Thursday, June 28, 2012

Belinga, Gabon - Africa Policy Forecast

Africa Policy Forecast
by Natznet Tesfay, All Africa
27 June 2012

Gabon: On 7 June 2012, Prime Minister Sima announced on-going talks
between the government and state-owned China National Machinery Import
and Export Corporation to renegotiate the Belinga iron-ore project,
which requires about $3.7 billion for the construction of hydropower
dam, at least 300km of railway and a deep water port. The Belinga
project was originally awarded to Chinese mining consortium Comibel in
2006 with a 25-year tax break. In 2008, the contract was renegotiated
due to criticism over the tax break provision as well as environmental
concerns, given the fact that the project is located along the periphery
of Ivindo National Park. In 2010, Comibel transferred the licence to its
current owner.

The Belinga project is likely to be awarded to another partner, most
probably BHP Billiton, Vale or Eramet, if the government and the Chinese
firm fail to reach a new deal. Foreign firms with 25-years tax break
incentives, such as Indian minerals processor, Abhijeet, which has a
contract for manganese mining, also are at risk of having their contract
reviewed as fiscal and social pressures on the government increase.

The contract review is likely driven by government intention to develop
the mining sector, particularly awarded projects that have been delayed
or undeveloped, in order to reduce fiscal dependence on the oil sector,
to increase local participation and accelerate infrastructural
development projects. To this end, the government has already introduced
a draft mining code, which was criticised for its high tax on profits,
the removal of fiscal incentives and the inclusion of new environmental

[The Belinga iron-ore project originally included plans for the
controversial Belinga Dam - further information]

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

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40 missing in mudslide in SW China

40 missing in mudslide in SW China
June 28, 2012

CHENGDU - About 40 workers at a hydropower station went missing in a
rain-triggered mudslide Thursday morning in southwest China's Sichuan
province, according to local authorities.

The disaster occurred at 6:14 am at the construction zone of Baihetan
Hydropower Station in Ningnan county, Liangshan Yi autonomous
prefecture, said a spokesman with the provincial emergency management

The number of missing workers was initially estimated at 38 to 41,
according to the spokesman.

The Baihetan Hydropower Station, currently under construction by the
China Three Gorges Corporation, is located on the lower reaches of the
Jinsha River, a major headwater stream of the Yangtze River, the
country's longest waterway.

With an estimated gross installed capacity of over 14 million kilowatts,
the station is expected to be put into use by 2020.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Explaining the hydropower dilemma/Nigeria

Explaining the hydropower dilemma

Thursday, 14 June 2012 00:00 AMETO AKPE

An estimated 20percent of global power supply is hydroelectric. In
Nigeria, around 30 percent of electricity is generated from hydro
stations; representing the only renewable energy resource commercially
exploited in the country.
Hydropower plants convert the potential energy in a body of water into
electrical energy using a turbine and a generator.

According to the Federal Government, huge constraints in hydro power
generation have contributed to the decline in power availability
across the country since the first week of March, this year.

Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji, speaking at a conference in Abuja
explained that, �It is unfortunate that we are experiencing, this
year, the lowest water levels in 10 years in the dams at Shiroro,
Kainji and Jeba; where the nation�s three hydro stations are located.
With low water levels, very little power electricity can be generated
from them.�

The current water problem in the dams arose from the near drought last
year in neighboring West African countries from where Nigeria derives
the so-called black flood. This flood gets to its peak every November
while the white flood, which refers to flood, derived from within the
Nigerian territory, which gets to its peak annually in July.

According to experts, unstable rainfall due to climate change means
the water levels in most of Nigeria�s hydro station are reducing. Also
worrisome, according to them, is the reported plan by the Republic of
Niger to dam the River Niger upstream of Nigeria, hence potentially
threatening the Kainji and Jebba power stations which are located
along the River Niger downstream of Niger Republic.

Nnaji said, �It is our tough luck that we are experiencing our worst
water levels in 10 years because of the poor rainy season last year in
neighboring countries from which we derive black flood for the hydro
plants. The white flood refers to flood derived during the rainy
season in Nigeria, which gets to its climax in July of every year,
unlike the black flood, which gets to its peak in November.�

However, according to the minister, �the good news is that we are
devising a method to ensure availability of sufficient water in the
dams all year round, whether there is a near drought in Nigeria or in
any part of the West African sub region from where we derive floods to
run the hydro stations.�

Nnaji says that before the end of July, there will be a remarkable
improvement in power supply across the nation, assuring of improved
supply from the hydro stations.

�Unlike in the past when there would be an improvement in power supply
in one month only for it to dip the next month, the improvement this
time will not be reversible. It can only get better, from month to
month and from year to year,� the minister assures.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Administrative Assistant opening in Berkeley office

International Rivers believes in the power of people to create change –
and we rely on our global network of supporters, activists, advocates
and members to do this. It takes a dedicated staff of tech-savvy
organizers, experienced campaigners and administrative specialists to
make this happen. To keep us on track, International Rivers is seeking a
highly-motivated Administrative Assistant to support our Executive
Director, Development Director and Board of Directors.

You (our potential new staff person) are:

·A quick learner with knowledge of the vast resources available to aid
you in your work (think Google, Yahoo, and International
Rivers's own server and Intranet plus our fantastic staff at your disposal).

·Flexible in your tasks, often passing from calendar maintenance for our
ED to tracking donations in our databases or proofreading our next
Action Alert email.

·Knowledgeable about databases andon-line systems for data maintenance:
the suite of Google products and how they interact with smart phones and
content management systems (i.e. Salesforce, Salsa/Democracy in Action,
Kintera), and maybe you even have some experience with older systems,
like Filemaker.

·Focused and fun. We work hard, but enjoy the people we work with – our
staff, partners and Board members. You have a great phone presence, can
write professional emails and can coordinate projects that span all
personality and work styles.

·Passionate about human rights and the environment, and probably have a
personal river story you like to tell.

Are you our new Administrative Assistant? If you have administrative
skills, excellent attention to detail, a professional fun demeanor and
an interest in learning more about non-profit fundraising, then please
visit us at
<>to learn more.

Inanna Hazel
Director of Finance and Operations
International Rivers
510-848-1155 ext. 310

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Rinsing Away the Failures of Hydropower

[This article about the shutdown of several small hydropower facilities
in Qinghai was published on May 24 by Caixin. Apologies if you've
received this twice. The article offers interesting perspectives on the
potential impacts of unrestrained development of small hydropower plants.]

Rinsing Away the Failures of Hydropower
May 24, 2012 | Caixin
By staff reporter Liu Hongqiao

A plan to buy nearly 20 hydropower plants by the Xining city government
has raised questions over the future of small hydropower in China

Villagers in Qinghai saw their livelihoods sold down the river, only to
be bought back up again by the local government with public funds. This
year, one municipal government quietly rolled out policies to shut down
tens of small hydropower plants, although details are sparse on how much
and who will be funding a policy about-face on small hydropower in the

On April 10, a hydropower station on a tributary of the Huangshui River
in Qinghai Province was shut down after operating for 68 years. Part of
a program launched by the government of Xining, the capital of Qinghai
Province, and the power plant was just one of nearly 20 which are slated
to be purchased back by the government and then closed.

Of these 20 small hydropower stations, eight have been in use for less
than ten years. The Shancheng hydropower station, built in April 2009,
generates only 7.6 million kilowatt hours (kwh) annually. China counts
those with installed capacity of less than 10,000 kilowatts as small
hydropower stations.

Wan Haifeng, director of integrated watershed management for the
Huangshui River, said the 20 hydropower stations in the Xining segment
of the river are diversion-type hydropower stations which "severely
damage the ecological environment."

Diversion-type hydropower stations use canals to lead river water away
and generate power at a relatively low water level. Small hydropower
plants on the Huangshui have always received the support of provincial
and prefectural governments. A 1971 plan on hydropower states that "The
hydropower reserves of the Huangshui and its two main tributaries are
452,400 kilowatts. There are 50 proposed small hydropower stations
recently with total installed capacity of 2,575 kilowatts."

Environmentalists have attacked this type of small hydropower station
because the large amounts of water diverted from the river often result
in downstream water shortages and sometimes transform the landscape by
choking off rivers and killing wildlife.

Qinghai moved to close the small hydropower stations in the Huangshui
watershed due to environmental degradation. "The shutting down of
hydropower stations in the Huangshui watershed is for pollution control,
and for the landscape," said Wan.

The Huangshui River, also called the Xining River, is 374 kilometers
long and the largest tributary in the upper reaches of the Yellow River.
The region is home to 60 percent of Qinghai's population, 52 percent of
its arable land, and more than 70 percent of its industrial and mining
enterprises. Consequently, the Huangshui is known as the "Mother River"
of Qinghai.

With rapid urban development in recent years, the Huangshui's water
quality has deteriorated rapidly. The latest test data from the Qinghai
Province Department of Environmental Protection show that water quality
in most river segments are classified as Category 4, indicating it has
several chemical pollutants and is not suitable for human contact.

"In the 1990s, there were still many naked carp and crucian carp in the
river and you could still fish. Not now. It stinks and it's dirty, like
stagnant water," a Xining resident said.

International water and environmental scholars say that a utilization
rate of above 30 percent for a river's water resources for hydropower
affects the river's self-purification abilities and leads to a slew of
ecological problems. Public materials from the Qinghai Environmental
Protection Bureau show that due to a lack of water, the water resource
development and utilization rate for the Huangshui watershed exceeds 65
percent. In Xining, it is 72.9 percent, far beyond the bright line for
safety. Small hydropower plants are contributing to this
over-exploitation of water resources.

Since the 1990s, Qinghai authorities say they have carried out pollution
treatment policies. The government has not released exact figures on
pollution or studies on the effects of small hydropower in the region.

However, in July 2011, Qinghai Vice Governor Ma Shunqing said at a
Huangshui watershed pollution control work conference, "There will be no
more approvals of hydropower plants in the Huangshui watershed."

The local government says that by shutting down small hydropower
stations on the upper reaches of the river, the landscape features of
the river can gradually be restored, and the river will can recover its
self-cleansing capabilities.

On April 11, 2012, the Sichuan provincial government announced that it
would stop construction of small hydropower stations on a portion of
small and medium waterways. In August 2011, Shennongjia in Hubei
Province announced that it would no longer approve small diversion-type
hydropower stations.

These local governments have only declared that they would stop
construction or prohibit construction of small hydropower plants in some
areas but experts say that barring an explicit policy to ban small
hydropower plants, more could still be built in the future.

The "2011 Qinghai Provincial Government Work Report" still designates
small hydropower station construction as an important part of
agriculture and animal husbandry infrastructure. Statistics show that
Qinghai has theoretical hydropower reserves of 23.4 million kilowatts.
Of this, small hydropower station resources are 13.2 million kilowatt
hours, accounting for half of the total.

Guo Jingshi, director of the Qinghai Health Department Pollution Control
Office said that compared to upstream provinces with abundant hydropower
resources like Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan, Qinghai's hydropower
resources are "very few."

Qinghai's differing policies regarding small hydropower stations reflect
the controversy surrounding small hydropower stations.

Since 2003, the Ministry of Water Resources has been actively promoting
"small hydropower stations to replace fuel." The ministry says that as a
clean form of energy, hydropower can replace traditional rural heating
methods such as wood and coal and reduce the destruction of forests to
promote the modernization of rural areas.

According to the "Summary of Rural Hydropower Work" released by the
Ministry of Water Resources in July 2007, 1,600 county-level cities
nationwide have small hydropower stations with the total number of small
stations reaching 45,000 for an installed capacity of 51 million
kilowatts. As of 2008, 300 million rural residents without electricity
had begun using hydropower.

The construction of small hydropower stations in rural areas is still
accelerating. According to Ministry of Water Resources plans, by 2020,
nationwide rural hydropower installed capacity will reach 75 million

Weng Lida, who has been following the problems of small hydropower
stations since 1999, said that small hydropower stations are a
double-edged sword.

Theoretically, sound planning and construction of small hydropower
stations can adjust river hydrology and be beneficial to the improvement
of the ecological environment in addition to resolving the electricity
issues of rural border areas. But at this stage, the disorderly,
excessive development of small hydropower stations has caused very
serious damage to the ecological environment.

"Over the past decade, the development of small hydropower stations has
intensified. The government must do something to the chaotic development
of small hydropower stations while at the same time re-discussing the
relationship between energy needs and the environment," said Weng.

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NYT report on microhydro in Nepal

June 20, 2012
Microhydro Drives Change in Rural Nepal
BAGLUNG, NEPAL — In Rangkhani, a remote mountain village in western Nepal, a 12- hour walk on steep dirt roads from Baglung, the district's chief town, families until a decade ago used kerosene and butter lamps to banish the darkness when dusk fell.

Communication and health care were poor. Work, apart from traditional farming and small trade, was scarce.

But since 2001, a microhydro project has harnessed the tumbling waters of the nearby Kalung Khola river to provide electricity for Rhangkhani and neighboring villages.

The World Bank estimates that Nepal's swift-flowing torrents could supply as much as 83,000 megawatts of electricity through such projects, some without costly and environmentally damaging dams, making them one of the largest untapped hydro power resources in the world.

"Nature has given us tough terrain: It's difficult for infrastructure," said Bhupendra Shakya, a renewable energy expert in Katmandu.

"But it's suitable for hydro," added Mr. Shakya, who works with Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihood, a project run jointly by the Nepalese government, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank.

When the Kalung Khola plant was built, the villagers at first did not believe that water could create electricity. Khagaraj Sharma, 48, a school teacher, recalled in a recent interview how 150 people had gathered at the small powerhouse for the startup ceremony. All eyes were fixed on a light bulb outside the one-room concrete shed housing a generator powered by running river water. When the bulb glowed, villagers cheered and danced.

"Many did not believe it would happen," said Mr. Sharma, who is today secretary of the cooperative that manages electricity in Rangkhani and a cluster of nearby villages.

At first, villagers used electricity chiefly for lighting. Then, with guidance from local and international agencies, new businesses sprouted, and incomes started to rise.

The microhydro plant in Rangkhani cost about 2.6 million Nepalese rupees, or $29,000, to plan and build, and generates 26 kilowatts of electricity for more than 1,000 people. A "run-of-the-river" plant powered by water channeled directly from the fast-flowing stream, without any containment dam, it flooded no land and creates no greenhouse gas emissions. After spinning the generator's turbine, the water feeds back into the river downstream.

Microhydro power plants are defined by the government's Alternative Energy Promotion Center, the umbrella organization for the renewable energy program, as those generating less than 100 kilowatts of electricity. By way of comparison, a small conventional hydro plant generates about 10 megawatts, or 100 times as much electricity as the largest microhydro plant. A big hydro plant like the Three Gorges Dam in China generates 22,500 megawatts.

For Rangkhani's microhydro plant, part of the flow of the Kalung Khola was diverted via a series of concrete and stone channels built over the lush, hilly terrain, then funneled down to the powerhouse through a pipe called a penstock. Strategically channeling the river gets the most out of the water's speed and flow, creating the most efficient conditions for driving the turbine blades that convert gravitational energy from the falling water into electricity.

Transmission cables from the powerhouse carry electricity to buildings in the neighborhood.

In contrast with the dams, flooding and dislocation of communities associated with large hydro power projects, well-planned run-of-the-river microhydro plants do minimal damage to surroundings, energy experts say.

Microhydro plants "do not have major environmental impact compared to large hydro and storage hydro," said Rabin Shrestha, senior energy specialist with the World Bank in Nepal.

Although the landscape is altered, the channels are similar to the canals that from time immemorial have carried water for crop irrigation for great distances across the countryside, and a government regulation requires that at least 15 percent of the river water be left to flow along the natural riverbed.

Drinking supplies are also not affected, since mountain villages like Rangkhani typically rely on springs rather than rivers for their drinking water.

Electricity has brought major changes to village life. Tul Kumari Sharma, 33, a mother of three, now runs a small grain mill powered by electricity, no longer grinding grain by hand as she did before.

Life with electricity is "like heaven," Ms. Sharma exclaimed. Daughters-in-law, who bear the brunt of housework in Nepal, used to be thin and ill: These days they are "quite healthy," she said.

Electricity in Rangkhani costs about the equivalent of 80 cents per kilowatt-hour and the average household uses 12 units in a month, a rate made all the more affordable by a rise in incomes from new work opportunities.

Drona Ban, 28, said he used to make $2 a day doing casual labor: With access to electricity he started a noodle-making workshop and now earns a profit of as much as $8 a day.

Small grain and saw mills now operate in Rangkhani. Chilling vats keep buffalo milk cool before it is carried in 40-liter, or 10-gallon, barrels to a processing center 10 kilimeters, or six miles, away. Shops and modest roadside restaurants have refrigerators to keep food and drink cold. Mobile phone towers have been built.

On a recent day an old village woman, carrying an enormous bundle of green branches on her back, was talking on her mobile phone as she hiked along a cliff-hugging road.

Hydro power accounts for about 90 percent of Nepal's electricity. Yet electricity itself is only 2 percent of the country's total energy consumption, according to the Center for Rural Technology, a nongovernment development organization based in Katmandu.

Nepal has a bustling tourism industry and cities with modern amenities, but 84 percent of its population is still rural. Burning biomass — wood, dung or other organic matter — accounts for 86 percent of Nepal's total energy consumption. Deforestation has been a major problem for decades, while pollution from burning biomass is getting worse. Only about 56 percent of people use electricity at all.

Even in the towns, power supply is a pressing problem. During Nepal's civil war, from 1996 to 2006, construction of generating plants and other infrastructure ground to a halt. In recent years, 14-hour power cuts have become routine, even in Katmandu, the capital.

Meanwhile, energy consumption has continued to increase. Nepal's annual peak power demand reached 950 megawatts last year, outpacing capacity of 705 megawatts, according to the Nepal Electricity Authority. The country's energy demand grew 10 per cent in 2010-2011 from the level of the previous year.

For remote villages in Nepal, it would take years or decades to connect to the national electric grid. Microhydro power plants like the one in Rangkhani can bridge the gap.

An estimated 2,200 microhydro plants, generating a total 18,000 kilowatts, have been built in Nepal since the 1970s, according to Nepal Micro Hydropower Development Association. Funding and support comes from Nepal's government, as well as international agencies like the U.N. Development Program, the World Bank and Norad and Danida, the international aid agencies of Norway and Denmark, respectively.

Unlike Nepal's blackout-plagued urbanites, Rangkhani's villagers have uninterrupted power, rendered more secure by the installation of a minigrid last year, interconnecting with five other nearby microhydro plants.

Establishing microhydro plants in Nepal takes about 21 months, including a feasibility study, review, government approval, construction and installation. For U.N.-supported projects like those in the Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihood program, the first six months are devoted to educating the local community about the plant and electricity, and creating community organizations to help manage operations.

"Community mobilization" is critical, said Mr. Shakya of Renewable Energy program. "It's unsustainable without them."

Building the plants is not enough: In the 1970s, Nepal's government built microhydro plants in rural areas, but within a few years many of them broke down because of a lack of community involvement and maintenance systems.

Inadequate demand from paying customers left the plants unsustainable as businesses, earning too little to hire operators or pay for repairs and maintenance.

There have been other challenges too: Microhydro plants have suffered from a high turnover of operators. After coveted training and a few months of experience, they often jump to better-paid jobs in the Middle-East Gulf countries.

Financing, meanwhile, can be difficult. About 60 percent of costs are funded by national and local government and 20 percent is covered by volunteer labor from the community. The remaining 20 percent is usually covered by loans. Conventional Nepalese banks are reluctant to lend, leading to project delays. However, special funds supported by the German aid agency GIZ and other international organizations help to fill the gap.

Today, there is a strong emphasis on giving communities responsibility for plants, training local support technicians, and helping villagers build up small businesses to increase incomes and electricity demand to make plants financially viable.

In the village of Dagatundada, 63 kilometers from Baglung, a 75 kilowatt microhydro plant started running five years ago with help from Renewable Energy program. The Dagatundada plant supplies power to 860 homes, or about 4,000 people and uses for its electricity have blossomed.

A small health clinic has expanded, adding microscopes and an X-ray machine. With electricity, machines in a small workshop make fragrant cakes of soap for sale in city shops. In a small studio a 40-watt licensed FM radio station airs news, music, and public service announcements. At least 100,000 people in two districts can hear the broadcasts.

Tribhuvan Secondary School has 15 new minilaptop computers funded by Winrock International, a U.S. nonprofit. Teachers there said that before the village had electricity, only about half the students passed their final high school examinations. Now, 80 percent pass. Children spend less time on household chores, like gathering firewood, and more time studying, the computer teacher, Kamal Paudel, said.

Ram Bahadro Kunwar, 26, opened a poultry farm last September. A large shed on a riverbank houses 1,000 clucking chickens.

Electricity helps incubate chicks and provides lighting to tend them at night.

Mr. Kunwar says he was a Maoist rebel during Nepal's civil war and he confesses to being surprised that he is now running a small business that earned him about $1,000 when he sold his first batch of chickens late last year.

As a guerilla soldier, Mr. Kunwar thought only "about changing the country," he recalled. With electricity, change is indeed happening in rural Nepal — but in a different way than he had imagined.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 21, 2012

Through an editing error,  a previous version of this article quoted World Bank estimates as saying that microhydro projects in Nepal could generate up to 83,000 megawatts of electricity. That figure is  the Bank's estimate for the total hydro power generation potential of Nepalese rivers, not just microhydro projects.

Monday, June 25, 2012

China's tourism plan quells Brahmaputra dam fears

China's tourism plan quells Brahmaputra dam fears
By Ananth Krishnan
The Hindu
June 24, 2012

Chinese plans to build a major tourism project and national park in a
Tibetan county have dealt a blow to hydropower lobby groups who have
proposed the construction of massive dam on the Brahmaputra's �Great
Bend', where the river begins its course towards India.

The Chinese government announced on Saturday it had earmarked 400
million yuan ($63.5 million) to develop tourism in Nyingchi prefecture
in south-eastern Tibet. The plans include an ambitious proposal to raise
two billion yuan ($317.5 million) to build an "international tourism
town" in the border prefecture.

The "golden tourism" project in Nyingchi follows the opening of Tibet's
first national park in the same county in December in the Grand Canyon
of the Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is known in Tibet.

The plans appear to signal the government's moves to develop the region
as a tourism hub, amid rising pressure from hydropower groups to tap the
enormous potential of the canyon and the �Great Bend', where the river
spectacularly falls over 1,000 metres.

A number of hydropower lobby groups have called on the central
government to give the green light for as many as 28 proposed dams on
the Yarlung Zangbo. China has, so far, only embarked on one hydropower
project, a run-of-the-river dam at Zangmu on the river's middle reaches
which officials say will not impact downstream flows.

Of particular concern to Indian officials was a proposal by Sinohydro,
an influential state-owned hydropower company, to build a massive
38-gigawatt project at Motuo near the �Great Bend', a dam that would
surpass even the Three Gorges project in scale. Environmental groups
have raised concerns about the plan's impact on both the sensitive
ecosystem of the region and on downstream flows.

Wang Songping, deputy chief of Tibet's regional tourism bureau, was
quoted as saying by state media that the national park at the Yarlung
Zangbo Grand Canyon would be run by a committee "responsible for
environmental protection", and would "follow an internationally-accepted
practice in its management of tourism resources and minimise harm to the
plateau ecology." The park stretches across several counties in Nyingchi
and Qamdo prefectures.

The plan for the park has disappointed hydropower groups pushing for the
projects. Zhang Boting, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Society
of Hydropower Engineers, told The Hindu in an interview last year that a
dam on the �Great Bend' could save up to 100 million tonnes of coal. But
he did acknowledge there were technical barriers to putting in
equipment, with the river falling by over 1,000 metres over steep gorges.

India and China will this month discuss the issue of trans-border rivers
in a working group meeting. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh during talks last week on the sidelines of the
Rio+20 summit that China was willing to strengthen communication with
India on the issue, and would share hydrological data.

Chinese officials have in talks sought to address Indian concerns over
long-discussed proposals to divert the Brahmaputra's waters, under the
western route of the massive south-to-north water diversion project.

Work on the central and middle routes, which divert water from the
Yangtse river to the arid north, is already in progress.

Chinese officials said on June 19, during a working conference on the
project, that "construction of the final west route, which is hampered
by difficulties of crossing the 3,000-5,000 metre-high Qinghai-Tibet
Plateau, is not yet scheduled to begin."

The Nyingchi tourism project, officials said, also will include 22
"model villages" built over three years at the cost of 100 million yuan
($15.8 million), where residents will provide family hotel services for
tourists. Indian officials rejected media reports which claimed the
tourism project in the border prefecture would have bearing on the
long-running boundary talks, pointing out that the relevant region was
not part of the dispute and was a region where India did not hold any
territorial claims.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

FT: Nile dam: Water wars averted for now

June 19, 2012

Nile dam: Water wars averted for now
By Katrina Manson

When Ethiopia�s plan to dam the Blue Nile grew grander within a month
of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, it did not go unnoticed
in his country, downstream, Nile-dependent Egypt.

The Grand Renaissance Dam, at 6,000MW, will be Africa�s largest
hydroelectric project.

�We have the right to develop our natural resource,� says Alemayehu
Tegenu, Ethiopia�s minister for water and energy.

�We were not benefiting much from the Nile. There is a group of people
who are totally against the dam and they are not right.�

Aside from some green lobbyists who fear the destruction of the
environment, he means Egypt.
Clinging to a colonial treaty signed in 1929, Egypt has veto rights
over any upstream developments that might affect the Nile�s flow.

A series of agreements sees neighbouring Sudan awarded 18.5bn cu
metres a year and 55bn cu metres for Egypt, even though Ethiopia is
the source for 85 per cent of the river and was left out of a later
1959 deal.

Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia�s prime minister, has long challenged �old-
fashioned ideas based on the assumption that the Nile water belongs to
Egypt�. Even so, the dam could deprive Egypt of more than 17bn cu
metres a year. The country relies on the river for 90 per cent of its

�Ethiopia has pushed this through in a time of turmoil in Egypt,� says
an international official. �Egypt has not had the time or breathing
room to focus on it � the new leaders have not been able to unite the
country around a single issue and certainly not around the Nile.

�The guys in Addis have seen this opportunity and stepped right
through it. If Mubarak was still in power today, it would have been
the beginning of a water war,� says the official.

Mohamed Nasr El Din Allam, Egypt�s outgoing minister of water, says
the dam will create shortages in water, power and farming land and
lead to political, economic and social instability.

Ethiopia insists that its downstream neighbours Sudan and Egypt have
nothing to fear from its decision to dam the Blue Nile, which feeds
both countries. On the contrary, they will in fact both gain.

Mr Alemayehu says: �The dam will benefit both countries: it will not
reduce the flow, but regulate it. They will benefit because it will
reduce silt, control floods, regulate water flow throughout the

Sudan and Egypt have calmed their responses in the past year and a
technical committee has started work on an assessment of the dam�s
impact. The committee is expected to report next year, but Ethiopia is
not waiting. �We are allowing the establishment of the technical
committee so as to build confidence,� says Mr Alemayehu.

Costing an estimated $4.8bn and taking four years to build, it is the
sort of large-scale project that usually has donors and development
finance institutions rushing to help, glad to have a project in so
poor a country to spend their money on.

But they have not touched it. Instead, Ethiopian state television airs
nightly appeals to everyone from bus drivers to businessmen, to buy
bonds to support the project. Even political opposition figures are
buying bonds in what has become a national rallying cry.

�Meles is being very smart on this � it is a very expensive dam but it
is a transformative project,� says an international official. �I think
Ethiopia will deliver on the first 20 per cent of it and by then
donors will be rushing to come in.�

�Everyone is looking nervously to see how much progress there is,�
says the official. Sudan and Egypt must also face the likelihood that
the Ethiopian project sets a precedent, should other upstream
countries such as Uganda or South Sudan, on the White Nile, decide to
dam the river flow too.

Over the past two years, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda,
Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo have all signed an agreement
to seek more water from the Nile, which they argue should be shared
more fairly, Egypt says the agreement does not overturn the 1929

The Nile�s water wars may merely be on hold.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Behind every land grab is a water grab

(Excerpted from a GRAIN report; for full report see:

Africa: Squeezing Africa Dry - Behind Every Land Grab is a Water Grab
14 June 2012


Those who have been buying up vast stretches of farmland in recent years,
whether based in Dubai or London City, understand that it's the access to
water that they get from the land deals, which they often get for free and
without restriction, that may well be worth the most over the long-term.
"The value is not in the land," says Neil Crowder, whose UK-based company,
Chayton Capital, has been acquiring farmland in Zambia. "The real value is
in water."

And water is abundant in Africa, according to those behind the hundreds of
large farmland deals that have been signed across Africa. They say the
continent's water resources are vastly under-utilised, and they want to
harness them for their agriculture projects. But the reality is that a
third of Africans already live in water-scarce environments and climate
change is going to up these numbers significantly. A closer look at where
these deals are taking place and how much water they plan to consume shows
that the projects will rob millions of people of their access to water and
risk to deplete the continent's most precious fresh water sources.


Few countries in Africa have received more foreign interest in their
farmland than those served by the Nile River. The Nile, Africa's longest
river, is a lifeline especially for Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan,
and Uganda, and already a source of significant geopolitical tensions
aggravated by the numerous large-scale irrigation projects that have been
undertaken in the region. Back in 1959, Great Britain brokered a colonial
deal that divided the water rights between Sudan (a bit) and Egypt (a
lot), and no one else. Massive irrigation schemes were built in both
countries to grow cotton for export to the UK. In the 1960s, Egypt built
the mighty Aswan Dam to regulate the flow of the Nile in Egypt and
increase irrigation possibilities. The dam achieved both, but it also
stopped the flow of nutrients and minerals that fertilised the downstream
soils of Egypt's farmers.

This economically, ecologically and politically fragile Nile basin is now
the target of a new wave of large-scale agriculture projects. Three of the
main countries in the basin, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan have,
together, already leased out millions of hectares in the basin and are
offering more. To bring this land into production, all of it will need to
be irrigated. Ethiopia is the source of some 80% of the Nile water. In its
Gambela region on the border with South Sudan, corporations such as
Karuturi from India and Saudi Star from Saudi Arabia are already building
big irrigation channels that will massively increase Ethiopia's withdrawal
of water from the Nile. And these are just two of the actors involved. One
calculation suggests that if all the land that the country has leased out
is brought under production and irrigation it will increase the country's
use of freshwater resources for agriculture by a factor of nine.

Further downstream, in South Sudan and Sudan, some 4.9 million hectares of
land has been leased out to foreign corporations since 2006. That is more
than the size of the whole of the Netherlands. And further up north, Egypt
is also leasing out land and implementing its own new irrigation projects.
Of course, it remains to be seen how much of all this will actually be
brought into production and under irrigation, but it is difficult to
imagine that the Nile can handle this onslaught.

Reliable figures on how much irrigation is actually possible and
sustainable are difficult to find. The FAO, in various publications and in
its Aquastat database, gives figures on 'irrigation potential' and actual
irrigation by country and river basin. FAO establishes 8 million hectares
as the total 'maximum value' available for total irrigation in all 10
countries of the Nile basin. But the 4 countries mentioned above already
have irrigation infrastructure established for 5.4 million hectares and
have now leased out a further 8.6 million hectares of land where
irrigation will be developed.


Another part of Africa targeted by agribusiness is the lands along the
Niger River, West Africa's biggest river. Mali, Niger and Nigeria are the
countries most dependent on the river, but seven other countries in the
Niger basin share its water. It is also extremely fragile as it has
suffered from man-made interventions such as dams, irrigation and
pollution. Water experts estimate that the volume of the Niger has shrunk
by one-third during the last three decades alone. Others indicate that the
river might lose another third of its flow as a consequence of climate

In Mali, the river spreads out into a vast inland delta which constitutes
Mali's main agricultural zone and one of the region's most important
wetlands. It is here that the 'Office du Niger' is located and where many
of the land grabbing projects are concentrated. The Office du Niger
presides over the irrigation of over 70,000 ha, mainly for the production
of rice. It is the largest irrigation scheme in West Africa, and it uses a
substantial part of all the river's water, especially during the dry

Back in the 1990s, the FAO put Mali's potential to irrigate from the Niger
at a bit over half a million ha. But now, due to increased water scarcity,
independent experts conclude that the whole of Mali has the water capacity
to irrigate only 250,000 ha. Yet the Malian government has already signed
away 470,000 ha to foreign companies from Libya, China, the UK, Saudi
Arabia and other countries in the past few years, and is offering much


The Nile and the Niger basins are just two of the areas where land and
water rights are massively being given away. The areas where land grabbing
is concentrated in Africa coincide almost completely with the continent's
largest river and lake systems, and in most of these areas irrigation is a
prerequisite of commercial production

The Ethiopian government is constructing a dam in the Omo River to
generate electricity and irrigate a huge sugar-cane plantation - a project
that threatens hundreds of thousands of indigenous people that depend on
the river further downstream. It also threatens to empty the world's
biggest desert lake, fed by the Omo River, Lake Turkana.

In Kenya, a tremendous controversy has arisen from the government's plans
to hand out huge areas of land in the delta of the Tana River with
disastrous implications for the local communities depending on the delta's

The already degraded Senegal River basin and its delta have been subject
to hundreds of thousands of hectares in land deals, putting foreign
agribusiness in direct competition for the water with local farmers. The
list goes on and is growing by the day.

If this land and water grab is not put to an end, millions of Africans are
going to lose access to water sources which they need for their
livelihoods, as they are moved out of the areas where land/water deals
have been agreed to, or simply see the access to their traditional water
sources blocked by newly built fences, canals and dikes that are owned by
someone else.

There is simply not enough water in Africa's rivers and water tables to
provide irrigation for all of the large-scale agriculture projects that
foreign companies are pursuing. If and when they are put under production,
these 21st century industrial plantations will rapidly destroy, deplete
and pollute water sources across the continent. Such models of
agricultural production have generated enormous problems of soil
degradation, salinisation and water logging wherever they have been

Africa is in no shape for such an imposition. Over one in three Africans
live with water scarcity, and the continent's food production is set to
suffer more than any other from climate change. The advocates of the land
deals and mega-irrigation schemes argue that these big investments should
be welcomed as an opportunity to combat hunger and poverty in the
continent. But bringing in the bulldozers to plant water-demanding crops
for export can never be a solution to hunger and poverty.

If the goal is to increase food production, then there is ample evidence
that this can be most effectively done by building on the traditional
water management and soil conservation systems of local communities, and
by strengthening collective and customary rights over land and water

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PR: G-20 Infrastructure Strategy Includes World’s Largest Dam

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Media contact:
Zachary Hurwitz, Policy Coordinator, International Rivers
+001 415 341 5264

G-20 Infrastructure Strategy Includes World=EF=BF=BDs Largest Dam

Report Says =EF=BF=BDGreen Growth=EF=BF=BD Projects May Not Benef= it Poor

Los Cabos, Mexico: G-20 leaders today released their Plan on Infrastructure, which recommends building what would be the world's largest hydropower scheme, the controversial Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Civil society organization International Rivers immediately criticized inclusion of the project as neither inclusive nor green, stating that donors have already spent billions in aid dollars for dams and transmission projects on the Congo River, yet 94% of the country's population still has no access to electricity.

"The G-20 leaders should prioritize investments that directly address poor peoples' needs rather than using taxpayer money to pay for huge, high-risk projects whose private sector returns rarely trickle down. In sub-Saharan Africa, where water stress is highest, decentralized infrastructure has a better track record of providing water and electricity than do large storage dams, which can worsen poverty and reduce climate resilience, and are certainly not green," states Zachary Hurwitz, Policy Coordinator of International Rivers.

The organization=EF=BF=BDs new report, entitled Infrastructure fo= r Whom?, calls on the G-20 leaders to change course on the controversial infrastructure strategy. The report finds that large, centralized infrastructure such as Grand Inga more often benefits energy-intensive industries than it does poor people who seek increased access to electricity, water, and sanitation, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia BHP Billiton, Southern Africa=EF=BF=BDs leading aluminum producer, has expressed interest in the Grand Inga Dam.

A high-level report on infrastructure, prepared for the G-20 summit in Cannes, France last November, proposes using public spending to offset private sector risk for eleven large, regional infrastructure projects that it claims will boost economic growth while being environmentally-friendly, what the strategy calls =EF=BF=BDgreen growth.=EF=BF=BD

Yet, at least four of the recommended projects are in the hydropower and grid expansion sectors, which have traditionally suffered from high levels of risk, corruption, graft, and cost overruns.

Recent reports have signaled that new renewable technologies are approaching grid parity and will be more effective in meeting the world's energy needs. A 2010 World Bank report found that 65 million people in Africa will gain access to safe and clean lighting through solar by 2015, while a 2012 Bloomberg New Energy Finance report stated that grid-connected photovoltaics in Africa have already become competitive. The International Energy Agency has stated that the energy needs of 70% the world's rural poor could be met by investment in small, decentralized infrastructure technologies.

International Rivers' report finds that the majority of rural poor live closer to local sources of renewable energy and water than to an electric grid and centralized irrigation systems. As a result, decentralized projects that address the needs of the poor directly are more effective at promoting broad-based economic growth and reducing poverty than grid expansion and construction of centralized mega-projects. Small-scale energy and water projects can also strengthen climate resilience, reduce the social and environmental footprint of the infrastructure sector, and strengthen democratic control over essential public services.

Large infrastructure lending has regained focus as world leaders search for ways to stimulate growth. The World Bank has recently indicated it will return to large infrastructure lending, having issued its own new infrastructure strategy in 2011. International Rivers' report calls on Jim Yong Kim, who will take office as the World Bank's new President in July, to replace the institution's top-down approach to infrastructure with a strategy that prioritizes the needs of the poor.

The new report, Infrastructure for Whom?, is available at

Hard copies can be requested from Kate Ross at kross@internati=


International Rivers is an environmental and human rights organization with staff in four continents. For over two decades, we have been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Human Rts Watch: Lower Omo people suffering under irrigation, dam development

HRW's latest report on Ethiopia: "What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?"
Abuses against the Indigenous People of Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley
was released today in Kenya. The full report can be downloaded from:

The press release follows.

Ethiopia: Pastoralists Forced off Their Land for Sugar Plantations
Government Should Consult, Compensate Indigenous Communities
June 18, 2012

(Nairobi) � The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing indigenous
pastoral communities in Ethiopia�s Lower Omo valley without adequate
consultation or compensation to make way for state-run sugar
plantations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The
report contains previously unpublished government maps that show the
extensive developments planned for the Omo valley, including
irrigation canals, sugar processing factories, and 100,000 hectares of
other commercial agriculture.

The 73-page report, ��What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?�: Abuses
against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia�s Lower Omo
Valley,�documents how government security forces are forcing
communities to relocate from their traditional lands through violence
and intimidation, threatening their entire way of life with no
compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods. Government
officials have carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings,
and other violence against residents of the Lower Omo valley who
questioned or resisted the development plans.

�Ethiopia�s ambitious plans for the Omo valley appear to ignore the
rights of the people who live there,� said Ben Rawlence, senior Africa
researcher at Human Rights Watch. �There is no shortcut to
development; the people who havelong relied on that land for their
livelihood need to have their property rights respected, including on
consultation and compensation.�

The Lower Omo valley, one of the most remote and culturally diverse
areas on the planet, is home to around 200,000 people from eight
unique agro-pastoral communities who have lived there for as long as
anyone can remember. Their way of life and their identity is linked to
the land and access to the Omo River. The Omo valley is in Ethiopia�s
Southern Peoples, Nations, and Nationalities Region (SNNPR), near the
border with Kenya, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in

The significant changes planned for the Omo valley are linked to the
construction of Africa�s highest dam, the controversial Gibe III
hydropower project, along the Omo River. Downstream, the sugar
plantations will depend on irrigation canals. Although there have been
some independent assessments of the Gibe dam project, to date, the
Ethiopian government has not published any environmental or social
impact assessments for the sugar plantations and other commercial
agricultural developments in the Omo valley.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 35 residents in June 2011,
along with 10 donor officials and at least 30 other witnesses since
that time. At the time of Human Rights Watch�s visit, military units
regularly visited villages to intimidate residents and suppress
dissent related to the sugar plantation development. Soldiers
regularly stole or killed cattle.

�What am I going to eat?� a man of the Mursi ethnic group told Human
Rights Watch. �They said to take all my cattle and to sell them and to
only tie one up at my house. What can I do with only one? I am a
Mursi. If hunger comes I shoot a cow�s neck and drink blood. If we
sell them all for money how will we eat?�

The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch since its visit
demonstrates that in the past year regional officials and security
forces have forcibly seized land from indigenous communities living
and farming within the areas slated for sugar production. Reports of
forced displacement and the clearing of agricultural land have
gathered pace.

Access to the Omo River is critical for the food security and way of
life of the pastoralists who live in the valley. Several community
representatives said that state officials had told them, without any
other discussion, that the communities would need to reduce the number
of their cattle and resettle in one place, and that they would lose
access to the Omo River.

As of June 2012, irrigation canals have been dug, land has been
cleared, and sugar production has begun along the east bank of the
river. Government maps photographed by Human Rights Watch indicate
that the area where sugar cultivation is under way is a fraction of
what is labeled as �Sugar Block One.� Two additional �blocks� of land
that will be taken for sugar cultivation are to follow. Ethiopia�s
existing assessments of the impact of the Gibe dam do not include the
impact of sugar cultivation and irrigation on the flow of the Omo
River, or the downstream impact on Lake Turkana. The massive network
of irrigation canals indicated on the maps suggests that the previous
assessments are insufficient.

The full implementation of the plan could affect at least 200,000
people in the Omo valley and another 300,000 Kenyans living across the
border around Lake Turkana, which derives up to 90 percent of its
water from the Omo River. Human Rights Watch said Kenya should press
for new environmental and social impact assessments that examine the
cumulative impact of the Gibe III dam and the irrigated commercial
agriculture scheme.

These developments � which threaten the economic, social, and cultural
rights of the Omo valley�s indigenous inhabitants � are being carried
out in contravention of domestic and international human rights
standards, which call for the recognition of property rights, with
meaningful consultation, consent, and compensation for loss of land,
livelihoods, and food security, and which state that displacement,
especially of indigenous peoples from their historic homelands, must
be treated as an absolute last resort.

The rights of indigenous peoples are addressed by Ethiopia�s own laws
and constitution, as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples and regional human rights treaties and mechanisms
such as the African human rights charter as interpreted by the African
Commission on Human and Peoples� Rights. Under these laws and
agreements, indigenous peoples have property rights over the land they
have historically occupied that must be recognized by the state, and
they can only be displaced with their free, prior, and informed
consent. Even when such consent is given, they must also be fully
compensated for any loss of land, property, or livelihood.

In fact, Ethiopia has not recognized any rights over the land of the
indigenous communities of the area, including tenure security, Human
Rights Watch found. Neither has it taken steps to adequately consult
with, let alone seek the consent of, the indigenous peoples of the Omo
valley, in particular taking into account the scant formal education
of most of the population.

The Ethiopian government has responded to concerns raised by Human
Rights Watch by noting that the plantations will bring benefits to the
indigenous populations in the form of employment. Employment may be a
welcome benefit for affected communities. But the prospect of some
jobs does not remove the urgent need for the government to suspend
plantation development until rigorous assessments have been carried
out, the rights of the indigenous communities over their land has been
recognized and consent sought, and any displacement or acquisition of
land is shown to be strictly necessary, proportionate, and
compensation provided, Human Rights Watch said.

Many international nongovernmental organizations have raised concerns
about potential social and environmental impacts of the Gibe III
hydropower project and have criticized the Ethiopian government for a
lack of transparency and independent assessment. The Ethiopian
government withdrew its request of the World Bank and African
Development Bank for financing of the Gibe dam project but has not
publicized its reasons for doing so. UNESCO�s World Heritage Committee
has recommended suspending the project pending further independent
evaluation of the effect on Lake Turkana.

The Ethiopian government relies on international aid for a significant
percentage of its budget. Security forces and officials from the
regional and district administrations are implementing the plans for
the sugar plantations and telling local residents they must move,
without any consultation or recognition of their rights. A multi-donor
funded program called Protection of Basic Services (PBS) provides
hundreds of millions of dollars to support health, education, and
other sectors and funds the salaries of district government officials
across Ethiopia, including SNNPR region. The main donors to PBS are
the World Bank, the United Kingdom, the European Union, the
Netherlands, and Germany.

Human Rights Watch called on the Ethiopian government to suspend the
construction of Gibe III and the associated sugar plantations until
these developments can be carried out in a manner consistent with
national laws and international human rights standards. The Ethiopian
government should recognize the rights of the Omo valley�s indigenous
communities over their historic homelands and engage in meaningful
discussion with them over the future use of their land and
compensation on that basis, prior to further industrial development in
South Omo. Donors should ensure their funding is not supporting forced
displacement or unlawful expropriation of indigenous lands, Human
Rights Watch said.

�Ethiopia�s desire to accelerate economic development is laudable, but
recent events in the Omo valley are taking an unacceptable toll on the
rights and livelihoods of indigenous communities,� Rawlence said. �The
government should suspend the process until it meets basic standards,
and donors should make sure their aid is not facilitating abuses.�

Selected Accounts from �What Will Happen if Hunger Comes�
�People disagree with the government on the sugar, but are afraid of
the possible use of force to resettle people and so do not say much.
[We have a] big fear of government here. If you express concern, you
go to jail.�
� Bodi man, June 2011.

�There will be a problem during the dry season. Now there is water,
but when there isn�t if we do not go back to Omo we will need
government to bring water. If they do not, [we] and our cattle will
die. We will go to Omo anyway, if not, we will die, they can kill us
there if they want.�
� Mursi villager, June 2011.

�What am I going to eat? They said to take all my cattle and to sell
them and to only tie one up at my house. What can I do with only one?
I am a Mursi. If hunger comes I shoot a cow�s neck and drink blood. If
we sell them all for money how will we eat? When we get married we
marry with cattle. What will we marry with? What will we eat? When
hunger comes what will we feed our children with? If we just keep
chickens will we eat soup or milk them�? �This land is my land,� say
the highland Ethiopians. �Run to the forest like a baboon.��
� Mursi man describing the importance of cattle, December 2011.

�They [the government officials] cleared out their [Kwegu and Bodi]
gardens. They cleared far and dug up their sorghum. The sorghum was
near ripening; a truck plowed it and cast it away. The Kwegu gardens
were plowed and some Kwegu are now without anything. If their sorghum
is plowed what are they going to eat? What will they give to their
� Man describing what happened to Bodi and Kwegu farmland that was
cleared in December 2011.

�There will be big problems in the areas if all the cattle are given
to the government. What will these people eat, now the drought is
really badly affecting the Horn of Africa? Now the dam has been built,
no water in the river, land has been taken away, the cattle given to
the government, what will happen to the poor people in time of the
famine? Those people who want to wipe out the pastoralists eat three
times a day. What will happen if hunger comes?�
� Mursi man, May 2011.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Land grabs leave Africa facing ‘hydrological suicide’ - report

Land grabs leave Africa facing �hydrological suicide� - report
Tue, 12 Jun 2012 15:13 GMT

Source: alertnet // Emma Batha

By Emma Batha

LONDON (AlertNet) - A scramble for cheap African farmland by foreign
investors threatens to leave millions of people without water and
could ultimately drain the continent's rivers, a report warns.

"If these land grabs are allowed to continue, Africa is heading for a
hydrological suicide," said the report�s co-author Henk Hobbelink,
coordinator of GRAIN, an organisation supporting small farmers.

Foreign governments and wealthy individuals are snapping up millions
of hectares of land on the continent for large-scale agriculture
projects to grow food and biofuels for export.

But the report warns there is simply not enough water in Africa's
rivers and water tables to irrigate all the newly acquired land.

In some cases communities are already being moved off land to make way
for these mega-projects. In others, the plantations will divert water
from rivers that local people depend on for their own farming and
everyday needs.

"Millions of Africans are in danger of losing access to the water
sources they rely on for their livelihoods and for the survival of
their communities," Hobbelink said.

�The worst case scenario is indeed we end up with a situation where
the entire continent�s river systems will dry out.�

Hobbelink said the land deals � many of them along the Nile and Niger
rivers - were already creating tensions in some parts and could fuel

Countries leasing land include Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt,
Zambia, Kenya Tanzania, Mali and Senegal.

The report, Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water
grab, said those acquiring farmland knew that the access to water they
were automatically gaining � often without restriction - could well be
worth more in the long term than the land deals themselves.

Agriculture already sucks up around 70 percent of freshwater used
globally. But demand is likely to soar as the world population

Investors come from India, Saudi Arabia, China, UAE, Libya, Qatar, the
United States, Britain, France and Canada among others, according to

But the report said Africa was in no position to support these massive
new agribusiness projects - one in three Africans already lives with
water scarcity and climate change will make things worse.

Hobbelink also pointed out that in many parts of Africa there were
distinct dry and rainy seasons and local communities had adapted their
farming methods to suit these fluctuations. But he said many crops
being farmed on the new plantations, including rice, sugar cane and
palm oil, required huge amounts of water all year round.


Much investor interest is focused on countries in the Nile basin. The
United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated
the ten countries in the basin have enough water to irrigate a maximum
of 8 million hectares.

But four countries alone � Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt -
have already established irrigation infrastructure for 5.4 million
hectares and leased out a further 8.6 million hectares.

Tensions have already flared over one project in Gambela in Ethiopia.
The plantation, owned by Saudi-based billionaire Mohammed Al-Amoudi,
is irrigated by water diverted from the Alwero River which locals
depend on for fishing and farming.

In April an armed group ambushed Al-Amoudi�s Saudi Star development
operations, leaving five people dead, according to GRAIN's report.

Advocates of land deals and irrigation projects say these big
investments in Africa should be hailed as an opportunity to tackle
hunger and poverty. But Hobbelink said people were being paid as
little as 70 cents a day to work on projects.

�Virtually all the land use we�ve seen is about installing huge
plantations and removing people from their territories," he added.

�It�s more about creating poverty than helping to address it.�

Hobbelink said the key to ending poverty was to invest in and improve
on local technologies and methods for managing and conserving water.

�We think the current drive for land-grabbing, as we call it - which
is what we think it is, has to be stopped,� he added.

GRAIN's report comes ahead of the Rio+20 summit on sustainable
development. Water will be one of the key topics under discussion when
the meeting opens on June 20.

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China sets 2012 hydro targets for rural areas

China sets 2012 hydro targets for rural areas
Interfax China
June 7, 2012

Shanghai. June 7. INTERFAX-CHINA - China plans to add three gigawatts
(GW) of small-scale hydropower plants in rural areas by the end of the
year, state media Technology and Science Daily reported Wednesday.

As of the end of 2011, there were some 45,151 hydropower projects with
62 GW of installed capacity operating in China's rural areas, which
generated 175.7 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity last year, the
Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) was quoted as saying in the report.
Roughly half of China's small-scale installed hydro capacity is located
in Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangdong and Fujian provinces, said the ministry.

The MWR stressed the importance of hydropower for China's future energy
portfolio at the National Rural Hydropower Workshop in Beijing last
month. As the country diversifies its energy mix in an attempt to reduce
consumption of fossil fuels, small-scale hydro projects in rural areas
will become an evermore important source of electricity, said the ministry.

Small-scale hydropower projects � typically smaller than 10 megawatts
(MW) � are attractive because they are relatively inexpensive and cause
less environmental damage than large-scale facilities such as the Three
Gorges Dam, industry expert Liu Liye told Interfax today.

Liu noted that water resources in rural areas of west and northeast
China remain largely unexploited and offer potential for future
expansion in coming years.

China's 230 GW of installed hydropower capacity make it the world's
largest hydroelectric power user, according to statistics released by
the National Energy Administration in April.

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Turkey's Ilisu Dam: political decision

Turkey's Hasankeyf dam can drown Kurds' hideaways

By Jay Cassano

HASANKEYF, Turkey - Hasankeyf, a small village in southeastern Turkey,
has been under threat for 15 years. Home to about 3,000 people, it is
the site is one of the oldest continuously inhabited human
settlements, with an archaeological record going back at least 9,500

Now, the Ilisu Dam - part of a hydroelectric project undertaken by the
State Hydraulic Works - will flood Hasankeyf and the surrounding
region, effectively washing away millennia of history.

In addition to destroying a historical site, which includes vestiges
of every empire that ever inhabited Mesopotamia, the dam will cause
immense ecological harm to the Tigris River valley.

Derya Engin, who staffs the Hasankeyf office of the Nature Society, a
Turkish non-government organization, told Inter Press Service (IPS)
that numerous endangered species will lose their habitat if the dam is

"The Tigris is the only untouched river ecosystem in Turkey and it is
vital that it remain that way," she said. "It is well-known that dams
dramatically change the climate of entire regions. This dam will
destroy the habitats of fish, birds, and plant life, some of which are
unique to the Tigris valley."

Construction of the dam began in earnest in 2008, but plans for its
implementation date back even further.

The dam was originally conceived in the 1950s as part of the
Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), intended to develop the
infrastructure of largely rural and Kurdish southeastern Turkey. Since
1997, several European finance consortia have attempted to fund the
project, only to withdraw support
before anything concrete materialised.

The European banks and companies pulled out in large part due to
campaigns against the dam in their respective home countries. In 2009,
the German, Austrian and Swiss governments revoked the export credit
guarantees to the final consortium because the Turkish government
failed to meet the ecological, social, and cultural heritage standards
set by the World Bank.

For a while, activists in Turkey and throughout Europe believed they
had won the fight and that construction of the dam would stop. To
their surprise, construction is continuing to this day.

It was later revealed that the Turkish government had secured funding
from two of the country's largest private banks, Akbank and Garanti,
making the project still viable.

Water wars
The Turkish government's reasons for pressing ahead with the
controversial project are not what one might expect. Projections place
the amount of hydroelectric power the dam will produce at less than 2%
of Turkey's total energy needs - not enough, opponents argue, to
justify the destruction of an entire ecosystem, invaluable cultural
heritage, and the livelihoods of several thousand people.

The Turkish government has openly proclaimed that the main function of
the dam system is to bolster the country's counter-insurgency strategy
against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which operates from the
mountainous Iraqi-Turkish border. Together, the strategically placed
dams created by GAP will form a massive wall of water close to
Turkey's border with Iraq.

Having flown through the Hasankeyf for millenia, the Tigris has
created a vast canyon topography that is not only visually spectacular
but also provides necessary cover for militants. In addition to
raising the water level of the Tigris, flooding from Ilisu Dam will
spill over into nearby canyons that are currently dry.

With canyons filled and massive lakes created where rivers once
flowed, the terrain will become impassable by foot.

Furthermore, the effects of the dam will extend beyond Hasankeyf, well
across national borders. By virtue of being upstream from Iraq and
Syria on both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, Turkey effectively
controls the flow of water southward.

With the Euphrates already heavily dammed, the Syrian and Iraqi
governments have raised serious concerns about dam projects on the
Tigris. Twice the region has been on the verge of water wars, once in
1975 and again in 1990. Restricting water flow from the Tigris could
prove to be a tipping point in the incendiary region.

Activists believe that, ultimately, the dam will turn water into a
political tool both inside and outside Turkey's borders.

Down the road, Mehmet Ali, a shopkeeper selling tourist souvenirs,
lamented the imminent loss of his home. "They are condemning a place
like this, with no equal in the world, for a dam that will only
operate for 50 years."

An invaluable site
Today there is little recourse left to stop construction. The European
Court of Human Rights (ECHR) could theoretically put a hold on the
project. A case was brought before the court in 2006 but was rejected
on the grounds that the ECHR protects human rights, not cultural
heritage, ignoring the 35,000 people who will be forced to give up
their way of life if the dam is completed.

A new case is being submitted to the ECHR after a Turkish regional
court rejected it this week. Locals hope that it will work, but are
not deceiving themselves. They have learned from experience how
determined the state is to continue with the project.

Omer Guzel, a shop owner and local activist in Hasankeyf, told IPS
that at one point the villagers held protests every week. "It didn't
accomplish anything," he said. "In the end the dam is still being
built right now."

The government has kept the construction site, 16 kilometres
downstream from Hasankeyf, under heavy security. However, sources with
access to the site, who spoke to IPS on the condition of anonymity,
claim that the dam is already half completed.

There is still a chance that the United Nations Education, Scientific
and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) might list the area as a World
Heritage site, effectively guaranteeing its protection.

To qualify for World Heritage status, a site must meet one of 10
criteria for outstanding universal value in an area of cultural or
natural significance. Hasankeyf, as the only site in the world that
meets nine of the 10 criteria, is an exceptional candidate for

Unfortunately, that fact alone is not enough to be listed. "In order
to be included as a World Heritage site, the country in which the site
is located must submit an application to UNESCO. The Turkish
government has not done this," Engin said.

A UNESCO delegation previously visited Hasankeyf and, upon taking
stock of the area, urged the Turkish government to apply. The
implication was that if Turkey applied, Hasankeyf would be accepted.

"But the government does not want to protect this area, so why would
they apply? The dam project is too important to the state," Engin said.

(Inter Press Service)

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Maine dam coming down!

Good news for Penobscot river in Maine.

A Damned Dam On The Penobscot River
by Susan Sharon

June 9, 2012
Like most members of the Penobscot Nation, Scott Phillips grew up near
the Penobscot River and learned to paddle and fish as a young boy. He
took to it like a duck to water. He became a competitive racer and
eventually opened his own business selling canoes, kayaks and other
outdoor gear.

Next week, the first of two dams on the river will be removed,
altering the way it's used recreationally. The change could also be a
boon to Phillip's business.

"There's going be more people that are going to want to get into
canoeing or kayaking or even rafting," Phillips says. "Because once we
take those dams out, you're going from basically two small, lake-type
features to a free-flowing river again and it's going to be nice."

Paddling a stretch of calm water, Phillips says members of his tribe
have long opposed the labyrinth of dams that block Atlantic salmon
from their native spawning grounds. By the end of next year, a 35-mile
section of river is expected to be clear.

"It's the traveling route my Penobscot ancestors used to get to the
ocean for centuries, and so I'm very excited to retrace those steps,"
says Phillips.

Long Time Coming

Conservation groups are also cheering the move. For centuries,
industry relied on the Penobscot River. Former Inland Fisheries and
Wildlife Commissioner Bucky Owen is a fly fisherman who's hopeful
nearly a dozen fish species will be restored along with the river's
ecological health.

"I've been involved with conservation for over 40 years here in Maine
and this is the No. 1 project I think that I will have been or will be
involved in � the most significant," Owen says.

A coalition of conservation groups collaborated with industry, the
Penobscot Nation and government officials to make the project happen.
Before they came to an agreement, the three parties fought protracted
court battles over hydro development and fish passage. Black Bear
Hydro spokesman Scott Hall was one of the first people to agree to

"The benefit to us relatively early on was very clear," Hall says.
"And that was that there was a better way to do business."

Fewer Dams, More Energy

In exchange for removal of two out-dated, inefficient dams and
installing better fish passage at a third, Hall's company is allowed
to boost energy production at other facilities along the river. The
complicated process to get to the agreement has taken 13 years.

"We had a number of occasions where the emotions were very high," Hall
says. "But to everybody's credit, I think somebody was able to step in
each time and say okay, wait a minute, we're making progress here.
There's a bigger end to this."

Despite the three sides finally agreeing to remove the dams, there are
still some critics of the historic project, including Maine's Gov.
Paul LePage.

It's irresponsible for our state or our country to be taking out hydro
dams at this time," LePage says.

LePage says more dams should be built as a way to lower energy costs.
In protest, he is skipping Monday's planned celebration to mark the
Penobscot's rebirth with the demolition of the Great Works Dam.

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