Monday, April 30, 2012

China offers billions in loans to South Sudan

China offers billions in loans to South Sudan

Deutsche Welle
28 April 2012,,15916519,00.html

South Sudan's information minister has said the country has been offered
$8 billion in development funds by China. The loans follow President
Salva Kiir's first official visit to Beijing.

Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said on Saturday that China
had offered South Sudan $8 billion (roughly 6 billion euros) in
development loans. The minister said the money would fund initiatives
including roads, hydropower, infrastructure, telecommunications and
agriculture projects.

South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, visited China last week for the
first time.

"China has offered financial funding to the value of $8 billion for
major development projects," Benjamin said, adding that the funds would
be provided over two years, with Chinese companies carrying out the

The minister also said China would "consider" a request to finance an
alternative oil pipeline to Kenya's northern coast that would bypass
Sudan's pipelines.

South Sudan's government is almost entirely dependent on oil revenues -
and on transportation via Sudanese pipelines. The recent, increased
tensions with Sudan have almost halted oil production, with fierce
fighting in the oil-rich area on the border between the two countries.
South Sudan gained independence in a referendum last year.

The South's president Salva Kiir made his first official visit to
Beijing last week, where he met with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

The split of Sudan has put China in a precarious position, as it has
close economic ties with oil operations in the South, while also being a
major supporter of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

(AFP, Reuters)

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Friday, April 20, 2012

TNC commentary on downstream impacts of large dams

Damming the Poor: It's Time to Create River Parks for People
Posted by Brian Richter of The Nature Conservancy and University of
National Geographic Water Currents, April 19, 2012

Chief Omar Abdalla Hama was pleading with us to help save his people
from starving.

My colleagues from The Nature Conservancy and I were visiting Ozi
Village along the Tana River in southeastern Kenya. We were exploring
opportunities to work with local communities, government officials, and
other researchers on a sustainable development plan for the river and
its delta.

We knew that the river's health had been declining. But Omar's pleas
struck us like arrows in the heart.

For nearly thirty years, Omar has been watching his community members
struggle to catch or grow food. For many generations the Tana River had
given them plenty of fish and a fertile floodplain for growing crops.

But then five large dams were built upstream in the late 1970s and early

Those dams capture the rainy season floods, turning the water into
much-needed hydropower electricity and drinking water for the capital
city of Nairobi. A river that once supported hundreds of thousands of
Pokomo people like Omar, and provided nutritious forage for cattle and
camels herded by the nomadic Mursi, is now being harnessed to benefit
others in a faraway city.

Nature's Supermarket

In their free-flowing form, large rivers like the Tana are among the
most productive, life-giving ecosystems on the planet. These natural
supermarkets continue to feed hundreds of millions of very poor people
each and every day.

Many fish species wait for floods to swim out onto a river's floodplain,
where they spawn prolifically. When a fish spawns on a floodplain, its
offspring will have many advantages over other fish born in the river
itself. The water spilling onto a floodplain during floods is enriched
with nutrients, helping young fish to grow. The drowned vegetation of
the floodplain harbors a bounty of insects to feed upon, and provides
places where newborn fish can hide from bigger fish and other
predators. Rivers with large numbers of floodplain-spawning fish
produce far more fish for people to eat than those without floods and

River and floodplain fisheries are a critical source of food and income
for at least a billion people in the developing world, particularly the
rural poor. For example, Mekong River fish are the primary source of
protein for 60 million people.

But growing fish isn't the only way that rivers feed people.

When a river floods onto its floodplain, it leaves behind a free subsidy
of water, fresh soil, and nutrients that make for good farming. Over
thousands of years, river cultures have learned to plant an amazing
variety of crops on floodplains including rice, sorghum, millet,
bananas, mangos and other food and medicinal plants. Using knowledge
passed down from generation to generation, floodplain farmers have
learned to match their crops to the diverse mosaic of soil and water
conditions left by the floods each year.

I've Seen the Rivers and the Damage Done

If floods are the heartbeat of a large river, then a large dam can be as
damaging as cardiac arrest to the people and diversity of life supported
by the river.

I've seen what starvation looks like when a dammed river can no longer
feed those whose lives depend upon it. I saw the desperation when
walking around Ozi Village with Omar. I saw it in the exposed ribcages
of children living along the Zambezi River downstream from Kariba Dam.
I saw it in the hollowed eyes of old men and women still trying to catch
fish to eat below Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze.

Those experiences turned a lifelong nature conservationist into an angry

Just to be perfectly clear: my anger and frustrations have not yet
turned me into a dogmatic anti-dam activist. I fully acknowledge that
the majority of dams provide very important benefits to societies and
economies, including nearly 20% of electricity globally, helping deliver
precious water supplies to farms and cities, and offering flood protection.

But the continuing widespread and callous disregard for those that will
not benefit but will instead be harmed – usually very poor people whose
voices are never heard – still evident in most dam-development projects
is patently immoral. And with some notable exceptions, the response to
this humanitarian crisis from development banks and humanitarian
foundations has been grossly inadequate.

When I have questioned dam developers and ministers of water and energy
about these issues, the uniform justification has been one of political
economy: these projects serve the interests of the greater good for our
country. In simple terms, if a dam project will benefit a million and
only inconvenience a few thousand, then the project should go forward.

I actually agree with this philosophy. It is central to democratic
societies. However, when such 'inconveniences' place poor people at
great risk without adequate compensation or suitable livelihood
alternatives, then the exercise of political economy is inequitable and
should not be tolerated.

More than 10 years ago, the World Commission on Dams highlighted these
social inequities and called for much greater attention. But much
evidence suggests that things have only gotten worse and the casualties
are growing daily.

The common refrain given by dam advocates is that "those
(river-dependent) people need to come into the 21st century," meaning
that they need to adopt more modern agricultural practices or move into
the city and get a real job. Even my conservation colleagues have
questioned whether I am harboring some romantic mythology of the noble
savage living in harmony with nature, whether those lifestyles are truly
desirable, and whether by sustaining them we're simply prolonging a
state of poverty.

My reply is simple and straightforward. Even if these river-dependent
people aspire to a different life, they are going to need a great deal
of help, training, and financial support to assist their transition.
Even a bus ticket to Nairobi is beyond their reach. And the
inconvenient truth is that all the money in the coffers of the World
Bank and the Gates Foundation combined will not be able to support such
a livelihood shift for what may very soon total to more than a billion
dam-affected people (a big challenge is the fact that we don't even have
decent accounting for the number of river-dependent people because many
are nomadic, and networks of trade in river goods are complex and often
based on barter systems).

As a result, dam-affected people are, well, damned.

Last year, Sandra Postel of National Geographic's Freshwater Initiative
and five other researchers joined me in a study that documented the
widespread social and environmental impacts of dams. We conservatively
estimated that nearly 500 million people have likely already been
impacted by dam-induced changes to river productivity. That number
doesn't include the additional 40-80 million that have been physically
displaced by dam construction. As part of our research we created a new
global database that includes case study findings from more than 120
rivers in 70+ countries.

It Doesn't Have to Be This Way

If we cannot effectively help all river-dependent people shift to new
livelihoods in the near term then the only responsible thing to do would
be to help sustain them where they are.

Abundant, practical guidance and plenty of real-world examples exist to
illuminate the way forward.

Dams can be built in places that will have less impact. They can be
operated in ways that better sustain river health and river-dependent
communities downstream, such as by releasing controlled floods from the
dam. We've shown how to do this in the Sustainable Rivers Project with
the Army Corps of Engineers, and written prescriptions for dam operators
based only on traditional ecological knowledge from local river people.
Some of the best real-world demonstrations of restoring human
livelihoods by releasing controlled floods from dams have been
accomplished on the Senegal River in Mauritania and the Logone River in

Tragically, the uptake of these lessons by dam builders has been dismal.

Let's Create River Parks for People

If the dam industry and governments are not going to help dam-affected
people transition to new livelihoods or properly compensate them for the
loss of their homes and food security, then we need to stop pretending
that sustainable dam development is possible.

Instead, I think it's time – while preciously little time remains – to
go back to what we conservationists do best. We need to create river
parks on undammed rivers that are supporting millions of people. We
need to take those rivers off the drawing boards of dam developers.

But departing from the history of conservation, this time those parks
won't be designed to protect nature from people. We need them urgently
to protect nature for people.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

From the Three Gorges to Gibe III: the Great Dam Builders Whac-a-Mole

From the Three Gorges to Gibe III: the Great Dam Builders Whac-a-Mole
By Peter Bosshard, International Rivers, April 17, 2012

Last Sunday International Rivers brought together Dai Qing and Ikal
Angelei, two inspiring river activists from China and Kenya, for a
public event in San Francisco. With the Three Gorges and the Gibe III
dams, they have taken on some of the most destructive development
projects of the past 20 years. Through our global grassroots network,
they have engaged in what may be called the great dam builders' Whac-a-Mole.

Chinese journalist Dai Qing, a Goldman Prize recipient from 1992, has
been the staunchest critic of the giant Three Gorges Dam for 25 years.
She speaks truth to power with courage and irreverent humor. Newly
minted Goldman Prize recipient Ikal Angelei coordinates the global
campaign against the Gibe III Dam, which would devastate ecosystems and
livelihoods in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Degrading whole river valleys and impoverishing large populations
groups, the Three Gorges and Gibe III dams are symbols of a destructive
development model. They are located on different continents, and
separated by two decades. Yet the two projects are connected by
invisible bonds: they are linked by the top-down globalization of the
dam industry, and the bottom-up globalization of grassroots networks.

When Dai Qing campaigned against the Three Gorges Dam in the 1990s,
China depended on Western technology to build the mega-dam on the
Yangtze River. As a condition of their contracts, Western companies had
to cooperate with Chinese partners and transfer their technology in the
process. France's Alstom for example manufactured generators for the
Three Gorges Dam in cooperation with China's Dongfang Electric Corp.

Once the project was completed the Chinese pupils turned around to sell
their new expertise on the world market, and soon out-competed their
Western masters. In 2010, Dongfang Electric won the contract to supply
the equipment for the Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia. The contract was funded
by ICBC, China's biggest bank. Like this the Three Gorges Dam has
spawned a generation of new projects in Ethiopia, Sudan, Burma and other

The Three Gorges Dam has been built, and the Gibe III Dam is under
construction. Yet through our international network, Dai Qing, Ikal
Angelei and other activists have achieved progress beyond the shores of
the Yangtze River and Lake Turkana. In a sort of dam builders'
Whac-a-Mole, we have managed to move one actor after the other out of
the most destructive types of projects.

In 1994, a global grassroots campaign forced the World Bank to withdraw
from the disastrous Sardar Sarovar Dam in India's Narmada Valley. The
Bank adopted stronger standards and accountability mechanisms, and has
stayed away from the most destructive mega-dams since this time. Yet
when the Three Gorges Dam came around in 1996, the export credit
agencies of Western governments jumped into the fray and filled the gap
that the World Bank had left with their own reckless lending.

In the late 1990s, the public outcry over the Three Gorges Dam forced
the Western export financiers to adopt social and environmental
standards of their own. As a consequence these lenders stayed out of the
Merowe Dam on the Nile in Sudan for human rights reasons. For several
years, the project did not move forward. Yet in 2003, China's Exim Bank
decided to fill the gap, and the project was built with Chinese
technology. Under public criticism, China Exim Bank strengthened its
environmental due diligence and suspended some projects in 2007. Yet in
2010, ICBC - China's biggest commercial bank - picked up the slack in
the Gibe III Project.

Since 2010, International Rivers and Ikal Angelei's group, Friends of
Lake Turkana, have exposed ICBC's reckless loan for Gibe III in the
Chinese and international media. The loan is now being discussed as a
case of lacking corporate social responsibility in China, and ICBC has
not taken up any similar projects since 2010. Will global financiers
finally learn to respect social and environmental limits in their
lending decisions, or will new actors once again pick up the next
generation of destructive projects?

Over the past 20 years we have strengthened environmental standards
around the world, and stopped scores of destructive projects in their
tracks. On good days I am confident that we are making progress. On bad
days, I am concerned that we are losing ground. Yet with partners like
Dai Qing and Ikal Angelei, I always know that we are doing the right thing.

Peter Bosshard is the policy director of International Rivers.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Disaster threat in Three Gorges Dam region to move 100,000

Breaking news: Disaster threat in Three Gorges Dam region to move 100,000

(Probe International, April 17, 2012) Nearly 100,000 people living in
the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area face relocation due to the threat of
geological disaster, which has increased since the dam was filled to its
highest water level.

Nearly 100,000 people in the Three Gorges Dam reservoir region will be
relocated over the next three to five years due to an increased threat
from dam-related geological disaster, an official with China's Ministry
of Land and Resources announced this week on China National Radio (CNR).

According to Liu Yuan, an inspector for the Ministry of Land and
Resources, Department of Geological Environment, and director of the
Office of the Three Gorges Geological Disaster Prevention Leading Group,
landslides and bank collapses in [large] dam reservoir areas are to be
expected when dams are filled to their highest water level. He said that
during the past nine years, a number of incidents related to landslides
and bank collapses had occurred in the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area,
but such threats had been managed through disaster prevention and early
warning strategies.

Disaster prevention, however, is 'really tough', said Liu, and the
future was not 'optimistic' for the Three Gorges area. Since October
2010, when the reservoir was first filled to its highest level of 175 m,
more than 70% of the 'risky' incidents that have occurred in the
reservoir area could be categorized as sudden and formed a pattern that
demonstrated an increase in the potential for hazardous and
unpredictable threats. Urgent measures were now required, he said, as a
possible increase in landslides and bank collapses not only posed a
threat to people living in the reservoir region (Liu announced 100,000
are to be relocated), but also, Liu admits, to shipping traffic on the
Yangtze River, which is a site of great interest to tourists.

Shanghai Daily reports that an increasing number of monitoring sites
were seeing adverse effects from the reservoir's maximum water level.

"We will start to deal with the rock falls and landslides at 335 sites
and call for people to work together to monitor the 5,386 potential
danger sites. We also need to replace the affected monitoring sites and
displace about 100,000 residents," Liu told CNR, Shanghai Daily reports.

Liu said his Ministry would work with local governments in the region to
implement disaster prevention and management measures.

A growing list of woes

In May 2011, the Chinese government finally conceded publicly some of
what critics had warned all along — that the Three Gorges Dam project
was troubled and faced a number of concerns: ecological deterioration,
the potential for geological disasters and the status of relocated

In its statement addressing the issue, the government promised to
"properly handle the negative effects brought by the project to the
middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and improve the long-term
mechanisms for geological disaster prevention."

The most dramatic scenario facing the region cited by critics is the
potential for seismic disturbance or even a catastrophic earthquake.

The following is a translation of the China National Radio news report
of Liu Yuan's announcement:

Nearly 100,000 more people to be relocated with the increase of
geological disasters in Three Gorges reservoir area
By Feng Huiling, China National Radio (Zhongguang Wang), April 16, 2012

The Three Gorges Dam authority has tried three times to fill the Three
Gorges Dam reservoir to its NPL (normal pool level) of 175 metres since
2009, and finally got the job done in October 2010.

In general, in the first three to five years after (large) dam
reservoirs are filled to their highest level, new incidents of
landslides and bank collapses in the reservoir area are to be expected.
As such, the prevention of geological disasters is really tough and that
is why around 100,000 people living in the reservoir region are now
facing relocation, says an official with China's Ministry of Land and

Talking to a reporter from China National Radio [the national radio
station of the People's Republic of China], Liu Yuan, an inspector for
the Ministry of Land and Resources, Department of Geological
Environment, and director of the Office of the Three Gorges Geological
Disaster Prevention Leading Group, said a number of incidents related to
landslides and bank collapses have occurred every year in the Three
Gorges reservoir area. But there have been zero casualties and injuries,
he says, thanks to the monitoring in place and a timely warning system
over the past nine years. In the near future, however, he says the
prevention and control of geological disasters in the Three Gorges area
is not optimistic.

Liu Yuan: Over 70% of geological disasters (and risky incidents in the
Three Gorges reservoir area) can be categorized as sudden incidents
(that have occurred) since the reservoir was filled to 175 m (first
managed in October 2010). In some places, the geological disasters (and
risky incidents) are associated with the filling and dropping of the
water levels, and there is a growing tendency (of the situation), so
urgent measures such as engineering projects and relocation are needed
to be taken. In some places where landslides and bank collapses have
occurred along the reservoir, even if no people and housing are there,
the surging waves are dangerous and pose a serious threat to shipping on
the Yangtze River.

Liu Yuan said that in the coming period of time, the Ministry of Land
and Resources will cooperate with Hubei Province and Chongqing
Municipality to properly implement various prevention and control tasks.

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Dam Threatens Tribal Culture

[This is a recent report about one of China Guodian Corporation's first
overseas project in Cambodia. Chinese press reported in November 2010
that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with China Guodian
Corporation after China Southern Power Grid announced they were no
longer pursuing the project. ]

Dam Threatens Tribal Culture

Radio Free Asia (RFA)
Reported by Sek Bandit for RFA's Khmer service
6 April 2012

Cambodia has announced plans to build a controversial hydroelectric dam
in the country's southwest amidst protests by indigenous groups who say
the project will put their livelihood at risk.

Suy Sem, chief of Cambodia�s Industry, Mines and Energy Ministry, told
RFA this week that the government has decided to proceed with
construction of the Chinese-financed Stung Areng River Dam in Koh Kong
province. The Stung Areng Dam will have a production capacity of 100
megawatts when it is completed in 2017, he said.

Sources say construction on the dam will begin next year, displacing
several thousand families.

The announcement was met with concern by the indigenous Chhorng
population which inhabits three riparian communes alongside the Stung
Areng in Thmar Bang district. They claim that the dam construction will
destroy their forests, plantations, and ceremonial burial sites, as well
as their homes.

Members of the Chhorng have requested that the government reject the dam
project, saying that most of their indigenous forests have already been
razed through other development projects and that they now fear losing
their cultural identity.

Pralay Commune Chief Kim Chhe said his villagers don't want compensation
or relocation packages.

"I don't want to lose our culture. If officials come to conduct a study
for the dam, we ask that they please keep our sacred forest as well as
the graveyard forest. We want to keep those traditional beliefs," he said.

Villagers said officials had once conducted a study to build the dam in
2007, but there had been no new developments on the project until the
latest government announcement to proceed.

Dam concerns

Villager representative Korng Chhoy said members of the indigenous
community are concerned they will be forced to move, adding that tribal
peoples are unaccustomed to life on the small plots of land typically
provided by the government for relocation because traditionally they
inhabit the forest.

"As we speak, the villagers are gathering resin and other things from
the forest," he said.

"If they are asked to relocate they will lose everything, including
their houses and rice fields."

Korng Chhoy said the community's ancestors had been living on the land
around the Stung Areng since the Angkor Wat period of the 12th century.

"We are thankful for development, but there are two kinds of
development: If the government brings tears, we don't want it. We want a
smiling development. We don't want to become slaves through
development," he said.

Environmentalists also voiced their concerns over the possible effects
on the area's rare wildlife, such as the Mountain Crocodile and Dragonfish.

Forestry official and Mountain Crocodile expert Sorn Piseth said that
the government would have to relocate crocodiles from the area if the
dam is to proceed.

"The crocodiles will be affected. If we don't help them, they will
become extinct," he said.

Appeal to stop

And opposition party lawmaker Son Chhay said dam construction in the
area would have a far-reaching impact, damaging an ecosystem that he called
unique to Asia."

"I am appealing to the government to stop the project immediately," he
said, adding that several species of rare wildlife living in the area
would be put at risk.

Son Chhay said he would resubmit a request to Heng Samrin, president of
Cambodia's National Assembly, or parliament, demanding that Prime
Minister Hun Sen clarify details of the dam project.

He said he will personally travel to Stung Areng to inspect the dam site
in mid-April.

Chinese companies are currently building two other controversial dams in
Cambodia's Koh Kong province - the Ta Tai Hydroelectric Dam and the
Russie Chhrum Krom Dam.

The Ta Tai Dam will generate around 246 megawatts of electricity, while
the Russie Chhrum Krom Dam will have a capacity of 338 megawatts. Both
are expected to be completed in 2015.

Dam projects in Cambodia are often the source of regional unrest, as
residents of nearby riparian communities face forced relocations and the
loss of the natural resources they rely on.

In March, more than 500 ethnic minority residents of river communities
in Cambodia�s Stung Treng and Ratanakiri provinces held protests against
the construction of a Vietnamese-led Lower Se San 2 Hydroelectric Dam
that will relocate them from their ancestral land.

As many as 2,000 people - most of whom are members of ethnic minority
groups - are facing relocation because of the project, and environmental
activists say nearly 80,000 people will lose access to fish whose
migratory paths will be blocked by the dam.

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international dam projects.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Goldman Prize honors Ikal Angelei's fight against Gibe III Dam

Ikal Angelei Receives 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize
By Peter Bosshard, International Rivers
April 16, 2012

Ikal Angelei, the founder of Friends of Lake Turkana in Kenya, receives
the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco today. The
award will honor an activist who is defending the interests of 500,000
poor indigenous people against a destructive hydropower dam, and has
successfully taken on many of the world's biggest dam builders and

Ikal Angelei grew up on the shores of Lake Turkana, the world's biggest
desert lake. This lifeline of Northwestern Kenya is under threat from
the giant Gibe III Dam, currently under construction on the lake's main
water source, the Omo River in Ethiopia. When she learned about this
threat, Ikal founded Friends of Lake Turkana with a few friends in 2007.
Working together with partners around the world, she started an
international campaign to stop the mega-dam which threatens her people's

Ikal and her friends carried out research on the $1.7 billion project,
educated the local communities and mobilized them for creative protests.
They informed international civil society groups, journalists and
scientists about their struggle. They issued a complaint with the
African Development Bank, which considered funding the Gibe III Dam, and
the World Heritage Center, which is charged with safeguarding Lake
Turkana's universal ecological value. They mobilized national
parliamentarians, and took the Kenyan government to court for failing to
defend local people's interests. (The case is still pending.)

During the past five years, no obstacle was too big and no place too far
for Ikal Angelei's determined campaign. The young activist, who had
never left Kenya before launching her campaign, traveled to Dakar,
Prague and Washington to crash the meetings of international financiers.
She knocked at the doors of government agencies and banks from Rome to
Beijing. She drummed up support for her cause at international civil
society meetings from Istanbul to the small Mexican town of Temacapulin.

Ikal and her friends did not lose the ground under their feet during
their high-profile campaign. In between meetings and travels, they
frequently visit local communities, where they support basic needs with
a school and a small maternity clinic. They educate villagers about the
threat they face and the campaign they have waged. And they try to
mediate the bitter conflicts between different indigenous groups over
dwindling resources. These conflicts have already claimed hundreds of
lives, and will escalate if the Omo River's flow is dammed for power
generation and diverted for sugar plantations.

I have had the privilege of working with Ikal Angelei throughout her
campaign. Ikal has the authority of an activist who speaks from her
heart, is rooted in her local community, and has put her own life on the
line. Her opponents had to learn that she cannot be silenced by threats
and bribe offers. So far, Ikal's determination has only been matched by
the ruthlessness of Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, for whom the
livelihoods of 500,000 poor people are small change. I am convinced that
if she had the chance to meet him personally, Ikal would also stare down
the Ethiopian strongman.

Thanks to Friends of Lake Turkana's campaign, the African Development
Bank did not fund the Gibe III Dam in spite of strong Ethiopian
pressure. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank had to
recognize that the scheme would violate their social and environmental
safeguard policies. An Italian government financier and a big Wall
Street bank also stayed out of the project. Construction of the Gibe III
Project has been delayed by several years, and the dam is currently
about half-completed.

So far only ICBC, a large commercial bank from China, has approved a
$500 million loan for the dam's equipment in July 2010. Ikal has held
the bank to account for its destructive project in the international
media, and will continue to do so. Even in China, ICBC's decision is now
being considered a case of lacking corporate social responsibility. A
few weeks ago, the Chinese government directed its banks to align
overseas projects with "international best practices" on social and
environmental risks.

In May the World Bank, which stayed out of the Gibe III Dam the first
time around, will decide whether to fund a transmission line that would
export the project's electricity with a credit of $676 million. If a
project is too destructive for direct support, the Bank should not fund
it through the backdoor of a transmission line either. The Goldman
Prize, which is awarded today, will give Ikal Angelei another platform
from which she can defend her people's livelihoods against such
destructive practices. Please join me in congratulating Ikal, and in
telling funders to stay out of the Gibe III Project.

Peter Bosshard is the policy director of International Rivers. He blogs
at and tweets at

For more information about the topic, see and

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Power shifts as off-grid options spread worldwide

Power shifts as off-grid options spread worldwide
Ben Sills, Natalie Obiko Pearson,Stefan Nicola


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fooling China's dam builders

Fooling China's dam builders
By Kirk Herbertson
April 06, 2012

When Chinese state-owned companies invest overseas, they can be caught
off-guard by corruption and environmental risks that arise because they
assume the host government will resolve these problems. But after recent
events such as the suspension of the Myitsone Dam in Myanmar, Chinese
companies have conceded that this may be a flawed approach.

In Sarawak—a forested Malaysian state on the island of Borneo— three
Chinese state-owned companies are helping to build a network of as many
as 51 controversial dams to spur rapid industrial development. (Twelve
schemes are firmly on the drawing board for 2020, while there is
discussion of building many more by 2037). China Three Gorges
Corporation, Sinohydro and the China State Grid Corporation are relying
almost entirely on the Sarawak state government to manage the extensive
environmental risks of these projects, and the companies have failed to
respond to numerous allegations of corruption against their business
partners. For Chinese investors, this is a ticking time bomb of local
opposition and a public relations disaster waiting to happen.

At first glance, Sarawak provides the kind of "win-win development" that
the Chinese government likes to promote. The Sarawak government wants to
build the first 12 dams by 2020 in order to produce 7,000 megawatts of
electricity and argues that the dams will attract industry to Sarawak
and lead to rapid economic growth.

The Sarawak government is led by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who
has been in power for the past 30 years. Taib is the state's leading
proponent of dam projects, and he has coordinated an effort to bring
Chinese investors to Sarawak. For example, in 2007 a representative of
Sarawak's state-owned electricity company spoke during a China-ASEAN
forum about potential Chinese involvement in the dams. In June 2009, the
Malaysian prime minister discussed the dams with President Hu Jintao
during his state visit to China. In April 2010, Taib led a Sarawak
delegation to China to visit the Three Gorges Dam and meet with
hydropower developers.

Over time, Taib's efforts have paid off. In 2008, Sarawak's electricity
company and China Three Gorges Corporation signed a US$1 billion
agreement to build the 944-megawatt Murum Dam. Construction began
shortly after. In 2010, the Malaysian government and the China State
Grid Corporation signed an US$11 billion deal to cooperate in developing
dams and related projects. In 2011, with the help of Sinohydro and China
Export Import Bank, the controversial 2,400-megawatt Bakun Dam became
operational after a delay of almost five decades.

But Taib has not provided the Chinese government with a complete picture
of costs and benefits of the dams. The hidden environmental costs of
these schemes will be significant, while mounting anger from local
communities over the projects could lead to major delays. Tens of
thousands of indigenous people will be displaced. Many of the indigenous
people who have already lost their traditional lands and hunting grounds
from the Bakun and Murum dams have found alternative livelihoods and
continue to demand better compensation. The full scale of the impacts is
unknown, however, because the Taib government has not shared an
environmental impact assessment with the public. Public trust is low; no
one believes government promises that the environmental impacts will be

While Malaysia's environmental laws look strong on paper, corruption
prevents these laws from functioning in Sarawak. As widely reported in
the Malaysian media, Taib and his family have a controlling ownership
stake in many of the local companies that have received contracts to
work on the dams. But he also chairs the board that reviews the
environmental impact of dams. This is a clear conflict of interest.
Indigenous communities have tried to enforce their traditional land
rights in Malaysian courts. According to Mark Bujang, head of the Borneo
Resources Institute of Malaysia, there are 327 ongoing court cases
related to native customary land issues. As Bujang explained, "the
courts are beginning to accept the concept of customary land according
to the customs and practices of the natives."

Corruption has also affected potential investors in Sarawak. In March,
the mining giant Rio Tinto cancelled its plans to build a US$2 billion
aluminum smelter that would have used electricity from the Bakun Dam,
not long after the Malaysian national government began a corruption
investigation into the project.

The Taib government has also failed to tell Chinese investors about
the economic risks of these projects. The 2,400-megawatts of electricity
produced by the Bakun Dam already far exceeds Sarawak's current demand
of 972-megawatts of electricity, and the state government has still not
found enough willing buyers for the excess electricity. Plans to export
the electricity to Malaysia's mainland have already been scrapped for
being too costly and technically unfeasible; and so most of the
electricity produced will have to be consumed within Sarawak or other
parts of Borneo Island.

But despite having no immediate use for the electricity, the Taib
government has continued to seek Chinese investment to build yet more

The Chinese government has made significant progress in improving the
way that state-owned companies manage the environmental impacts of their
overseas investment. Yet the dams of Sarawak offer an important lesson.
It is not enough for multinational companies to rely exclusively on the
host government to prevent environmental harm and corruption. Companies
should conduct their own environmental due diligence, consult directly
with local communities, and never proceed with a project until a robust
environmental impact assessment has been completed. This is already
common practice among many of the world's leading multinational
companies and will hopefully soon be embraced by Chinese investors as

In cases where multiple dams are planned for the same area, it is best
practice to conduct a strategic environmental assessment of the
cumulative impacts of the dams. The absence of such studies prevents an
informed discussion of the risks of the projects, to the detriment of
both local communities and businesses.

With such a risky venture, the Chinese government and companies
involved should be asking tougher questions of their business partners
in the Taib government. Where are the studies on the potential impacts
of the projects? What has the Taib government done to weigh the costs
and benefits of this scheme against other, more feasible alternatives?

China could actually benefit more if it could look beyond large
hydropower as the main vehicle for its investments, and instead view
Sarawak as a new market for its innovative clean-energy technologies.

Kirk Herbertson is Mekong campaigner at International Rivers.

This is International Rivers' mailing list on China's global footprint, and particularly Chinese investment in
international dam projects.

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Work begins on final Three Gorges dam

[Editor's note: The official process for hydropower development in China
is that preliminary work, known as santongyiping (三通一平), can only
commence once a feasibility study has been approved. Construction on the
project itself cannot officially start until an Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) is completed and approved. However, the billions of USD
invested into the preliminary work would represent a significant risk to
the State-Owned Enterprise that undertakes the project, so it's unlikely
for a project that has started such preliminary work to be reassessed.
The former President of the Three Gorges Corp. Lu Youmei (the enterprise
responsible for the Xiaonanhai Dam) has stated that this is an important
flaw in China's policy-making process for hydropower projects.]

Work begins on final Three Gorges dam
Shanghai Daily
March 30, 2012

CHINA'S Three Gorges Corp yesterday began construction of a dam that
will flood the last free-flowing portion of the middle reaches of the
Yangtze, the country's longest river.

A ceremony was held to commence early-stage preparation, including
building a road and laying power lines and water pipes for the
Xiaonanhai dam, said spokesman Zhu Guangming.

"Construction of the dam itself will begin only after we get final
approval," Zhu said, declining to give cost estimates.

"The government will give due consideration to all aspects including
environmental impact before issuing a permit."

The 30 billion yuan (US$4.75 billion) dam would be the last in a series
of 12 dams along the Yangtze, the rest of which are all completed or
under construction.

The series will stretch inland from the Three Gorges Dam, which has
created an inland reservoir more than 600 kilometers long that has
allowed the city of Chongqing to develop into an inland port. When
completed, the Xiaonanhai dam is designed to produce 1.76 gigawatts, a
fraction of the 22.50GW that the Three Gorges Dam will produce when it
reaches full capacity.

The National Development and Reform Commission has issued preliminary

China wants to raise installed power capacity by 470GW to 1,437GW by
2015? the largest in the world. At least 110GW of the new capacity will
be from hydro power - equivalent to five Three Gorges hydropower
projects. Current hydropower capacity is 216GW, also the world's largest.

The Three Gorges Dam is the world's biggest power project and was
controversial well before it began construction in 1994.

Objections ranged from the destruction of rare species to the flooding
of historic towns and displacement of millions of people, to concerns it
would quickly silt up and lose efficiency.

In January, China's environment ministry told hydropower developers they
must "put ecology first" and pay strict attention to the impact of their
projects on local rivers and communities.

The Xiaonanhai dam is decried by environmentalists because it will flood
a nature reserve designed to protect about 40 species of river fish.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Egypt losing its grip on the Nile

(Note: this article implies China is supporting Eth's Grand
Renaissance Dam, which we believe to be an error)

Losing the Nile

Egypt has long held unrivaled �historic rights� over nearly all of the
Nile River�s resources. But now all that could be changing as upstream
states like Ethiopia and Burundi seize on Egypt�s post-revolution
political uncertainty to finally wrest at least some control of the
world�s longest river. The result could be mean dire food and water
shortages for Egypt, and maybe another revolution.

Egypt is losing its grip on the Nile
Political uncertainty in post-revolution Egypt is allowing other Nile
states to wrest control of the world�s longest river.

CAIRO, Egypt and MARAWI, Ethiopia � Amid the barren, earth-dug canals
and emaciated livestock that stalk the dirt roads of Ethiopia�s
northern highlands, Teshale, a 25-year-old farmer, waits idly for the
rain to come.

His small, parched field of maize � sometimes wheat, if the weather
permits � relies solely on the area�s seasonal rainfall to produce its
harvest, which fails to turn even a meager profit.

If Teshale could just harness some water from the mighty Blue Nile
River nearby, which eventually cascades north to meet the White Nile
in Sudan, flowing onward to Egypt, he might finally be able to halt
his endless cycle of poverty, he says.

Until now, Ethiopia has lacked both the technical capacity and the
diplomatic support to trap its Blue Nile waters � which give Egypt�s
Nile 86 percent of its own flow � for domestic use. A 1959 colonial-
era treaty brokered by Great Britain gave Egypt, and to a lesser
extent Sudan, unrivaled �historic rights� over nearly all of the Nile
River�s resources.

But now all that could be changing as upstream states like Ethiopia
and Burundi seize on Egypt�s post-revolution political uncertainty to
finally wrest at least some control of the world�s longest river.

More from GlobalPost: Could Egypt be out of water by 2025?

Just 16 days after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February
2011, Burundi reneged on its erstwhile promise to Egypt not to sign a
new treaty that seeks to adjust water rights in the basin. If ratified
by other basin states, the agreement would strip Egypt of its majority
share of the river�s water.

The most serious threat, however, comes from Ethiopia, already Egypt�s
regional rival. In May 2011, Ethiopia announced plans to build a
massive, $4.8 billion hydropower dam � known as the Grand Renaissance
Dam � along the stretch of river within its own borders, despite
Egypt�s opposition to the project.

�Most of us here are eager to use the Nile. But every farmer expects
Egypt to be the enemy,� said Manichey Abey, a 33-year-old Ethiopian

While hydropower dams � used to generate electricity � in theory
eventually allow the dammed water to flow through, Egyptian officials
remain wary of Ethiopia�s intentions. They demanded in October of last
year the creation of a tripartite committee, now at work, to study the
new dam�s effects and are worried the project could set an unwelcome
precedent for more ambitious schemes in the future.

At 6,000 megawatts, the dam would be the largest hydroelectric power
plant in Africa, with a reservoir capable of holding roughly 65
billion cubic meters of water.

�It will be a renaissance for the Ethiopian system,� Abey said. �The
Nile is the main source of Egypt�s economy, and if the amount of water
they use is reduced, it will be a big problem. But we have the right
to use it.�

More from GlobalPost: Video: Ethiopia claims its fair share of the Nile

Such ambitions by upstream states are contributing to the gradual
loosening of Egypt�s 5,000-year grip on its nearly sole source of
freshwater, threatening not only the desert nation�s ability to grow
enough food for its expanding population, but also its political
stability and regional hegemony.

Egypt�s uprising ushered in a period of political and monetary
volatility, stalling the economy, shaking up relations with the US and
kicking off a year of sporadic protests and clashes between protesters
and Egyptian security forces.

All of this has diminished the Egyptian government�s traditional
ability to stonewall both financing and diplomatic support for
independent Nile Basin projects.

�Ninety-five percent of Egypt�s water comes from the Nile. We depend
on the Nile more than any other country,� said Hani Raslan, an expert
on water politics at the government-affiliated Al-Ahram Center for
Political Strategic Studies in Cairo.

�But right now, the [Egyptian] government is only a transitional
government,� he said. �It has nothing to do with the long-term plan
for the Nile, and is only paying attention to our internal affairs.�

The importance of the Nile to Egypt is hard to exaggerate. Like a
slender, green thread, the waterway fastens Upper Egypt in the south
to Lower Egypt in the north, and has nurtured agricultural
civilizations in its verdant Delta for millennia.

More from GlobalPost: Could a lack of food and water spark Egypt's
next revolution?

As a result, and also because of significant US financial and military
patronage over the years, Egypt has long been able to dominate the
terms of Nile basin negotiations, thwarting independent water projects
by other countries and manipulating international customary water law
to maintain the status quo, water experts said.

�Egypt did have, until fairly recently, some kind of ideological
hegemony [in the Nile Basin],� said Richard Tutwiler, director of the
Desert Development Center at the American University in Cairo, a
research facility aimed at serving Egypt�s desert communities.

�They were able to frame the entire issue of Nile waters in their own
context, both within the basin, but more importantly outside the basin
and in international forums and so forth,� he said.

For years, Egypt also skillfully influenced international financial
institutions such as the African Development Bank and World Bank to
sustain its outsized water quota, says Christine Anderson, former
associate professor of international water law at the American
University in Cairo.

�The UN moved on to an international water law treaty standard
incorporating equitable distribution [of water resources],� Anderson
said. �But the IMF and World Bank � upheld their regional alliance
structures in Egypt�s favor � thus preventing any forward movement for
the rest of the Nile states.�

Since Egypt�s revolution, however, its new rulers have made decisions
that run afoul of the organizations that once helped it maintain its
control over the Nile.

Last spring, for instance, Egypt�s headstrong military rulers scoffed
at the International Monetary Fund�s offer of a $3.2 billion loan
package � only to later backtrack and ask again for the funds. They
also brazenly put American democracy activists and their Egyptian
colleagues on trial for attempting to subvert the state, souring
relations with the US, the IMF�s largest stakeholder.

More from GlobalPost: Photos: Just miles from the Nile, Ethiopia's
farmers struggle to find water

Analysts say Western donors are wary, and that the Egyptian
government�s erratic behavior may temper support for its Nile
dominance in the future.

In addition, Anderson said, China�s willingness to finance a number of
Ethiopia�s dams, including the new Grand Renaissance Dam, has startled
Egyptian officials, and indicates a potential new regional order in
which US largesse may no longer secure Egypt�s place as the Nile
Basin�s most powerful state.

Egyptian officials, for their part, remain defiant.

�Egypt has been asking these countries to come together so we can
reach an agreement on the Nile,� said Al Ahram�s Raslan, adding that
because Egypt receives negligible rainfall, its water quota should
remain the same under any new agreement.

�But no one is responding to Egypt�s call. These countries, especially
Ethiopia, are making a grave mistake,� he said. �Because Egypt is not
a weak country. If it was ever in real peril, it won�t be silent.�

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Uganda: Karuma corruption?

Uganda's second big dam in a decade; the first, Bujagali, was delayed
because of corruption; now it looks like Karuma suffers from
corruption too. The other controversy is that Uganda wants to build a
higher-capacity dam than the river can support, and is ignoring
international advice on this aspect. This would be the third large dam
in Uganda to be unable to produce the full amount of power the dam
promoters claim.

Karuma tender board probed over $1.2m �bribe�

By MICHAEL WAKABI (email the author)

Posted Saturday, March 31 2012 at 13:15

Uganda�s planned 660MW Karuma Hydro Power Station has run into early
trouble with police investigating allegations of possible bribery in
the project, whose estimated contract value is $1.6 billion.

The EasAfrican has learnt that members of the 12-man bid evaluation
committee appeared before the Special Investigation Unit of the police
last Tuesday, to respond to allegations that they had pre-qualified a
Chinese firm with doubtful credentials after some $1.2 million changed

(Read: Donors query Uganda on excess capacity in Karuma dam)

It is further understood that as part of the continuing fallout from
the flawed bid evaluation process, three members of the committee are
writing a minority report that is at variance with the majority
position that favoured the inclusion of the Chinese firm among the
three pre-qualified bidders from which a contractor for construction
of the power plant will be selected.

While a senior figure in the Ministry of Energy declined to comment on
the developments �because I have heard the same rumours but I don�t
have specific details at the moment,� he confirmed that members of the
evaluation committee had indeed been questioned by police in relation
to the allegations. Police are trying to establish the circumstances
under which the China International Water and Electric Corporation,
CWE, made it to the final list, despite glaring inconsistencies in its
bid documents.

According to documents that The EastAfrican has seen, in August 2010,
the Ministry of Energy sent out a request for proposals for the
construction of the Karuma power plant. Among the key conditions for
eligibility was a requirement that the contractor demonstrate that it
had undertaken works involving construction of an EPC project with an
underground power house, a total tunnel length of at least 20
kilometres with a suitable excavation technology and a generation
capacity of 600MW or more. The bidders were also required to
demonstrate they had handled three similar projects in the past five

Six firms, among them Sino-Hydro, China International Water and
Electric Corporation, Iran Par Light, Salini, Vince (in partnership
with Group 5 of South Africa) and Egypt�s Orascom submitted bids for
the engineering procurement and engineering contract for the project.
After evaluation, Sino-Hydro, CWE and Iran Par Light were pre-
qualified ahead of final selection of a winning bid. The CWE bid
however, raised eyebrows after it emerged that some of the claims it
made in its bid documents about its experience were in conflict with
facts about the same projects from other sources, including its own

For instance, whereas CWE claimed to have constructed the QingShan
Hydropower Station to a capacity of 640MW supplied by four generation
units, the takeover certificate signed by the station�s operator on
June 26, 2006, puts the plant�s capacity at 20MW supplied from two
units of 10MW each. CWE also claims the contract was worth
$351,650,213 when actual cost was in the region of $20 million.

CWE�s claims

In it bid documents, CWE also states it designed and commissioned the
300MW Moinak Hydropower Station in Kazakhstan, where it claims to have
tunnelled to a length of 21 kilometres. However, on its website, CWE
states a tunnel length of only 9.2 kilometres. For the Daingjiang-2
hydropower station, CWE claims a capacity of 600MW and a 26-kilometre
tunnel whereas supporting documentation for the project indicates an
installed capacity of only 70MW and a 1.2 kilometre long tunnel.
Contrary to the $315,560,827 it assigns the contract, the actual
project cost just $63,392,116.

For the 40.5MW Leiyang power station that it claims to have built in
China, CWE assigns a capacity of 405MW and cost of $260,521,125 in the
bid documents it submitted to Uganda, rather than the actual cost,
which was $68 million. Closer home in Sudan, CWE claims to have been
the main contractor of the 120MW Merowe power station, whereas
available information indicates that its partner in the joint venture,
CCMC, was the actual lead contractor. These inconsistencies have led
to fears that if CWE were to get the Karuma contract, the whole
project would be at risk.

Karuma is intended to forestall a possible return to massive
electricity rationing and thermal generation in 2016, when demand is
expected to overtake the new capacity being supplied by the 250MW
Bujagali Hydro Power Station.

Speculating on options for Uganda in light of the tendering scandal,
the senior Ministry of Energy official suggested that to avoid delays
that would be associated with re-tendering and �a possible return of
the same issues,� one solution would be to proceed with the evaluation
process normally and then disqualify CWE and blacklist it from future
participation in Uganda projects. This would be the prudent course
given the importance of this project to the national economy,� he said.

That would leave only Sino-Hydro and Iran Par Light in the race, but
with international sanctions hanging over Iran, it would be foolhardy
to trust the latter firm with a huge tender at the moment.

The new turn of events appears to vindicate earlier concerns expressed
by Western donors, who were baffled by Uganda�s refusal to involve
them in the procurement process for Karuma Hydro, even when the advice
was offered free of charge.

When contacted, however, Assistant Commissioner Electrical Power
Division Henry Bidasala, a member of the committee that is under
investigation, said the project was progressing well and was halfway
through the bidding process. The suspect committee is made up of
representatives from the Energy, Finance, Works, Water and Environment

Related, earlier editorial:


Karuma dam: Is it wise to lock out donors?
Share BookmarkPrint Email Rating

Posted Sunday, January 22 2012 at 15:29

Uganda is locked in a standoff with its erstwhile donors over the
logical design and development framework for the proposed Karuma
hydropower station.

From Uganda�s preferred rating of 660 megawatts to the procurement
process, which so far appears open and transparent, Western
development partners are concerned. For one, they argue that their own
hydrological studies of the portion of the Nile where the power
station is going to be built show that the water flow cannot support
that output 70 per cent of the year.

But flush with money and a newfound sense of independence the Ugandans
are not listening. Ostensibly stung by delays to the Bujagali power
project, which stalled in the early 1990s as donors queried every
aspect of the project, the Ugandans don�t want a repeat. In the event,
they have locked the donors and their offers of �free� technical
advice out of the procurement process.

But if the aim were to get the best deal, there should be no harm in
considering alternative views, especially when they are coming at no
cost. Years before the 200MW Kiira power station became a white
elephant, fringe opinion warned that it would not deliver to

Then as now, an arrogant bureaucracy dismissed contrarian thinking.
Today, consumers are paying a heavy price by way of power rationing
and skyrocketing tariffs as a consequence of expensive, ill-structured
contracts for thermal generation. The current mess that concessioning
generation and distribution to private operators is mired in also
ample demonstrates that we are not as smart as we would like to think.

In the circumstances, there is no plausible reason for locking out
alternative knowledge other than setting the country up for another
grand scam.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Iceland Government suspends plans for three big dams following a successful salmon protection campaign

One dam thing after another! Iceland Government suspends plans for three
big dams following a successful salmon protection campaign
The Salmon Atlas, April 4, 2012

The Icelandic Government has accepted NASF's objections to a new
hydro-lectric generating scheme on Iceland's biggest river and suspended
the plans to build three dams to power generation plants. NASF had urged
the Government to adopt a precautionary approach to proposals by
Landsvirkjun, Iceland's biggest power company, to harness power from the
river Thjorsá. A proposal to this effect will now be presented to the
Icelandic Parliament.

The Thjórsá, the country's biggest river system, originates in the
mighty Hofsjökull glacier in the middle of Iceland. It hosts Iceland´s
biggest sustainable wild salmon stock and also holds brown trout, sea
trout and some char. Nearly 90% of the natural fish habitat in the river
lies above the Urridafoss waterfall and revolutionary changes were
proposed to the flow of the river. NASF warned the government that this
would create huge losses of habitat and nursery areas for juvenile salmon.

Using taxpayers cash the power company, has invested heavily in the
projects but had failed to fully assess the colossal damage to the
natural environment that could be caused. It had also failed to consult
with the river owners and merely cited the "Columbia and Snake rivers in
the Northwest United States as evidence of their good intentions. Twenty
years ago the river owners around Thjórsá negotiated a deal that
provided them with a fish ladder at the Buda waterfall. It appears to be
reasonably successful but many of the river owners say it is just a
start to huge salmon enhancement activities envisoned for the whole
river system.

Over the last decade or so Iceland river catches have doubled and
trebled following the strict protection and enhancement schemes that
progressive angling operators and river owners in Iceland have
introduced. These include conservation deals in the marine environment,
coastal nets buyouts, catch-&-release, carefully focused stocking
projects and a variety of other innovative enhancment work.

Orri Vigfusson, chairman of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) says
that schemes like the now-suspended Thjórsá plan should be an
international issue and be related to climate changes. "As glaciers
shrink the snow melt from which many rivers spring will reduce. As sea
levels rise, salination of the lower reaches will increase" he said.

Far from building new dams we need to accelerate their removal. In the
last ten years only 410 American dams were removed and there are 84,000
more. Demolishing big obstructions like hydro dams will improve natural
river flows and the production of feed and oxygen for the fish, mammals
and invertebrates that live in or around a river. Hopefully marine life
will also stand to benefit.

In Maine, the 160-year-old Edward Dam was removed from the Kennebec
River in 1999 and today the river boasts a thriving and diverse fishery.
Undamming the Elwha river in Washington is expected to boost its salmon
population from 3,000 to 400,000 and this will attract bears, eagles and
other wildlife that thrived before the river dams were built in 1914.

NASF is currently supporting plans to remove dams obstructing wild
salmon runs in the Sélune river in the Mont-Saint-Michel area of
Normandy in France. It is also supporting an Atlantic Salmon Federation
project to remove the dams on the Penobscot river in Maine that would
open up a thousand miles of new salmon habitat.

In submitting its biological and environmental assessment, NASF sought
the advice of Dr Margaret Filardo, Fishery Biologist and Michele DeHart,
Manager of the Fish Passage Center in Oregon. A host of Icelandic
experts including the Thórsá river board have advised and participated
in the NASF assessment of this project.

"We now need a few years to explore the real opportunities the Thórsá
river system can offer," Orri Vigfusson said. "Our focus will be on the
salmon stocks and we shall use the vast expertise our worldwide teams
have amassed over the last 20 years. We hope to develop a master plan
for a massive salmon enhancement programme throughout this uniquely
productive water system. Simultaneously we shall need to develop angling
programmes and encourage eco-tourism and a host of other projects that
will create new jobs and new income revenues for the local population
that live beside this huge river."

The North Atlantic Salmon Fund, NASF, is an international coalition of
voluntary private sector conservation groups who have come together to
restore stocks of wild Atlantic salmon to their historic abundance.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Leaked document says CPI "planning to restart" Myitsone dam project

Leaked document says CPI "planning to restart" Myitsone dam project
04 April 2012
Kachin News Group

The letter written by the chief in charge of the Tengchong-Myitkyina
Road Liaison Office is according to the Kachin Development Networking
Group (KDNG) solid proof refuting President Thein Sein's September 30,
2011 announcement that project was suspended.

"CPI never stopped this project and now they want to bring in even more
workers and materials" said KDNG spokesperson Ah Nan in a statement sent
by the group on Tuesday.

"If the Myitsone dam was really suspended, the government would not
allow any new workers to come in and all those remaining would be sent
back to China", Ah Nan added.

A recent article by the Chinese language edition of Bloomberg
BussinessWeek says that 200 Chinese workers remain at the dam site
months after Thein Sein's official statement that the project would be

Although President Thein Sein announced on September 30 that
construction of the Myitsone dam would be suspended during his term in
office, none of the more than 2,000 residents of the five villages that
were forcibly relocated to make way for the dam have received permission
to return.

Last month a large number of Burma army soldiers were sent to Tang Hpre
(also Tanghpre), one of the villages near the dam site, to enforce an
eviction order against residents who tried to reclaim their homes
following the official suspension of the project.

The planned 152-meter high Myitsone dam was to be the first in a series
of seven dams that CPI will build on the upper Irrawaddy which according
to the dam's opponents would flood an area larger than Singapore and
dramatically affect the lives of millions of people who live downstream,
including in the Irrawaddy delta, home to two thirds of Burma�s rice

To build the series of dams which according to Chinese state media will
produce a combined output of electricity that rivals the Three Gorges
dam, CPI partnered with Burma's state power utility Myanma Electric
Power Enterprise (MEPE) and Asia World. The latter is a Burmese
conglomerate, owned by Steven Law and his father Lo Hsing Han (or Law
Sit Han), both alleged by the US government to be major
narco-traffickers and money launders.

For more information including copy of the original letter see:
Kachin Development Networking Group

This is International Rivers' mailing list on China's global footprint, and particularly Chinese investment in
international dam projects.

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New report on dam building in SW China warns of seismic risks

Press Release: Feverish Chinese dam building could trigger tsunami
(April 4, 2012)
Probe International

A new report finds more than 130 large dams being built in western China
could trigger disaster — earthquakes, even tsunamis — due to their
construction in seismic hazard zones.

More than 130 large dams that China is building in its western region,
an area of high seismicity, are vulnerable to earthquakes or could
induce earthquakes, according to a new report released by the
Canadian-based environmental group Probe International. In a worst-case
scenario, dams could collapse creating a tsunami that would wipe out
everything in its path, including downstream dams, and cause untold loss
of life and property.

To pierce the Chinese government's secrecy over its dam-building, the
Probe report overlays a Chinese map of dam locations with US Geological
Survey earthquake data and a United Nations' seismic hazard map. Probe
also used Google Earth satellite images to confirm the state of
completion of about one-half of the dams.

According to the report, 98.6% of the dams being constructed in western
China are located in moderate to very high seismic hazard zones. The
Zipingpu Dam, for example, which is now thought to have triggered the
magnitude 7.9 Sichuan earthquake in 2008 that killed an estimated 80,000
people, was built in a moderate seismic zone. The force of that quake
cracked the dam and shook it so severely that it sank one metre and
moved 60 centimetres downstream.

The location of large dams near clusters of recorded earthquakes with
magnitudes greater than 4.9, and especially when the earthquake focal
points are also close to the surface, "is cause for grave concern," said
John Jackson, a geologist and the report's author.

Earthquakes over M4.9 have been known to damage dams and other
structures. Shallow earthquakes (less than 10 km deep) indicate active
faults that could be reactivated by routine practices, such as the
filling of a reservoir to accommodate flood waters and its drawdown to
generate power, he says.

"In addition to the hazard of high natural seismicity in western China,
reservoir-induced seismicity is likely to increase the frequency and
perhaps the magnitude of earthquakes in this area," he warns.

Western China is known to be a large regional stress field because of
the rapid — geologically speaking — northward motion of the Indian
subcontinent into western China. This "continental collision" has, for
example, lifted seafloor sediments to the top of Mt. Everest and created
the Tibetan Plateau. Since detailed recordkeeping began in 1973, nine
earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.9 or greater have occurred in western
China each year, on average.

Especially worrying in this environment, said Mr. Jackson, is the
cascade-like positioning of the dams which follow one another so closely
there is no terrain between them for energy to dissipate in the event of
catastrophic dam failure.

"If one dam fails, the full force of its ensuing tsunami will be
transmitted to the next dam downstream, and so on, potentially creating
a deadly domino effect of collapsing dams," he says.

China is the world's largest hydropower producer with some 87,000 dams
and reservoirs (about one-third are hydrodams), of which nearly half are
considered to be dangerous and at risk of collapse.

In the interest of public safety and a sound power sector, the Probe
International report urges the Chinese government to disclose the
details of its current slate of dam construction, and to ensure that a
thorough and independent regional seismic risk assessment is done
without delay and publicly disclosed.

Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly vociferous in their outrage
over lives risked, and lost, to shoddy standards, most recently in the
country's food and high-speed rail industry. Should a dam suffer
catastrophic dam collapse, says Patricia Adams, Executive Director of
Probe International, that anger would spill over to the hydropower
industry for threatening ordinary citizens' lives with dangerous dams.

John Jackson is a pseudonym for a geologist with detailed knowledge of
western China who must remain anonymous.

For more information, contact Patricia Adams at
Tel. 1 (416) 964-9223 (ext. 227)


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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

World Bank gives Lom Pangar project $132 million

World Bank gives Lom Pangar project $132 million

WASHINGTON, D.C. 4/2/12 (PennWell) -- The World Bank's Board of
Executive Directors has approved a US$132 million loan for Cameroon's
56-MW Lom Pangar hydropower project.

The zero-interest financing is being made to "support the country's
economic development" and "significantly improve the supply of
electricity to homes and businesses across Cameroon," the World Bank says.

The bank says the immediate benefit will be a 120-MW increase in
hydroelectric generation at two existing hydropower plants, whose
improved reliability will affect up to 5 million Cameroonians. [Michael:
Please add some context as to how this capacity will improve by taking
it from the 11/17/11 story on the site and adding a link]

The Lom Pangar project has also received financial assistance from the
African Development Bank (AfDB), Central African States Development Bank
(BDEAC), European Investment Bank (EIB), International Development
Association (IDA) French Agency for Development (AFD) and Government of

The facilities, on the Sanga River, are expected to help store water
during the rainy season and will increase Cameroon's hydroelectric
generating capacity by about 40%.

"Africa's energy deficit suppresses its growth and deepens poverty, and
this is certainly the case in Cameroon where many communities are
starved for energy," says Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank president for
the Africa Region. "Lom Pangar marks an important step in turning the
lights on in more homes and businesses in Cameroon, lowering power
costs, attracting new investors and improving the all-season reliability
of the country's electricity."

Ezekwesili also notes that Cameroon has the third-largest untapped
hydropower potential in sub-Saharan Africa, with as much as 12,000 MW of
hydroelectricity still to be had.

Cameroon announced its intention to improve Lom Pangar in 2009.

This is International Rivers' mailing list on the role of international financial institutions in promoting large dams.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Nepal clears China plan for $1.6 bln hydroelectric dam

Nepal clears China plan for $1.6 bln hydroelectric dam

By Gopal Sharma

Monday Apr 2, 2012

(Reuters) - A parliamentary panel cleared the way for a Chinese company
to build a $1.6 billion hydroelectric plant in Nepal, the Himalayan
republic's biggest foreign investment programme, Nepali officials said
on Monday.

Nepal's Maoist-led government signed an agreement with China's Three
Gorges International Corp in February allowing the firm to construct the
750-megawatt West Seti dam in the northwest.

The project, set to be completed in 2019, is expected to ease the
crippling power shortage in Nepal whose economy is still emerging from a
decade-long civil war - conflict that scared away investors and slowed
infrastructure projects.

Two weeks ago, the Natural Resources and Means Committee of the
parliament, asked for the project work to be halted due to allegations
of irregularities in awarding the contract to the Chinese company
without any international bidding.

The Chinese firm, which was to own a 75 percent stake in it while the
state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority would take the rest, threatened
to pull out after the parliamentary panel ordered an inquiry.

"We have now directed the government to let the Chinese company go ahead
with the project but with some corrections in the agreement," Shanta
Chaudhary, chief of the parliamentary panel, said after an investigation
of three weeks.

"But the project must be routed through the Nepal Investment Board as
required by law," she said without giving details.

According to Lakshman Ghimire, a member of the committee, the Chinese
firm should be given only 51 percent stakes instead of 75 percent and
the remaining distributed among the public in the remote villages where
the project is to be located.

Officials from the Chinese firm were not available for comment.

Nepal's economy grew 3.5 percent in 2010-11, down from 4.8 percent in
the previous year with the country facing 14 hours of daily power cuts
during the dry season when its rivers flow slowly.

Aid-dependent Nepal, with 900 megawatt of electricity shortage, is one
of the world's 10 poorest countries where tourism and hydropower are two
key areas in which the government is trying to attract foreign investment.

(Editing by Satarupa Bhattacharjya and Alison Williams)

This is International Rivers' mailing list on China's global footprint, and particularly Chinese investment in
international dam projects.

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BBC on India's interlinking rivers project and concerns in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan

30 March 2012 Last updated at 12:44 ET

A supreme court order in India asking the government to link more than
30 rivers and divert waters to parched areas has sparked concerns in
neighbouring countries.
Bangladesh says it would be hardest hit because it is a downstream
country to two major rivers that flow from India.

New Delhi is yet to respond to the neighbouring countries' reactions.

The multi-billion-dollar project was announced by the Indian
government in 2002 but had since remained on paper.

Experts in Nepal say the country's unstable political situation could
open the door for India to build dams and reservoirs in Nepalese
territory for the inter-linking project - known as the ILR.

Hydrologists say as an upstream country, Nepal has ideal locations for
the infrastructure required to make the mammoth Indian project happen.

Bhutan too has similar locations and some of its rivers are
tributaries to the Bramhaputra, a major river system in the region
included in India's river-linking project.

Long-running disputes
The project's basic idea is to take water from areas where authorities
believe it is abundant and divert it to areas where there is less
available for irrigation, power and human consumption.

Official Indian documents have stated that the country - with its
population of 1.2 billion - is increasingly water-stressed.

But when the government tried to present the ILR as a possible
solution, it became quite controversial as critics argued it would
have huge environmental consequences.

They also said it was unfeasible on technical grounds and that not all
the states through which the rivers flow might allow waters to be

Official documents suggest parts of India are increasingly water-
Some Indian states already have long-running water sharing disputes.

Delivering the court's order earlier this month, the judges said the
project had long been delayed, resulting in an increase in cost.

Some 10 years ago, the super-ambitious scheme was billed at $120bn and
was estimated that it would take 16 years to complete.

The court has also appointed a committee to plan and implement the
project in a "time-bound manner".

Even before any of that began, Bangladesh was already quite critical
of the idea.

"We can never agree to it," Ramesh Chandra Sen, Bangladeshi water
resources minister told the BBC.

"Our agriculture, economy and our lives depend on these rivers, and we
cannot imagine their waters being diverted."

Downstream impacts
The Ganges and the Bramhaputra, Asia's major river systems that flow
down to Bangladesh, are among the rivers India has planned to divert
to its western and southern parts.

Ainun Nishat, a Bangladeshi water resource expert, was even more

"India assumes that these rivers stop at its borders and that there
will be no downstream impacts to Bangladesh if it did anything to
those resources," he said.

"They (India) have always thought that the Bramhaputra has a surplus
water but they don't seem to remember that there is a sovereign
country called Bangladesh downstream which has a need for water."

Minister Sen said there had been no official communication with his
government on the project from the Indian side.

Nepal's Energy Minister Posta Bahadur Bogati too said he had not
received any official information.

Senior Nepali water expert Santa Bahadur Pun said there were concerns
that politicians might not be able to secure a good deal for allowing
India to build dams and reservoirs in Nepalese territory.

"That is because we hear our leaders talking only about the stereotype
hydropower development whereas they should be focusing on making India
pay for the downstream benefits it would be getting from its river-
linking infrastructures in Nepal."

Such concerns also stem from the fact that some think Nepalese
politicians are too preoccupied with the prolonged peace process that
India mediated after a 10-year Maoist insurgency.

Bhutan says it has not been apprised of the project idea.

"While we recognise rivers as a trans-boundary issue, there has been
no direct dialogue as far as building structures in Bhutan for the
project (of India) is concerned," Bhutanese Minister for Agriculture
and Forests Pema Gyamtsho told the BBC.

'Conceptual stage'
Media reports and academic papers apart, little has come out
officially about the inter-river linking project.

In 2006, the Indian water resources minister at the time gave a brief
response in the parliament when asked if there would be a white paper
on the project.

"The ILR project is still at a conceptual stage only and all the far-
reaching effects of the link projects can be analysed at the stage of
preparation of detailed projects.

"As such, there is no need to release a white paper on the ILR at this

Indian water resources ministry officials made no comment to the BBC's
query how India took its neighbours' reactions to the recent supreme
court's order to implement the river linking project.

Many of India's past water treaties and agreements with neighbouring
countries Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan have been mired in disputes.

And now Delhi has had to worry about China's plans to divert its
southern rivers to the north, analysts say.

The main concern has been proposed Chinese hydro-electric plants on
Tibet's Yarlung-Tsampo river that becomes the Bramhaputra in India,
although Beijing has said it does not intend to divert its waters.

A number of studies have shown South Asia as one of the flashpoints
over water resources in the future, particularly in the wake of
climate change and a burgeoning population.

A recent assessment by the US intelligence agencies has said beyond
2022, South Asia will be one of the regions in the world where "water
would be used as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism".

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