le site :

Source : Association Saving Iceland, 12.04.2006

13.04.06 : UN : China Dam Project Threatens World Heritage Site
Voice of America, Beijing, China. 13.04.2006
By Daniel Schearf

China plans to build a series of hydroelectric power dams on one of the
country's last free-flowing rivers. Officials say the project on the Nu
River is necessary to provide much needed investment and electricity to
an impoverished region. But environmentalists and international
organizations fear the dams will harm the river valley's unique

The Nu River winds through China's southwest Yunnan Province along the
border with Burma and Tibet.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated
parts of the river area a World Heritage site in 2003.

The U.N. agency says the area is China's last stronghold for rare and
endangered plants and animals and is perhaps the most biologically
diverse temperate region on earth.

But there are concerns that a plan to build up to 13 hydroelectric
power dams on the river may harm the unique environment.

David Sheppard is head of the Protected Areas Program at the World
Conservation Union, the organization that evaluates and monitors World
Heritage sites for UNESCO, says the dams could place the World Heritage
site in danger.

"These impacts could be direct, such as impacts on water quality, water
flow, impacts on fisheries and other aquatic species. They could be
indirect in terms of issues such as road construction and dam
construction and people moving into the area that could impact on the
natural values of the site," said Sheppard.

Chinese law requires the government to notify the public about large
construction projects and the likely effect on the environment. But
people who live along the Nu River say they have been kept in the dark
about the plans. The project was delayed in 2004 until an environmental
study could be done, but the report has yet to be released.

Li Zhihua lives in Xiaoshaba village. Government plans call for one of
the dams to be built here and for hundreds of villagers to be moved. Li
says he heard in February that the government was going to build the
dam, but the villagers have received no official notice.

"Even though they are cadres they cannot just tell us where we should
move to without discussing with us. Although we support the
government's project, the construction of the dam should comply with
the law and they should meet the people's demands when it comes to
resettlement," said Le.

Downstream in Burma and Thailand, environmental organizations also want
more information from the Chinese government.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen works for a group in Thailand called Towards
Ecological Recovery and Alliance.

He says a dam on the upper part of the Mekong in China has caused soil
erosion downstream in Thailand and Laos and blocked fish migration. He
does not want to see the same thing happen downstream on the Nu River.

"We would like to see the process of planning and decision more
collective with the other downstream country. And also, we would like
to see a study of the impact, both environmental and social impact, not
just a local area but, looking the accumulative impact for the whole
basin," said Witoon Permpongsacharoen.

Environmentalists say Chinese officials often put economic growth ahead
of environmental protection and the country in recent years has
suffered from increasing pollution due to industrial growth.

But China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao recently disputed
that idea.

"If the effect on the environment is very severe, the Chinese
government will take due measures to protect the environment," he said.
"If the river is cross-border, we will also take into consideration the
interests of people in downstream countries. We are not willing to do
things that will harm their interests."

Chinese officials say if all 13 dams are built they will produce more
clean energy than the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest
hydroelectric power project. The 20,000 megawatts of electricity from
the dams will help feed the country's growing energy needs.

Despite the concerns, the project looks set to go ahead. On the Nu
River, workers drill holes in rock cliffs and the riverbed. They are
taking geological samples to determine the best locations for the dams.

Local officials say the dams will attract billions of dollars in
investment that will improve the local infrastructure and create jobs
in this remote and impoverished region.

Chinese news media report that half of the Nu River residents live
below China's poverty line, and their average salary is $120, about a
third of the national average for farmers. Chinese experts say one in
three people in the area have never used electricity.

Environmental activists doubt that local people will see many benefits.
They say among other problems, the best land in the Nu valley is along
the river, and so will be flooded by the dams. The farmers will wind up
on mountainsides, where the soil is poor.

Many villagers along the river support the dam project. But they worry
that local officials will not compensate them fairly or move them to
good land.

The central government acknowledges that in many cases when land has
been taken for development projects, local authorities embezzled much
of the compensation money that was to go to farmers.

Premier Wen Jiabao earlier this year vowed the government would protect
farmers who are relocated.

"We must give adequate and due compensation to farmers whose lands are
seized," he said. "And, we believe land transfer revenues should be
mainly paid to farmers affected."

Recent Chinese media reports indicate three or four dams will be built
in the first phase of construction. But there is still no confirmation
of the plan from the government and no information about when
construction will begin or where.

UNESCO and the World Conservation Union are sending a team to the area
to investigate potential damage to the World Heritage site if dam
construction goes ahead as planned.

Source: Voice of America. Beijing. 13 April 2006
By Daniel Schearf,
via IRN


12.04.06 : Next Stage of Fox River, Green Bay PCB Cleanup Funded
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA), April 12, 2006 (ENS)
Two corporations have agreed to spend $30 million on the expedited dredging and disposal of the most toxic sediments in Wisconsin's Fox River as part of a legal settlement announced today by the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Office supplies company NCR, and paper manufacturer Sonoco-U.S. Mills Inc. will design and implement the cleanup project. They have agreed to dredge, dewater and dispose of about 100,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) downstream and west of the De Pere Dam.
"The Fox River is the biggest source of PCBs flowing into Lake Michigan," said EPA Regional Administrator Thomas Skinner. "Cleaning up this hot spot is a major step toward eventually removing the Fox and Lower Green Bay from EPA's list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern."
The state of Wisconsin was a partner in today's consent decree, which was lodged today in United States District Court in Milwaukee and is subject to a 30-day public comment period. If the court approves the settlement, dredging is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2007.

Dredge operating on the Fox River to remove sediments contaminated with PCBs from decades of carbonless paper manufacturing.
The Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund Site encompasses a 40 mile stretch of the Fox River and more than 1,000 square miles of Green Bay in northeastern Wisconsin.
Sediments in both water bodies are contaminated with about 700,000 pounds of PCBs that were discharged into the river in connection with past production and re-processing of carbonless copy paper containing PCBs at multiple facilities from about 1954 to 1971.
PCBs are a group of manufactured chemicals. They were widely used in electrical equipment, in industrial processes, and in the manufacture and recycling of carbonless copy paper until research in the early 1970s showed that they pose risks to human health, wildlife and the natural environment. Their use and discharge into the environment were outlawed by federal environmental regulations in 1976.
The ban was successful, but because PCBs bind to dirt and break down very slowly, they are still found today in the sediment of the Lower Fox River and Green Bay. PCBs bioaccumulate, concentrating up the food chain as smaller species containing the chemicals are eaten by larger species. PCB levels in top predators such as bald eagles, lake trout, and humans can be millions of times those found in surface water.
The PCBs at this Superfund site have caused adverse health effects and reproductive effects in fish and birds. Fish and waterfowl in the area are subject to human health based consumption advisories.
"Today's settlement provides for the prompt removal of the most highly contaminated sediments in the Lower Fox River and Green Bay site, greatly improving the quality of the environment and mitigating the harm that the PCBs have caused to fish and birds in the area," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The dredged contaminated sediment is pumped into geotubes, large bags made of a specialized geosynthetic fabric. The fabric is porous enough to allow the water to run through, but traps the solids, compacting them and making their removal and disposal easier. The water is pumped to a treatment plant for decontamination before release back into the river. The sediment is landfilled.
This agreement furthers the past progress made on cleanup and restoration of the entire site, which is one of the largest contaminated sediment sites in the United States.
"It is another important milestone in the efforts to cleanup this site, and it underscores the department's commitment to ensuring that hazardous waste sites are cleaned up and that the cleanup costs are borne by the responsible parties," Wooldridge said.
Between 1998 and 2000, two major sediment removal demonstration projects were completed in areas of the river under agreements that the paper companies reached with EPA and Wisconsin. Those projects helped demonstrate that contaminated sediments at the site can safely and feasibly be dredged.
Full-scale dredging in the uppermost segment of the river began last year under a 2003 settlement with two of the paper companies, P.H. Glatfelter Co. and Wisconsin Tissue Mills.
NCR and another paper company, Fort James Operating Co., are currently performing detailed remedial design work for the downstream portions of the river under a separate consent decree, under the direction of the EPA.
The paper companies also have paid more than $35 million for natural resource restoration projects under several of the partial settlements. The money from those settlements has been used to acquire wildlife habitat that will be protected as state-managed natural areas, to protect and propagate threatened native fish and bird species, and to preserve native plants and enhance bird habitat in areas such as the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
In 2003, the U.S. EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued two Records of Decision selecting the cleanup remedy for different portions of the Site. Taken together, the two decisions would require removal of 7.25 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment at an estimated total cost of about $400 million.

A backhoe with teeth is used to tear into the geotubes. The geotubes and the dewatered sediment are loaded into trucks for disposal at a landfill.
While the Wisconsin DNR and the EPA have specified landfilling as the chosen method for dealing with sediment dredged from the Fox River, they have also allowed for the consideration of alternative approaches. Vitrification is one of those alternatives.
This relatively new technology that involves melting sediment at very high heat and turning it into a glassy material, which can then be used in road construction projects and in the making of concrete and shingles. Melting the contaminated sediment from the Fox River at such high temperatures has been shown in a demonstration project to destroy the PCBs in it.
While vitrification is in many ways an attractive option, there are some drawbacks that could make it difficult to use in the Fox River project, the DNR says.
It has been tested only on a small scale, and the technology is unproven at the much larger scale that would be necessary for the Fox River cleanup. There are no vitrification facilities in Wisconsin that can handle sediment, and it could take up to three years to obtain the necessary permits, find a suitable site, and design and build a new full-scale facility.
The final cost of this alternative is still in question, the DNR says the greater cost of vitrification instead of landfilling for sediment disposal may be offset by permanently removing the PCBs from the environment.
The DNR's Remedial Action Plan for the Lower Fox River/Green Bay Area of Concern establishes a goal of increasing the number and diversity of the fishery through the increase of top level predators in the aquatic food chain.
The state of Michigan and the Oneida Tribe and Menominee Tribe are also cooperating with the United States and Wisconsin in many aspects of the Fox River/Green Bay restoration program but are not parties to this particular settlement.

Source : ENS, 12.04.2006

11.04.06 : Worldwide Wetland Restoration Could Reduce Bird Flu Threat
Nairobi, KENYA, April 11, 2006 (ENS)
The loss of wetlands around the world is forcing wild birds that may have avian influenza onto alternative sites like farm ponds and paddy fields, where they come into contact with chickens, ducks, and geese, finds a new report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Restoring the tens of thousands of lost and degraded wetlands could help reduce the threat of an avian flu pandemic by providing wild birds with their preferred habitat, according to the report authored by Dr. David Rapport of Canada.
The report's preliminary findings were announced today at a scientific seminar on avian influenza taking place at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.

Ecohealth expert Dr. David Rapport is co-founder of the International Society for Ecosystem Health and editor-in-chief of the society's quarterly journal, "Ecosystem Health."
"Wetland depletion has direct implications for migrating wild birds," Dr. Rapport writes. "Wetland habitat world-wide continues to decline, owing to agricultural expansion and urban development, resulting in fewer staging areas for wild migrating birds."
The remaining wet areas associated with rice paddies and farm ponds would be expected to be increasingly attractive to wild birds lacking enough natural habitat for staging, nesting and migration, he explains.
Current "heroic efforts" focusing on "isolation, quarantine, culls and medications" are likely to be quick fixes offering only limited short term benefits, finds Dr. Rapport, an honorary professor of the Ecoystem Health Program, Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario, and a member of the firm EcoHealth Consulting of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.
His report recommends that governments, the United Nations and public health experts back environmental measures over the medium and longer term to counter the spread of diseases like the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu, H5N1.
This strain has killed or caused the culling of 200 million poultry birds in the current outbreak that began in December 2003.

After dying of avian flu or being culled, chicken carcasses are burned at a farm in Long An province, near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The H5N1 virus has been confirmed in 45 countries on three continents - Asia, Europe and Africa. To date, the virus has killed 108 people, all in Asia. Most died after handling diseased poultry.
Health experts fear that the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form of the virus that spreads easily from human to human, triggering a global avian flu pandemic that might cause the deaths of millions of people.
Close contact of wild birds and poultry species is believed to be a major cause behind the spread of bird flu. Clearing intensive poultry rearing units from the flyways of migratory birds would be prudent, Rapport suggests.
"Intensive poultry operations along migratory wild bird routes are incompatible with protecting the health of ecosystems that birds depend upon. They also increase the risks of transfer of pathogens between migrating birds and domestic fowl," he writes.
He also suggests reducing contact between wild birds and poultry by shifting livestock production away from humans and other mammals such as pigs.
The report acknowleges that in some parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, separating poultry from people is at odds with generations of cultural traditions and practices.
"As unpalatable as this may be, where it is clearly in the interest of preventing future pandemics with potentially catastrophic global effects, it can and should be undertaken," Rapport says.

Duck farm in Thailand with newly installed net to keep ducks and wild birds apart, a measure against spread of the avian flu virus.
Shafqat Kakakhel, UNEP deputy executive director, said, "These thought provoking findings will need to be looked at in detail by all those involved in fighting current and future threatened pandemics. However, what this research underlines is that the link between a healthy environment and disease prevention is no marginal topic, but an important component in public health policy, particularly in a globalized world."
He said, "There are numerous pressing reasons for conserving and restoring degraded ecosystems like wetlands."
Wetlands are natural water storage features that filter pollution, help absorb floods, and are inhabited by numerous species including fish. "Their ability to disperse and keep wild birds away from domestic ones is now yet another compelling argument for conserving and rehabilitating them," said Kakakhel.
During their biannual meeting that ended March 31 in Brazil, the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) concluded that a far wider range of species than birds may be affected by bird flu. Large cats like leopards and tigers, small cats such as civets, and other mammals like martens, weasels, badgers, and otters might also be at risk.
The CBD delegates concluded that over 80 percent of known bird species, both migratory and nonmigratory, may also be at risk, with members of the crow and vultures families of particular concern.
Culling of poultry, especially in developing countries where chicken is a key source of protein, may lead to local people killing wild animals for food, the CBD delegates warned. This may put new pressure on endangered species such as chimpanzees, gorillas and other great apes.
The CBD delegates also expressed concern over the development of a genetic monoculture of domestic poultry, claiming that this may make domestic fowl less disease resistant.
The two day avian flu seminar, organized by UNEP, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and the African Eurasian Water Bird Agreement builds on the work of the international Scientific Task Force on avian influenza established by CMS last August, which now includes experts from 13 UN agencies, treaty organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

Performance at the Laipipia Conservancy in Kenya on the occasion of the first World Migratory Bird Day
It was preceded on Sunday by the first World Migratory Bird Day where the main celebrations were organized by internationally renowned author Kuki Gallmann and the Great Rift Valley Trust at the Laikipia Conservancy in Kenya.
To mark World Migratory Bird Day, CBD Executive Secretary Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf said, "Threats to migratory birds reflect threats to biodiversity at large. Indeed, the main threat to migratory birds, habitat loss, is also one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss."
Mentioning high-voltage power lines, habitat fragmentation, and over-hunting, Dr. Djoghlaf stressed that migratory birds now face the unprecedented additional threat of avian influenza.
"Often seen as the vectors of the virus, migratory birds are first and foremost its victims. Some responses to this, such as culling birds or draining wetlands, have been ill advised," he said. "Better responses, involving the protection of the well-being and diversity of ecosystems, species and genetic resources, can mitigate against the spread of such diseases."
The draft report, "Avian Influenza and the Environment: An Ecohealth Perspective" has been submitted to UNEP by Dr. David Rapport, EcoHealth Consulting, with contributions from John Howard, Luisa Maffi and Bruce Mitchell. A final version is to be published soon on

Source : ENS 11.04.2006

06.04.06 : Bathing water: EU Commission starts legal action against eleven Member states

The European Commission has sent a first
written warning to eleven Member States which
have been removing bathing sites from their
official lists and thereby avoiding to apply EU
rules aimed at protecting the health of bathers.
The Member States in question are Belgium,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy,
Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. About
7,000 bathing sites in total have been affected.
Removal of bathing sites from the official lists
should be properly and individually explained and
should not be a response to pollution problems.
Explanations from the eleven Member States are
currently lacking, and the Commission has
therefore asked them to justify their
‘cancellation’ of previously recognised bathing sites.

source : EU / via EWMN
more information ...


06.04.06 : Medha and Jamsingh arrested, the dharna and the indefinite fast continue - Press Release
• Medha Patkar and Jamsingh Nargave forcibly removed to medical institute after 12 am last night
• Dharna continues on 21st day
• Seven people from Dehli join indefinite fast

Last night, at around 11:30pm, a force of more than 400 police swamped Jantar Mantar, forcefully and roughly attacking the satyagrahis who were peacefully sitting on their 20th day of dharna. Medha Patkar and Jamsingh Nargave, on their 8th day of indefinite fast, were arrested, forcefully lifted and taken in an ambulance to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. They have both maintained their fast, Medha refusing IV and taking only lime juice. Meanwhile, over fifty Narmada Bachao activists were arrested, dragged, beaten up and taken to the Parliament Street Police Station where they were harassed and detained until 4:40am this morning. The manner in which they were treated was in complete violation of democratic norms and human rights.
The unexpectedly copious breadth of police presence and brutality at the site was met with determined resistance. Many people were beaten including Kailash Awasya, Arun from Bombay and women from the Mandala slum in Bombay. The high-handedness of police was well reported on several mainstream media channels as it occurred, and coverage continued until well past 2am. The movement is strong and continues to pressure those accountable into forcing the justice of rehabilitation to be carried out. Only in response to such pressure would police be mobilised in such great force. The government’s move was clearly out of panic rather than concern for Medha’s health, as they have still not stopped the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and have isolated her within AIIMS, not allowing anyone to meet her.
Today the dharna continues strong at Jantar Mantar. Bhagwati Patidam is in her 9th day of her fast, as she is remaining at the dharna site. Bhama Bhai and Raja Kalla, also from the valley, are in their fourth day of fasting, while today seven more people from Delhi have joined them. This group includes: Mona Das, President JNUSU; Dananjaoi Tripathi, Vice President JNUSU; Avadhesh from All India Students’ Association; and, JNU Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy. The Bhopal victims, who are sitting across the road in a dharna of their demands for human rights, are performing a symbolic solidarity day-long fast in support as well. Still hundreds of people are at Jantar Mantar, putting pressure on the government to heed the calls of Medha and the dharna, and hundreds more are arriving today.
With pressure mounting from vast media coverage and exposure of the concerns of the people, three ministers are leaving today to visit the valley where they will review the status of rehabilitation first hand and the rationality of construction. The delegation includes Minister for Water Resources, Professor Saifuddin Soz, the Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment, Ms Meira Kumar, and State Minister from the PMO, Shri Prithyiraj Chauhal. This is a symbolic step as the claims of the villagers and adivasis can’t be denied when they are seen visually manifest in the live communities.
Tonight there is a candlelight procession being held in Bangalore, with a solidarity fast being held there on Saturday. There have been various vigils and rallies across India, including four in the valley to which 200 tribal people gathered for each, and throughout many cities including Pune, Bombay and Trivandrum. There has been a huge outpouring of support worldwide. Tomorrow, more than 70 scientists and engineers associated with IITs and universities across India and the US will undertake a one-day solidarity fast, following the release of a Scientists and Engineers' Open Challenge to SSP claims in which more than 250 prominent scientists and engineers slammed the Sardar Sarovar engineers for projecting unrealistic power benefits and luring state governments into ignoring the rehabilitation of 35,000 families in the submergence zone of the dam.
We strongly condemn the brutal and illegal action of the Indian State and its attempts to suppress the non-violent struggle for justice. We urgently demand:
• The immediate release of Medha Patkar and Jamsingh Nargave
• Criminal case registered against the Police Officials who brutally beatup the activists
• Immediate halting of the construction of the dam
• Removal of all false charges, if any, against Medha Patkar
• Just and proper resettlement and rehabilitation of all affected people as per Supreme Court judgement of 2000 and 2005 and the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award.
We caution the government that all these demands be taken with utmost seriousness lest we lose complete faith in the state institutions.

Dipti Bhatnagar, Shivani Chaudhry, Yogini Khanolkar

The open challenge of SSP engineers by concerned scientists and engineers across the world is hosted at the site -

Contact :
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
Email: badwani[at]

Source : Narmada - Andolan news service

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