Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kenya: Will Geothermal Energy Bring Power to the People?

Kenya: Will Geothermal Energy Bring Power to the People?

Kenya is investing lots of hope and money in the Bogoria-Silali
geothermal energy complex which it hopes will boost industry and
encourage clean energy consumption.

Article | 30 January 2013 - 4:19pm | By Daniel Wesangula

Stephen Samoei Magut looks calmly at the columns of steam escaping the
cracked earth in Kenya's vast Kerio Valley. The picturesque landscape
has been his home for the past seven decades.

�Growing up, we were told that the steam represented our departed
forefathers who came down to earth to sleep during the night, and went
back to heaven at daybreak,� he explains to Think Africa Press. �Now,
we are told the smoke represents progress.�

In 2011, the Kenyan government announced that the vast valley and
surrounding escarpment areas would be the site of a multi-million
dollar power supply upgrade that could become the largest geothermal
project on the continent.

Nothing but a geothermal thing

The state-owned Geothermal Development Company (GDC) announced an
investment of $3.1 billion for the construction and development of the
first phase of what has been christened the Bogoria-Silali geothermal
complex. This first phase will take place in several areas of the
Kerio Valley (some 400 km from Kenya's capital Nairobi) and comprise
of eight geothermal power projects each with a capacity of 100 mega-

The GDC is currently in the process of seeking investors for the
complex. �Investors are expected to raise at least $400 million for
the construction of each unit and are responsible to finance,
construct, operate and maintain the plants, while GDC will be
responsible for the resource development and management development of
civil infrastructure, exploration, drilling among other technical
aspects�, said Patrick Nyoike, Kenya's Permanent Secretary for Energy
at a recent press conference.

Kenyan authorities are hopefully the Bogoria-Silali project will be a
step towards development. �Energy is a key pillar in our development
roadmap of becoming a developed country by the year 2030. If our
national grid can be boosted in any way, then this is a welcome, long
overdue move�, explained Kwemoi Mariko, an energy specialist based in
Boosting business

Around 60-80% of Kenya's electricity demand is supplied by the
country�s overstretched hydro-electrical power dams. But the rain-fed
energy system can be erratic during the dry season, forcing the
country�s power supplier KenGen Company to rely on diesel generators
to meet the shortfall.

The rest of Kenya�s electricity demand is supplied by Independent
Power Producers (IPPs) and imports from Uganda's electricity board.
�Essentially what this has meant is that we pay more for the power�,
Stephen Mutoro from the Consumers Federation of Kenya told Think
Africa Press. �Every little spike in world oil prices has an effect on
the power bills of every Kenyan�.

And while small consumers feel the pinch of high power bills,
manufacturers feel the punch of it. Kenya's cost of electricity is
uncompetitive even within the East African Community bloc and
companies are opting to set up shop elsewhere.

�We have lost many investors to the neighbouring countries�, explained
Timothy Muriuki, Chairman of the Nairobi Central Business Community.
�Investors simply shut down operation in Nairobi and relocate to other
East African capitals. At the moment we are facing a lot of
competition from Kigali [in Rwanda]. It is becoming increasingly
difficult for large business owners to meet their revenue targets. We
hope the development of geothermal power will in the long run make
things better for us.�
Inspiring hope?

Once completed, the first phase of the Bogoria-Silali project will
provide up to 800 mega-watts of power. Eventually, it is hoped the
complex will contribute some 5000 mega-watts to Kenya's national grid.

However, it may prove another challenge to get Kenyans to accept such
alternative sources of power.

Once it takes off, local resident Stephen Samoei Magut will be among
those the government says will benefit from huge subsidies to
geothermal power. But he remains adamant that no matter how cheap
geothermal power will be, he will stick to his current source.

�I will still use what I use now. I do not trust whatever they are
doing down at the valley�, he says. For decades, Samoei and his family
have been using the ever-dwindling sources of firewood and, on special
occasions, paraffin-fuelled tin lamps for daily energy needs.

A recent survey conducted by Kenya's Energy Regulatory Commission
suggested a majority of households are not willing to pay for improved
energy sources because of their limited incomes. Meanwhile, another
study by policy research firm Kenya Institute for Public Policy
Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) found that just about 29% of households
are connected to the electricity grid.

Poverty and low awareness of the benefits of renewable energy are the
main reasons the country's poorer citizens stick to �dirty� energy
sources according to the report. Kerosene, charcoal and wood remain
the most popular sources of energy among poor households.

Given this, some argue that raising awareness will be critical if the
local population is to benefit from the mega project.

�We know it is the government, but they should tell us what is going
on... we saw the president and a huge government delegation
here...many people thought it was a political rally�, says Richard
Taalam, a community leader in Baringo, one of the chosen locations for
the project. Taalam says there are underlying, unfounded fears about
the project among the local population.

�There are rumours...untruths have been going around...some say the
geothermal wells will cause impotence among men...others think
eventually their land will be taken away by government...a lot of
civic education needs to go done,� he says.
Changing lives

Though initial costs for the Bogoria-Silali block are huge, the
potential pay-offs appear to outweigh the costs. Geothermal is also a
more reliable energy source than hydropower since it does not
fluctuate with rainfall patterns.

�The Bogoria-Silali project has the power to transform the lives of
each Kenyan...and open up the previously inaccessible parts of the
country�, argues Timothy Muriuki of the Nairobi Business Community.

And more benefits are expected from the project�s trickle-down effect.

�Businesses around the area will benefit as the construction of the
wells goes on...all in all the communities around will be better off
eventually�, says Taalam. �We just need to figure out how.�

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of
its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article
for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact:

About the Author

Daniel Wesangula is a journalist with AFP based in Nairobi, Kenya. He
previoused worked for the Nation Media Group.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three Gorges Dam migration ends, transition ongoing

Three Gorges Dam migration ends, transition ongoing
Xinhua News
30 January 2013

CHONGQING, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Chongqing municipal government has
removed a report on migration efforts related to the Three Gorges Dam
from the ongoing legislative session's review process, marking the end
of the nation's largest migration project.

Huang Qifan, mayor of Chongqing, said at the fourth Chongqing municipal
People's Congress that the removal indicates that the government has
reprioritized the migration efforts.

"Migration efforts involving millions of people have nearly been
completed. Poverty, unemployment and environmental hazards are now at
the top of the agenda," Huang said.

Around 1.1 million people have been relocated since 1993 to make way for
the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project.

The State Council released regulations pertaining to the migration in
1993, stressing that migrants should be treated appropriately.

A work report on the migration efforts was sent to Chongqing's annual
legislative meeting for 17 successive years, according to Wang Xiangang,
deputy of the Chongqing People's Congress and chief of the Chongqing
Migration Bureau.

Wang said the migration efforts have been successful, with many
resettled migrants seeing their living conditions improve after being

But criticism has still surfaced, as pollution and geological threats
resulting from rising waters have strained brittle slopes and triggered
landslides, threatening residents' lives and security.

Wang said the government underestimated the potential damage brought
about by rapid urbanization, erosion and household pollutants that have
ended up in the dam's reservoir.

"The economy of the populous reservoir area, which already had poor
ecology before the dam was built in 1994, depends on agriculture and
industry," says Pu Yongjian, a professor at the economics and management
department of Chongqing University.

"Manufacturers have been moved out of the area over environmental
concerns, forcing the area's economic development to start almost from
scratch," Pu said.

To protect the environment, the government has promised to find a
lasting solution for geological hazards around the dam and deal with a
backlog of social problems that have plagued migrants.

"Problems left over from migration and resettlement must be dealt with
in detail. Migrants' hardships in work and life must be solved," Wang said.

The government has closed more than 1,600 factories while moving 190,000
people elsewhere. So far, 52.9 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars)
has been earmarked to subsidize migration efforts.

"Geological hazards have been brought under control and no major losses
of life or injuries have been caused by any major geological disasters
in the Three Gorges Dam area," Wang said.

"Although the relocation is almost at an end, there is still a long way
to go. Preserving the local ecology and giving migrants a better life is
easier said than done," Pu said.

Editor: Tang Danlu

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China gives go-ahead for three new Brahmaputra dams

[Note: The State Council has not given official approval of these three
dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo. Not all dams in China require State Council
approval, as some approvals are at the regional level. However,
inclusion of these dams in the energy development plan does signal
support for their commencement.]

China gives go-ahead for three new Brahmaputra dams
The Hindu
30 January 2013

12th Plan stresses hydropower from Yarlung Zangbo

China has given the go-ahead for the construction of three new
hydropower dams on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra river, ending a
two-year halt in approving new projects on the river amid concerns from
India and environmental groups.

The three new dams have been approved by the State Council, or Cabinet,
under a new energy development plan for 2015 that was released on
January 23, according to a copy of the plan available with The Hindu.

China has, so far, only begun construction on one major hydropower dam
on the main stream of the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra or Yarlung
Zangbo as it is known in China � a 510 MW project in Zangmu in the Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR), which began to be built in 2010.

One of the three approved new dams is bigger than the Zangmu project.

A 640 MW dam will be built in Dagu, which lies 18 km upstream of Zangmu.
Another 320 MW dam will be built at Jiacha, also on the middle reaches
of the Brahmaputura downstream of Zangmu. A third dam will be built at
Jiexu, 11 km upstream of Zangmu. The capacity of the Jiexu dam is, as
yet, unconfirmed.

The three projects were listed in the State Council's energy plan for
the Twelfth Five Year Plan period (2011-15), which was released on
January 23.

Vigorous push

The plan said the government "will push forward vigorously the
hydropower base construction" on the middle reaches of the Yarlung
Zangbo. In the Twelfth Five Year plan period (2011-15), the government
will begin construction of 120 million kilowatt of conventional hydropower.

Feasibility study

A pre-feasibility study report for the 640 MW Dagu dam passed review in
November, according to the Huadong Engineering Corporation, a hydropower
company that was tasked with conducting the study by the local government.

A notice posted on its website said a two-day review conference for the
pre-feasibility study of the dam was held in November, organised by the
Tibet Autonomous Region government's Development and Reform Commission.
The notice said the study successfully passed review, adding that the
dam would be located 18 km upstream of the already in-construction
Zangmu dam.

The catchment area at the dam site, according to the Huadong Engineering
Corporation, is 157,400 square kilometres, and the average annual
discharge is 1010 cubic metres per second.

The dam will be built with a height of 124 metres and 640 MW capacity.
The construction of the Zangmu dam in 2010 triggered concerns in India
regarding possible impact on downstream flows. Chinese officials,
however, assured their Indian counterparts that the project was only a
run-of-the-river hydropower station, which would not divert the
Brahmaputra's waters. The government has also built at least six smaller
hydropower projects on the Yarlung Zangbo's tributaries, which,
officials say, will have no impact on downstream flows.

Diversion plan shelved

The government has, for now, shelved a long-discussed plan to divert the
Yarlung Zangbo's waters to the arid north, citing technical
difficulties. The plan is part of the proposed Western route of the
massive South-to-North diversion project, on which construction is yet
to begin. Chinese officials and analysts say a diversion plan is very
unlikely, considering the difficult terrain and technical problems.

However, with the three new approvals under the energy plan, four
hydropower projects will now be built � all located within a few dozen
kilometres of each other � on the main stream of the middle reaches of
the Brahmaputra.

Fresh concerns likely in India

While they are run-of-the-river projects, they will be required to store
large volumes of water for generating power. Their construction is
likely to trigger fresh concerns in India on how the flows of the
Brahmaputra downstream will be impacted.

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Ethiopia plans to power East Africa with hydro

Ethiopia plans to power East Africa with hydro

By E.G. Woldegebriel

ADDIS ABABA (AlertNet) - Ethiopia is gearing up to export large amounts of clean power across East Africa in the coming years, starting with neighbouring countries Djibouti and Sudan. But the ambitious plans have ignited controversy on several fronts.

Ethiopia wants to increase its electricity exports - mainly generated from hydropower - as a reliable source of precious hard currency. It is estimated to possess a potential capacity of 45,000 megawatts (MW) from hydro alone, which could place it at the centre of an emerging electricity network across the region, driven largely by renewable energy.

The Eastern Africa Power Pool aims to connect the power grids of at least nine countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Djibouti. It may also be extended to northern and southern Africa.

State-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) last year announced a revised 25-year power-sector strategy, aiming to boost generating capacity to 37,000 MW by 2037. A substantial amount is intended to be surplus power and is slated for export.

Work is already underway to achieve this goal. The 283-km Ethiopia-Djibouti transmission line was officially inaugurated in October 2011. The 230-kV line, enabling Djibouti to import up to 60 MW of electricity, is estimated to be earning Ethiopia at least $1.5 million per month, and has eased Djibouti's reliance on fossil-fuel power plants and generators.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) provided $95 million for the project linking the two countries. Its launch was significant for Ethiopia, as tiny Djibouti has a port that serves as the gateway for around 98 percent of landlocked Ethiopia's export-import trade, creating economic and security interdependence.

Electricity is costly in Djibouti compared with the rest of East Africa and even Arab League member states, making its capital, Djibouti City, one of the most expensive cities in the Arab world.

Producing power with fuel-operated generators costs about $0.25 per kilowatt hour compared with around $0.07 per kilowatt hour for the power Ethiopia is exporting to Djibouti, according to EEPCo.

But the project caused some controversy when it was launched. At the time, major cities in Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, faced sporadic power cuts, sparking grumbles by some Ethiopians that the scheme came at the expense of their own domestic power supply.

Multilateral donors were also initially hesitant about the feasibility of power export schemes due to concerns over inadequate infrastructure and political instability in the region.


Nonetheless, wider plans are gathering speed, with the 296-km, 230-kV Ethiopia-Sudan transmission line now being tested. Ethiopia expects to sell up to 100 MW of electricity to Sudan, according to EEPCo spokesman Miskir Negash.

The power exports will be managed so as not to jeopardise Ethiopia's domestic power supply, and the price for the electricity will be announced soon by the Ethiopian government after it finalises negotiations with Sudan, Negash added.

The $41million project, funded by the World Bank, started in 2008 and has three sections of transmission lines in Ethiopia which will connect with a line in the Sudanese border city of Gedaref.

Abdelrahman Sirelkhatim, Sudan's ambassador to Ethiopia, said the project is long overdue, and will help foster economic ties between the two countries.

But it has experienced difficulties getting off the ground, running more than two years over deadline, primarily because of financial sanctions on foreign payments imposed by the United States on Iranian banks.

This meant that the substation contractor, an Iranian firm called SUNIR International, had trouble obtaining credit and financing the project in US dollars. As a result, the Ethiopian government had to stump up an extra $3 million to expedite the work, money the Iranian company has agreed to refund later, Negash said.


All eyes are now on a proposed Ethiopia-Kenya electric transmission line, which could bring Ethiopia closer to the East African community.

Historically, Ethiopia has had fewer trade ties with Kenya than with other East African nations, including war-torn Somalia, due to a combination of infrastructure problems and trade and tariff restrictions imposed by Addis Ababa.

The 500-kv transmission line connecting the Kenyan and Ethiopian grids is expected to be completed by the end of 2016 at a cost of up to $1.26 billion. It would make Kenya, which has the region's largest industrial base, the largest buyer of Ethiopian power at an eventual 400 MW, and could allow Ethiopia to export up to 1,600 MW to countries further afield.

This project too has its critics, mainly on the Kenyan side. They say Kenyan leaders are brushing aside concerns about the controversial 1,870 MW Gibe III dam being built in southern Ethiopia, because of Nairobi's desire to purchase power from Ethiopia to reduce power cuts and drive down electricity prices.

Kenyan and international NGOs, including Survival International, have warned that the project will displace tribal people in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya, and could pose a serious threat to Lake Turkana, the world's largest desert lake, in northeast Kenya.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said last year any problems caused by the dam would be temporary. The two governments have also set up a joint council to deal with matters arising from the use of the Omo River waters.

In June 2012, EEPCo brokered its fourth power export agreement with the newly independent country of South Sudan, to be undertaken in two phases. South Sudan, which has rich oil reserves, has depended on fossil fuels for its power supply.


One key risk for Ethiopia's power export strategy is climate change, which is likely to affect the flow of water in the rivers and dams driving hydro-power production. But there is still a high level of uncertainty over how this will play out.

Wondewossen Sintayehu, an official at Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), said more research is needed to establish the impacts of climate shifts and changes in precipitation on electricity generation. Smaller rivers are likely to be more vulnerable to any reduction in water levels or increase in pollution, whereas most hydro-power projects are being constructed on larger rivers such as the Nile and the Omo, he added.

So far, data has shown that climate change is leading to higher rainfall in general, which could be a positive factor for hydro-power production, he noted. But Ethiopia has more than 30 agro-ecological zones, and detailed studies are being carried out to analyse the effects of climate change on specific regions and the rivers that originate in them, Sintayehu said.

Sileshi Bekele, a senior water and climate specialist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), said climate extremes could have negative consequences for hydro-power projects.

A sustained drought period lasting for several years could lead to declines in production, while dams built without due attention to climate data could see their reservoirs and spillways unable to cope with water levels in times of flooding, he noted.

But he also emphasised the environmental benefits of hydropower schemes. They contribute to climate change mitigation, as they have negligible carbon emissions, and they can also help regenerate ecosystems, he said. 

E.G. Woldegebriel is a journalist based in Addis Ababa with an interest in environmental issues.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Policy Program Intern - Spring/Summer 2013

Dear all,

We are seeking a part-time Policy Program Intern for 16-20 hours per week for 3 months (with the possibility of extension). The internship would be based in our Berkeley office.  Please share this with anyone you think may be interested. Thank you!

Katy Yan
Intern & Volunteer Coordinator
International Rivers

Policy Program Intern – Spring/Summer 2013

International Rivers is a non-profit research and advocacy organization headquartered in Berkeley, California, with staff and consultants currently working in Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Thailand. International Rivers supports communities around the world in protecting their rivers and rights. We work to halt destructive dams and encourage better methods of meeting needs for water, energy and protection from floods.

International Rivers' Policy Program works to strengthen the social and environmental policies of dam builders and financiers, and to build the capacity of civil society and dam-affected communities to defend their rights. We are seeking a part-time (16-20 hours/week) intern for 3 months during Spring and Summer 2013 (with possibility of extension) to assist with the creation of a major report on the current state of the world's rivers. The report will include an in-depth research component on indicators of river basin health, and will analyze our experiences and lessons with specific dam projects, developers, and cross-cutting issues over the past decade. The Policy Program Intern will play a critical role in the project team by supporting the research, production, and outreach components of this report.

Specific responsibilities may include:
  • Support for research and data collection
  • Production of graphics, maps, and other visuals
  • Coordination of publication review team
  • Support for outreach and communications activities
  • Some administrative and logistical tasks
Required qualifications and experiences:
  • Commitment to environmental integrity, social justice and the mission of International Rivers
  • A background in freshwater ecology, hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, or environmental science
  • A background in geographical information science (GIS)
  • Strong research skills in English and one other language
  • Written and spoken fluency in English
  • Strong data management skills
  • Proven ability to work effectively in a team environment
Preferred qualifications:
  • Knowledge of global water institutions
  • An understanding of the social and environmental impacts of dams and hydropower
  • Experience producing infographics and visuals
  • Flexible self-starter. Strong ability to set priorities, respond to shifting priorities, and manage a variety of time-sensitive activities simultaneously
  • Excellent organizational, planning and interpersonal skills, including the ability to work both independently and within a team
Compensation includes a stipend of USD $2500 for a three-month period; an additional three-month extension is possible. This position is based in our Berkeley, California office.

Qualified applicants are encouraged to send your cover letter, resume, and a 3-page writing sample to the Intern & Volunteer Coordinator,, with “Policy Program Intern” in the subject line. NO CALLS PLEASE. This position will be open until filled.

Katy Yan
International Rivers | 国际河流
Office: 510.848.1155 x317
Skype: katyyan85
Follow us: Twitter | Facebook | Weibo

World Bank-funded Luhri project could cause harm: Activists

World Bank-funded project could cause harm: Activists

Shimla, Jan 28 (IANS) Fifty prominent national groups and green
activists Monday questioned the environment and forests ministry's
clearance to a World Bank-funded mega hydropower project coming up in
Himachal Pradesh.

In a missive to union Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanthi
Natarajan, they demanded the cancellation of the environment clearance
granted by the ministry's panel to the state-run Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam
Ltd. (SJVNL) for its 775 MW Luhri project on the Satluj river in upper

An expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley projects of the
ministry had recommended environmental clearance to the project at its
meeting last November, the letter said.

"Recommending environment clearance without first undertaking carrying
capacity and cumulative impact assessment is in violation of the Supreme
Court order of May 2006," the letter said.

Quoting the apex court order, the letter said that preventive measures
have to be taken, keeping in view carrying capacity of the ecosystem
operating in the environmental surroundings under consideration.

The activists claimed that since the carrying capacity of the Satluj
basin was not known, the project could not get a nod from the
environment ministry.

"The expert appraisal committee's decision is in violation of the
Supreme Court order," the letter said.

The letter pointed out that the Luhri project has a head race tunnel
length of 38.14 km, the longest in the world.

"The tunnel will bypass over 50 km length of the river, in addition to
the 6.8 km long reservoir. So the project will destroy close to 60 km
length of the mighty, already over-dammed Satluj river," the letter said.

The activists claimed that the project would hit 2,337 land owners and
9,674 people belonging to over a hundred villages, including the 78
villages located along the head race tunnel.

SJVNL deputy general manager Vijay Verma told IANS the company will
adequately compensate project-affected families.

According to forest department estimates, over 9,000 hectares of forest
land has so far been diverted for non-forest uses. Of this, 7,000
hectares have been used for hydel projects.

The signatories to the letter included Narmada Bachao Andolan, Bharat
Jan Andolan, National Alliance of People's Movements, All India Forum of
Forest People, People's Science Institute, Save Rivers Campaign of
Uttarakhand and Nature Conservation Foundation.

IANS 2013-01-28 17:22:04

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nu Dams Ignore Seismic, Ecological and Social Risks

China Moves to Dam the Nu, Ignoring Seismic, Ecological and Social Risks
International Rivers, January 25, 2013

In a blueprint for the energy sector in 2011-15, China's State Council
on Wednesday lifted an eight-year ban on five megadams for the largely
free-flowing Nu River, ignoring concerns about geologic risks, global
biodiversity, resettlement, and impacts on downstream communities.

"China's plans to go ahead with dams on the Nu, as well as similar
projects on the Upper Yangtze and Mekong, shows a complete disregard of
well-documented seismic hazards, ecological and social risks" stated
Katy Yan, China Program Coordinator for the environmental organization
International Rivers. Also included in the plan is the controversial
Xiaonanhai Dam on the Upper Yangtze.

A total of 13 dams was first proposed for the Nu River (also known as
the Salween) in 2003, but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao suspended these
plans in 2004 in a stunning decision. Since then, Huadian Corporation
has continued to explore five dams - Songta (4200 MW), Maji (4200 MW),
Yabiluo (1800 MW), Liuku (180 MW), and Saige (1000 MW) - and has
successfully lobbied the State Council to include them in the 12th Five
Year Plan.

In particular, the State Council's notice, published on January 23,
states that construction on Songta Dam, the northern-most dam in this
cascade and the only one located in Tibet, should proceed during the
2011-15 period, while the other four would undergo orderly preparation.
Both the Songta and Maji dams border the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan
Protected Areas, a World Heritage Site renowned for being home to 7,000
plant species and 80 species of rare or endangered animals. According to
UNESCO, the site is believed to support over 25% of the world's and 50%
of China's animal species. Based on eye-witness accounts, site
preparatory work for both dams has begun. Resettlement has already
occurred at the site of Liuku Dam, and the unsatisfactory process has
been well-documented by the Beijing-based organization Green Earth

All five dams are situated in one of China's most seismically active and
geologically unstable zones. Senior geologists in China have repeatedly
warned about the risks of seismic activity and extreme climatic events
on dam building in the region, including the potential for a domino
effect of dam failures should an upper dam collapse during an earthquake
or extreme flood event.

These concerns are echoed by civil society groups in Burma and Thailand,
who fear the cumulative impact that these dams on the Nu/Salween could
have on downstream communities and ecosystems. Thus far, a cumulative
impact assessment for all dams in the Salween basin has not been conducted.

International Rivers calls on the Chinese government to respect public
opposition by upholding the stay on dam building on the Nu River, and on
UNESCO to remind China of its obligation to protect the Three Parallel
Rivers area under the World Heritage Convention.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

China's Roseires Dam extension project opens in Sudan

Crisis-hit Sudan opens bigger dam in conflict state

A torrent of water surges into the Sudanese Blue Nile river at the
launch of the expanded Roseires dam, a 66-year old dam that signifies a
major power generator for the country
AFP , Wednesday, 2 Jan 2013

A torrent of water surged Tuesday into Sudan's Blue Nile river at the
launch of the expanded Roseires dam, which officials say should help
develop one of the country's poorest regions where insurgents are
fighting the government.
A strategically-important structure, the 66-year-old dam is already a
major power generator for a Sudan struggling with economic crisis since
South Sudan separated last year with most of the country's oil
production. It is located on the Blue Nile near Ethiopia and the
expansion has cost $460-million.
After four years of work and the resettlement of 20,000 families,
Roseires dam now stands 10 metres (33 feet) higher, doubling its storage
capacity to allow additional power generation and agricultural
irrigation, officials said. "The significance is very huge," Industry
Minister Abdulwahab Mohammed Osman told AFP on the sidelines of the
ceremony held to mark the country's 57th independence day.
He said millions of feddans (acres or hectares) of land will be
irrigated or provided with additional water because of the project. The
dam's capacity has risen to 7.4 billion cubic metres. Sudan has been
aggressively trying to tap its abundant Nile waters for power generation
and agricultural development.
In 2009 it opened the $2-billion Merowe dam north of Khartoum and is
also building the connected Atbara and Seteet hydroelectric projects in
Gedaref and Kassala states.
The government sees agriculture as one way of trying to boost revenue
after the separation of South Sudan, following a 23-year civil war,
deprived the north of most of its export earnings and precipitated an
economic crisis with soaring inflation and a sinking currency.
When President Omar al-Bashir arrived to open the Arab-funded,
Chinese-built expansion before thousands of dancing and flag-waving
residents, an arc of water surged through the flag-draped dam, sending
spray into the air and rapids surging into the river.
Military helicopters flew low overhead and troops were stationed
throughout the area. Insurgents, which Sudan says are backed by South
Sudan, have been fighting government forces in Blue Nile state since
September 2011.

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

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China Should Set Good Example on the Mekong River

China Should Set Good Example on the Mekong River
2013-01-25 14:02

Summary:A slew of dam projects on the Mekong River are gearing up
involving several countries. China is a major party, both as a direct
builder of dams on the Upper Mekong and investor of projects on the
Lower Mekong. It should set a good example by carrying out thorough
environmental impact studies.

Jan 25, 2013
By Anchalee Kongrut,a journalist from the Bangkok Post who is on
exchange with the Economic Observer

What do Chinese think of when they hear "Mekong River?" I asked my
friends and their answers pointed to the brutal killing of Chinese
sailors in 2011 by drug kingpin Naw Kham, who was sentenced to death
by a Chinese court.

For them, the Mekong River – known as Lancang Jiang (Turbulent River)
in Chinese - appears to be an outlaw territory inhibited by pirates
and drug kingpins.

But I probed further, asking about the dams that are planned in the
upper reaches of the Mekong in Yunnan Province. ''It is small and not
popular compared to the Yangtze and Yellow rivers,'' my friend said.
She certainly knew about the notorious Three Gorges Dam, but admitted
she didn't know much about the controversial Mekong River dam

The public has become more skeptical and resistant to dam construction
in recent years, especially since the State Council admitted major
geological, human and ecological problems resulting from the Three
Gorges Dam. But even though the Mekong River originates in the Tibetan
Plateau – just like the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers – the
controversial dam projects there still aren't on the radar for most

In 1995, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) was established by Laos,
Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to promote sustainable use of the
river. China, along with Myanmar, is a "dialogue partner," but not
a member.

Indeed, China probably isn't anxious to get too involved with the
MRC. In 2002, China was blamed for damaging the Mekong's pristine
ecology when it collaborated with Thailand to dynamite shoals, rapids
and reefs in order to free up navigation routes for large cargo ships.

The move spurred more trade, but local villagers living along the
river in Laos and Thailand complained about bank erosion, a dwindling
fish population and loss of biodiversity.

Then, at an MRC meeting in Thailand two years ago, Chinese delegates
became the target of ministers from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and
Cambodia, who blamed Chinese dams for causing downstream floods when
they were opened and droughts when they were closed. China responded
by sharing some data on water flow, but blamed the problems downstream
on climate change.

Chinese delegates attending MRC's meeting in Laos earlier this month
may have breathed a sigh of relief though when Laos and Thailand
became the new targets of dam indignation. Laos, along with Thai
investors, decided to go ahead with the $3.6 billion Xayaburi Dam
despite warnings from conservationists and opposition from Vietnam and
Cambodia. When it becomes operational in 2018, the Xayaburi will be
the first dam on the lower Mekong.

China's Mekong ambitions are also just getting started. According to
data from the environmental group International Rivers, China plans to
build at least 19 more dams on the Upper Mekong in addition to the
seven that are already completed. And according to information from
TERRA, a conservation group in Southeast Asia, Chinese companies are
reportedly investing in as many as 10 dam projects in Laos, while in
Cambodia, China Southern Power Grid (CSGP) might invest in the Sambor
Dam to sell electricity to Thailand.

The future of the Mekong River is worrying. The Xayaburi Dam alone
would curtail migration of up to 100 fish species and spell doom for
the Mekong Giant Catfish. According to a technical review released in
March 2011 by the MRC, the dam's reservoir will silt up and prevent
soil alluvial from running down to nourish farmland and major rice
plantations in Vietnam.

Development of hydropower on the Mekong River is nothing new. As early
as the 1970s, both the U.S. and Japan were trying to promote dam
projects in the Mekong region through aid agencies like the World Bank
and Asian Development Bank.

But with strong protests and anti-dam movements around the world, dam
projects on the Mekong River were shelved until the end of last year
when the Laotian government gave the nod to go ahead with the Xayaburi

The U.S. is still involved with the Mekong River, but now in a
different role: conservationist. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
openly voiced concern about dam construction on the Mekong River
during her visit late last year. Likewise, Japan has pledged to help
affected countries study the environmental impacts of the planned
hydropower projects.

China is a relative newcomer to the geopolitics of the Lower Mekong.
While it may have so far dodged significant opposition to its own
projects on the Upper Mekong, it can expect plenty of conservationists
in Southeast Asia to protest its hydropower investments. In August
last year, villagers in Thailand had already sued the Thai government
and state enterprises to stop them from buying electricity generated
from Mekong River dams.

China has a great opportunity to set a good example. In 2004, Premier
Wen Jiabao made a significant move by shelving many dam projects so
environmental impact studies could be conducted. The country can again
gain a good reputation worldwide if the Chinese government and
companies apply the same attitude with all dam investments.

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Ban lifted on controversial Nu River dam projects

Ban lifted on controversial Nu River dam projects
By Li Jing
South China Morning Post
25 January 2013

Beijing has decided to reopen controversial plans to dam the Nu River in
Yunnan province - eight years after Premier Wen Jiabao suspended the
plans out of environmental concerns.

The decision was mentioned in a 2011-15 energy-sector blueprint that was
released by the State Council late on Wednesday night, sparking
criticism about a lack of openness in the decision on the dams.

"Hydropower bases on the Nu River and the upper reaches of the Jinsha
and Lancang [Mekong] will be kicked off in an orderly manner," says the
document posted on the central government's website.

Some environmentalists were stunned by the plan's revival, which is part
of an effort by the government to promote hydroelectricity as a cleaner
alternative to coal.

Opponents said the decision marks a long-awaited victory for the
country's mighty state-owned power companies and local governments that
have been lobbying top leaders to promote the building of mega dams,
regardless of the potential safety risks and social consequences.

"This is really shocking," said Li Bo, a director at Friends of Nature,
a leading environmental group. "There were signs during the past year
that mega dams were staging a comeback after being put on hold for
years, but I'm still shocked by the lack of transparency in the
decision-making process behind this.

"If implemented, these projects could destroy the baseline for
ecological security, which completely goes against a promise highlighted
by the new leadership to preserve a beautiful homeland for our future

The plan would see plants with a capacity of 120 gigawatts begin
construction by 2015, with at least 54 hydropower bases listed as "key
construction projects" and a further nine in the works, mostly in the
seismically active southwest.

Four hydropower bases will be developed on the Nu River, known as the
Salween River outside China.

This comes following "scientific and prudent reviews", the plan says,
officially lifting - just weeks before his departure - a dam-building
moratorium on the river imposed by Wen in 2005 due to ecological and
geological concerns.

The highly controversial Xiaonanhai Dam on the Yangtze River - a pet
project of disgraced former party chief of Chongqing Bo Xilai - is also
among the 54 key stations under development, despite the devastating
impact that it would have on a nearby national fishery reserve, as well
as its poor economic feasibility and Bo's heavy involvement.

Under mainland law, however, each of the projects is still subject to
environmental impact reviews before construction starts.In 2005, Premier
Wen, a geologist by training, shelved plans to build 13 dams on the
Unesco-protected Nu River, one of the country's last free-flowing
rivers. Wen told authorities to "widely heed opinions, expound on [the
plan] thoroughly and make prudent decisions". At least four of the dams
have been revived in the new plan.

"Wen was able to put those projects on hold for eight years, but with
his tenure coming to an end, the pro-hydro interest groups are getting
an upper hand again," said Wang Yongchen of the Beijing-based Green
Earth Volunteers, an environmental NGO.

Both Wang and Li warned of the geological risks associated with building
mega dams in seismically active regions of the country's southwest,
which sees frequent earthquakes and landslides, along with the
destructive impact the dams would have on residents and the ecology.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chinese hydropower plan sparks tension in Honduras

Chinese hydropower plan sparks tension in Honduras

16 January 2013, IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis. By Laurence Allan.

Hondurans resident in the central eastern department (province) of
Olancho yesterday (15 January) demonstrated in support of demands for
the payment of compensation agreed between local landowners and the
owners of a major Chinese-funded hydroelectric scheme. The scheme,
Patuca III, was agreed in early 2011, and according to Miguel Navarro �
the president of the Land Owners Group of Patuca, the municipality in
which the hydro scheme is located � less than 40% of landowners have to
date been paid the compensation agreed with the government of President
Porfirio Lobo. This was part of an accord that was supposed to see a
total of USD 70 million paid to compensate landowners by October 2012.
The scheme will see the construction of three separate dams on the
Patuca river, generating up to 524 MW, according to the memorandum of
understanding signed between the Honduran government and the Chinese
operator Sinohydro.

The construction of the Patuca hydro scheme has been mooted by Honduran
governments over the past 15 years, and is seen as a significant step
forward in developing the Honduran energy matrix, which at present is
heavily dependent on imported oil. This is one reason why the Honduran
government has been keen to be re-admitted to the Venezuela-backed
regional Petrocaribe oil scheme, despite being of distinct political
style from the Venezuelan government. The hydro project is located in
the home department of President Lobo (and of deposed former president
Manuel Zelaya), which is likely to make the issue of compensation
payment to local residents especially salient to Lobo.


Hondurans demand pay for expropriated lands
AFP, January 15, 2013


Government expropriated properties from 400 landowners for the
construction of a hydroelectric plant in 2011, but paid only 40 percent
of the agreed amount.

TEGUCIGALPA � More than 100 Hondurans on Tuesday demanded the government
of Porfirio Lobo pay some $70 million in compensation for the
expropriation of 10,000 hectares in the department of Olancho, where a
hydroelectric plant project is being developed by a Chinese company.

"You want the Patuca III project? Then pay," read some banners carried
by residents of Patuca, a town located 220 miles east of Tegucigalpa,
where the project is been built.
The government signed an agreement on Feb. 2, 2011, to pay compensation
by last October, but landowners have received only 40 percent of the
agreed amount, according to Miguel Navarro, president of the board of

Navarro said the dam reservoir and infrastructure will cover some 10,000
hectares expropriated by the government from 400 owners, who he said are
still owed $70 million.

On April 16, 2011, the Honduran government signed a $50.5 million
contract with Chinese firm Sinohydro � one of the world's largest
hydroelectric companies � for the construction of the first stage of the
project, which began a month later, despite the lack of diplomatic
relations between the two countries.

The funds were invested in the construction of a tunnel to divert the
powerful flow of the Patuca River, as well as camps for workers and an
improvement in access roads to the mountainous areas.

A new $350 million contract for the second phase is expected to be
signed in coming months to build the dam that will form Lake Patuca, and
for the installation of turbines and engine rooms, so that the first
tests can be carried out in October.

The plant will generate 104 megawatts per hour in the first stage, later
expanding to 600 MW per hour.

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Myitsone Dam project expected to resume in 2015, says CPI

Myitsone Dam project expected to resume in 2015, says CPI
Thursday, 24 January 2013, Mizzima News

While construction work at the Myitsone Dam has been completely
suspended, Chinese contractor CPI expressed hope that it will resume
again after Thein Sein's tenure as Burma's President expires in 2015.

Construction at the Myitsone Dam is "100 percent stalled," said the
senior representative of China Power Investment Corporation Yunnan
(CPI), the main contractor and financial backer of the controversial
hydroelectric project in Kachin State, which was suspended by President
Thein Sein in September 2011.

Speaking to Mizzima on January 22, CPI's Wang Qiyue said that work has
been suspended at all seven dams on the Upper Irrawaddy River
project—the main site being the 6,000-MW capacity Myitsone Dam at the
confluence of the N'Mai and Mali rivers which forms the source of the
Irrawaddy, and the other six smaller dams situated further upstream on
the N'Mai and Mali rivers.

He said that all Chinese personnel and equipment from the sites have
been returned to China, and only 80 or 90 staff remain at the main site,
all of whom work as security personnel.

His comments come following rumors that construction work was continuing
at the Myitsone site.

Asked whether CPI was anticipating a restart of the project once Thein
Sein's tenure expires in 2015, Wang said that CPI "expects and looks
forward" to that prospect, but conceded that the company did not know
what will happen in the near future.

He said that CPI has been given no official indication from the Burmese
government of any future policy regarding the dam.

In recent days, a flurry of military, commerce and trade talks have
taken place between the two countries.

On Monday, following a bilateral trade meeting with Burmese
counterparts, China's Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian noted that
"several Chinese-funded projects, including a hydropower station and a
copper mine, have been abruptly halted or suspended" in recent years,
and he urged the respective Chinese companies to "work towards resolving
difficulties," according to a report by Xinhua News Agency on Monday.

NGO Burma Rivers Network (BRN) sent an open letter to China's Ambassador
to Burma on January 3, urging him to stop pushing for the restart of the
Myitsone Dam project.

Referring to an interview by Ambassador Li Junhua on the Golden Phoenix
website in November, BRN accused Li of ignoring local resistance to the
project, and of failing to recognize that the issue of ownership and
control of natural resources is a key cause of the current conflict.

"China was warned two years ago that the Myitsone Dam could fuel war,"
said BRN spokesperson Ah Nan. "Now that war is raging, how can China
still want to push ahead with the project?"

BRN also accused CPI of secretly commissioning its own Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) on the Myitsone Dam and ignoring the original
joint-Chinese-Burmese EIA "which stated very clearly that the Myitsone
Dam should be canceled and that the majority of local people were
against the project."

CPI Yunnan's senior representative Wang, however, acknowledged that a
second EIA was undertaken, but said that CPI was bound to conduct this
assessment under the instructions of the Burmese government. He said
that the EIA has been suspended due to the security conditions caused by
the Kachin conflict.

"We are trying to abide by international standards," he told Mizzima.
"We undertake [these environmental tasks] with the highest standards.
And we are trying our best to fulfill our social responsibilities [in
the local area]."

While original plans were laid to finish construction on the Myitsone
project by 2017, Wang acknowledged that, even if the dam were to be
restarted in 2015, it would take several more years thereafter to complete.

"Burma's economic development should be based on power supply," he said.
"The energy capacity of the average Burmese citizen is very low. The
government needs to address that."

CPI Chairman Lu Qizhou told Chinese media in 2011 that Burmese President
Thein Sein had, in February of that year, urged the company to
accelerate construction when he visited the project site, "so the sudden
suspension [in September 2011] is very bewildering."

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that Burma must
honor its contracts with the Chinese companies.

She was recently appointed to chair the Investigation Committee assigned
to assess the Latpadaung copper mine project, which is contracted to the
Chinese firm Wanbao and financed in part by China's NORINCO group.

"Contracts have been signed on the Latpadaung copper mining project,"
Suu Kyi told reporters in November. "If unilaterally canceled,
compensation must be made. If Burma wants to stand up as a commensurate
country within the international community, it must keep its promises."

Following a meeting between the president of NORINCO and President Thein
Sein in late December, China's national news agency Xinhua reported that
the Burmese government had all but guaranteed the implementation of
Chinese projects in Burma.

For more background:

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The human cost of Brazil's energy policy

Wednesday, January 23 2013
The human cost of Brazil's energy policy

Insisting that its policy of generating electricity from hydropower is
emissions-free, Brazil is facing opposition from river communities
threatened by its expansion. But is hydro really a green option?

By Jan Rocha
Climate News Network

S�O PAULO � Jerky mobile phone footage shows men carrying the inert
body of a young man, surrounded by distraught, weeping women. Their
wailing is clearly audible, as are the shrieks of a pet monkey which
scurries in and out of the crowd.
At least 30 large dams are planned for the Amazon region. If they all
go ahead, every one of the major rivers feeding the Amazon will be

The body is finally laid at the feet of the young man's mother. She
strokes away the hair over a bullet wound in his forehead, while
others point to bullet holes in his legs.

Adenilson Kirixi Munduruku was shot during a federal police operation,
purportedly to clear illegal gold miners from the Teles Pires river in
the Brazilian Amazon. Dressed for jungle warfare, the police threw
tear gas and fired rifles while a police helicopter flew low over the

But the Munduruku Indians believe the real aim of the operation last
November was to intimidate the villagers who have been protesting
against a dam being built on the river, which will flood their sacred

The Teles Pires dam is one of five planned for the Tapajos river
system, a major tributary of the Amazon and the last undammed river
running from Brazil's central plateau to the Amazon basin.
Every major river dammed

At least 30 large dams are planned for the Amazon region. If they all
go ahead, every one of the major rivers feeding the mighty Amazon will
be dammed. The Brazilian government claims to have one of the cleanest
energy systems in the world, with more than 70 percent of the
country's energy provided by hydroelectric power.

That claim is now being challenged as changes to Brazil's weather
pattern produce lower rainfall and more frequent droughts, causing the
levels of reservoirs and rivers to fall.

Munduruku-400Earlier dams like Tucurui on the Tocantins river
inundated vast areas of forest to form giant lakes, but the newer
generation of dams like Belo Monte on the Xingu, and Jirau and Santo
Antonio on the Madeira, use the "run-of-the river" (fio d'agua)
system, with much smaller reservoirs dependent on abundant rains.

The Brazilian press is now full of stories about the possibility of
electricity rationing, because of the fall in the level of the
reservoirs. The government firmly denies this will happen.

But while environmentalists see this as an opportunity to invest more
in other renewables, like wind and solar power, the government has
preferred to fall back on the increasing use of coal, diesel or gas-
fired plants to make up the shortfall.

Between October and December 2012 these plants produced 15.3 million
tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study by WayCarbon,
an environmental consultancy company, published earlier this month in
Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper.

More emissions than deforestation

This position has drawn criticism from within the government itself.
Tasso Azevedo, a Ministry of the Environment adviser, said that last
year the annual total for emissions from these fossil fuel plants was
higher than that caused by deforestation.

He said that it made no sense to dirty Brazil's energy mix with the
use of thermal power "when the country has the greatest potential for
wind, solar, hydro and biomass power in the world."

Yet instead of investing in wind or solar power, the government has
doubled the number of fossil-fuel-fired thermal plants in the last 10
years, to over 1,100.

The idea that hydroelectric dams are emission-free is also being
challenged. After reviewing a number of studies, Philip Fearnside,
professor of ecology at the National Institute of Amazonian Research
in Manaus, found that "in all of these studies, their overall
conclusion that tropical dams emit substantial amounts of greenhouse
gases in their first 10 years is clear and robust."
Reducing national parks

Fearnside, an American who has lived in Brazil for 30 years, is a
widely cited global warming scientist. Referring to the Teles Pires
dam which the Munduruku Indians are fighting, he said the government's
claim that it will "generate greenhouse gas emission-free electricity
cannot be substantiated."

The five dams on the Tapajos will together inundate an area of almost
2,000 square kilometers, or about 775 square miles, more than twice
the size of New York City. To build them, the government has reduced
the size of several national parks and conservation areas around the

Many riverine communities � not the Munduruku alone � will be
dislodged from what until now has been a relatively unspoiled area of

Edison Lob�o, the energy minister, is unapologetic: "Over the next ten
years we have to meet the challenge of doubling our installed
electrical energy capacity of 121,000 megawatts."

Jan Rocha is a freelance journalist living in Brazil and a former
correspondent there for the BBC World Service and The Guardian.

Climate News Network is a journalism news service started by four
veteran British environmental reporters and broadcasters. It delivers
news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets

Still image of Munduruku child during a federal police raid of a
village on the Teles Pires River in the Brazilian Amazon courtesy
Sergio Henrique Silva/YouTube.

The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service
covering climate change. Contact editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer

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China Program Intern for Spring/Summer 2013

Dear all,

We are seeking a part-time China Program Intern for 16-20 hours per week for six months (with the possibility of extension) starting in March/April. The internship would be based in Beijing.  Please share this with anyone you think may be interested. Thank you!

Intern & Volunteer Coordinator
International Rivers

China Program Internship
Part-time, Spring/Summer 2013

International Rivers is a non-profit research and advocacy organization headquartered in Berkeley, California, with staff and consultants currently working in Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Thailand. International Rivers supports communities around the world in protecting their rivers and rights. We work to halt destructive dams and encourage better methods of meeting needs for water, energy and protection from floods.

International Rivers’ China Program investigates China’s domestic and global environmental footprint through the lens of dam building. We are seeking a part-time China Program Intern for 16-20 hours per week for six months (with the possibility of extension) starting in March/April to assist with program activities in Beijing, China. The ideal candidate for this position is bilingual, web savvy, possesses solid communication, writing and editing skills, and is committed to our mission. The intern will be an integral part of the China team, will communicate with International Rivers’ global staff and partners, and will contribute to print and web publications. There may be opportunities to travel within China.

Specific responsibilities may include:
  • Program support to our China team around the issues of river protection in China
  • Support for Chinese environmental NGOs within the river network
  • Monitoring China’s global role in dam-building
  • Providing capacity building support at events for civil society actors in China and abroad
  • Some administrative and logistical tasks
  • Short translation assignments
Required qualifications and experiences:
  • Commitment to environmental integrity, social justice and the mission of International Rivers
  • Written and spoken fluency in English and Chinese
  • Strong research skills in English and Chinese
  • Communication skills: experience in Chinese social media communications, written publications and basic website maintenance
  • Proven ability to work effectively in a team environment
  • Willing to travel to visit partner organizations or conduct site visits
Preferred qualifications:
  • A background in hydrology, environmental science, environmental law or engineering
  • Completed bachelors degree or on track to complete studies by summer 2013
  • Experience interacting with Chinese environmental NGOs
  • Experience translating between Chinese and English
  • Flexible self-starter. Strong ability to set priorities, respond to shifting priorities, and manage a variety of time-sensitive activities simultaneously
  • Excellent organizational, planning and interpersonal skills, including the ability to work both independently and within a team
The level of remuneration for the internship will depend on experience.

Qualified applicants are encouraged to send your cover letter, resume, and a 3-page writing sample to the Intern & Volunteer Coordinator,, with “China Program Intern” in the subject line. NO CALLS PLEASE. This position will be open until filled, review of applications will begin on February 18th.

US Dam relicensing doesn't look at climate change

Threat to Dams Overlooked by Regulators
Audio Report on Jan 11, 2013 by Molly Samuel from KQED Science
Topics: Climate, Environment, News, Radio

There are more than 130 hydropower projects in California. They take
advantage of steep terrain and gushing mountain rivers to churn out
about fourteen percent of California's electricity.
It's a delicate balance, dependent on heavy snow in the winter, and
heavy runoff in the spring as the snow melts. But climate change
threatens to throw that balance out of whack, a problem that federal
regulators have chosen to ignore.

A High-Stakes Game

New Bullards Bar Dam stretches across a steep rocky canyon in the
Sierra Nevada foothills, about fifty miles northeast of Sacramento.
It's the fifth-highest dam in North America, towering more than sixty
stories over the North Yuba River.

"I get to run around to all these glorious sites, and work on a
multitude of issues," says Geoff Rabone. He works for the Yuba County
Water Agency, which owns this and other smaller dams, plus a network
of reservoirs, water diversion tunnels and hydroelectric facilities.
Standing on top of the spillway, we can see vultures circling below us.

Rabone manages relicensing for the water agency. Every few decades,
hydropower projects have to get a new license from the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, or FERC. If you think going to the DMV is bad,
be glad you're not a dam. Applying for a new hydropower license takes
years and costs millions of dollars. It seems like everything gets
considered, from how the dams affect water supply, to endangered
species, to whitewater sports.

"We have 44 different studies going on right now," Rabone tells me.

In the end, the new license will dictate how much electricity the
project generates, and how much water it releases � and when � for the
next thirty-to-fifty years. That's why there are so many studies, and
why FERC relicensing is so important to water agencies, power
companies and environmental groups, among others.

But there's one looming issue that Rabone doesn't have to wrangle any
studies for: climate change. FERC doesn't require those.

Climate Change and the "New Normal"
"It's an approach akin to the cliche of putting their heads in the
sand," says Steve Rothert, the California director for the
environmental organization American Rivers. Rothert says he has asked
FERC to include climate change in the relicensing process, but they've
turned him down.

Climate change projections for the Sierra Nevada vary. The region may
get wetter; it may get drier. But scientists agree that it will get
warmer, dramatically affecting the snow where most of the region�s
water comes from� and not just in the distant future. There�s evidence
that we�re already seeing effects of climate change in the Sierra.

"And yet the power companies and the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission refuse to consider how climate change will affect these
dams and these rivers for the next 50 years," says Rothert.

Josh Viers, an ecologist at The University of California � Davis, is
similarly perplexed. He argues that FERC's decision to depend only on
historic weather and water records doesn't make sense anymore,
especially for licenses that won�t expire for decades.
"Most of the projections for California in particular � and these are
multiple scientists using different models and different assumptions �
all converge on the same idea," explains Viers. "The climate 35 years
from now is not likely to be what we see today."

One recent study suggests the emergence of a �new normal� within the
next few decades, one in which eight-in-ten winters in the western
U.S. will see snow accumulation below what we now consider normal.

Viers says the way California manages water will have to change. Right
now, the snowpack itself serves as a reservoir. If it melts earlier,
or if more precipitation falls as rain, our man-made reservoirs may
have to spill the extra runoff, which could mean more floods in the
winter, and more water shortages in the summer.

"We have a lot at stake," says Viers. "So it seems it would be in the
public�s best interest if in fact FERC were looking out for the public."

In fact, the strategic planner for one Sierra utility says, when his
agency included an entire section on climate effects in its
relicensing application, FERC didn�t want it.

Why Not Consider Climate?

FERC officials acknowledge that climate change will have an impact on
hydropower, but say the climate models scientists have developed just
aren't specific enough to project local impacts.

"There are not really any models yet that are granular enough that we
would feel comfortable basing a decision on the impact of climate
change on an individual facility," FERC commissioner John Norris told

FERC has also said that the focus of relicensing studies is on how
hydropower operations affect resources, not how other things � in this
case, climate change � affect them. Rothert of American Rivers says
that's a red herring, though; the studies he's asked for would concern
how hydropower projects affect resources in a changed climate.

If federal regulators are "whistling in the dark," Rabone from the
Yuba County Water Agency says climate change is very much on his mind.

"It's going to be very interesting to see what happens, if climate
change turns out the way it's theorized to work out," he says.

If it does, the job of water managers � balancing the needs of fish,
farmers and power plants � will only get more complicated as the
climate changes, whether or not regulators are paying attention.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kenya’s hydro-power sources drying up

Kenya�s hydro-power sources drying up

Posted Tuesday, January 22 2013 at 02:00

In Summary

� Kenya turns focus to geothermal in the Rift Valley given that there
are no more sites to be tapped accoding to electricity producer KenGen

Kenya�s hydro-power production capacity is about to be exhausted.
Consequently, attention has now turned to geothermal sources estimated
to have a potential of 10,000MW concentrated in the Rift Valley.

Outgoing KenGen managing director Eddy Njoroge said the country�s
capacity to develop new hydro-power sources was limited due to lack of
sources where power can be tapped.

�There is not much capacity left in hydro-power production. Production
of hydro-power is site -specific. We do not see any other major hydro�
power project coming up in the future,� said Mr Njoroge.

KenGen is undertaking construction and rehabilitation of various hydro-
power plants. Kindaruma plant that has been producing 40MW will now
generate 32MW more when expansion and rehabilitation is completed.
Others lined up for rehabilitation are Kiambere, Tana and Sangoro

According to Mr Njoroge, half of the country�s power needs by 2018
will come from geothermal sources to feed rising demand and cushion it
from erratic hydropower generation.

There are two major geothermal sources that KenGen is undertaking;
280MW Olkaria 1 and 585MW Olkaria. He said commissioning of the two
plants will be done in February and September next year.

Energy experts say Kenya�s hope of attaining the 15,000MW target by
2030 lies in exploitation of its estimated 10,000MW geothermal
potential in Rift Valley.

Presently, there is less than 300MW obtained from geothermal sources.
This is due to the high initial costs involved in exploitation with
private investors initially hesitant to incur upfront costs that
involve data collection and other field studies.

The government set up Geothermal Development Company (GDC) to soak up
these initial costs of studies and facilitate the entry of private

Financiers such as African Development Bank have provided funds to GDC
to facilitate exploitation of geothermal power at the Menengai Crater
through procuring and commissioning of drilling rigs, wellhead
generation units, acquisition of offshore drilling materials, and
consultancy services.

The government has stepped up expansion of power sources through
exploitation of geothermal, wind and solar in recent years to meet the
rising demand.

Current production stands at 1600MW against a peak of 1300MW. The
demand for power has been expanding with growth of the economy and
domestic connections through increased rural electrification.

�We want to shift to alternative sources of power that will provide
cheaper electricity. Geothermal energy has high initial investment but
provides cheaper electricity in the long run,� said Mr Njoroge in an
earlier interview.

The geothermal wells that include Olkaria and Menengai are expected to
provide over 1,200MW when operational.

Financing options

KenGen has been exploring various financing options that include
direct foreign investment, vendor financing, public-private
partnerships (PPPs) and independent power projects (IPPs) as well as
built, operate transfer (BOT).

KenGen signed a Sh98.6 billion ($1.3 billion) funding deal with
Sinclair Knight Merz Ltd, a New Zealand firm, in 2010 to provide some
of the cash. The money was to be raised by a consortium of Japan
International Cooperation Agency, French Development Agency, European
Investment Bank, World Bank, and German owned development bank KfW

The country�s power demand has been growing at over eight per cent a
year, leaving a small reserve margin of less than five per cent that
is wiped out when there is drought.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Vietnam and Cambodia tell Laos to stop $3.5bn Mekong River dam project

Vietnam and Cambodia tell Laos to stop $3.5bn Mekong River dam project
Food security issues lead to disagreement over concerns that dam will
hit livelihood of tens of millions
Reuters, The Guardian, Friday 18 January 2013 07.50 EST

Vietnam urged Laos to halt construction of a $3.5bn (£2.2bn) hydropower
dam on Mekong River pending further study, environmental activists said
on Friday.

Cambodia, downriver from the Xayaburi dam, accused Laos of failing to
consult on the project, activists said. The Mekong River commission
(MRC), made up of member states Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand,
held a three-day meeting in northern Laos to discuss river development

The dam in northern Laos, the first of 11 planned for the lower Mekong
River running through south-east Asia, threatens the livelihood of tens
of millions who depend on the river's aquatic resources, activists say.

"Vietnam requested that no further developments on the Mekong mainstream
occur until the ... dams study agreed upon at least year's council
meeting is completed," International Rivers, an NGO devoted to river
conservation, said in a statement.

"The Cambodian delegation asserted that Laos had misinterpreted the
Mekong agreement." Officials from Cambodia and Vietnam were not
available for comment.

The MRC is bound by treaty to hold inter-governmental consultations
before dams are built. But members have no veto.

"In the absence of an agreement, other countries can disagree if they
like but this can't stop Laos," said Jian-hua Meng, a specialist in
sustainable hydropower at the World Wildlife Fund. "The role of the MRC
is now being questioned along with the level of investment put in the

In December 2011, MRC member states agreed to conduct new environmental
impact assessments before construction proceeded, but last August Ch
Karnchang PCL, the Thai construction company behind the project, said it
had resumed work.

A groundbreaking ceremony in November signalled the formal start of
construction, said Meng.

Ch Karnchang's 50%-owned subsidiary, Xayaburi Power Co, has received a
29-year concession from the Laotian government to operate the dam's
power plant and Thailand is set to buy 95% of the electricity generated.

Milton Osborne of the Lowy Institute, an Australian foreign policy
thinktank, said Xayaburi marked a turning-point that would enable others
to build their own dams, including Cambodia.

He described as a "monstrous disaster" a proposal for a Chinese power
company to build a dam at Sambor in northeastern Cambodia, on a
tributary of the Mekong. "It would be so disastrous, blocking one of the
main fish migratory systems," he said.

Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia share the lower stretches of the
2,500-mile (4,000km ) Mekong. Activists say dams could threaten food
security in Cambodia and Vietnam.

The river provides up to 80% of the animal protein consumed in Cambodia
and sediment and changes to river flow threaten the Mekong Delta, which
contributes half of Vietnam's agricultural GDP.

Cambodia approved its own hydroelectric dams in November.

A second Cambodian project, the Lower Sesan dam in northern Stung Treng
province, is a joint venture between Cambodian, Chinese and Vietnamese
companies. Campaigners say it would reduce the fish catch in a country
with malnutrition issues.

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PHOTOS: Between the glacier and the dam - life on the Tibetan plateau

Between the glacier and the dam: life on the Tibetan plateau
By Sean Gallagher
January 13, 2013

[See link for Sean's photos from Heishui:]

The Tibetan Plateau covers approximately a quarter of China's land area,
spreading out over 2.5 million square kilometres in the west of the
country. Home to the largest store of freshwater outside of the poles,
it feeds water into Asia's major rivers which supply water to over a
billion people. As a result of anthropogenic climate change,
temperatures are rising on the Tibetan Plateau faster than anywhere else
in Asia. The effects of these changes are becoming more evident in the
form of melting glaciers, intensified weather events, increasing
desertification and degraded grasslands.

In the town of Heishui, in northern Sichuan province, the effects of
climate change are being felt firsthand by the people who reside in this
south-eastern corner of the plateau. The Dagu glacier which sits above
the town lies at over 5,000 metres. But it's quickly retreating due to
rising temperatures in the region. Just 50 kilometres downstream, the
water run-off from the glacier slows and stagnates behind one of the
country's largest and newest hydropower constructions, the 147-metre
high Maoergai Dam.

At the beginning of July, the Chinese central authority activated an
emergency response plan in order to cope with severe flooding in Sichuan
Province, which receives its water from the rivers that originate on the
Tibetan Plateau. State media reported that more than 4.6 million people
were affected, with flooding damaging more than 37,000 homes and leaving
over 250,000 hectares of crops unusable.

In the summer and autumn of 2012, photographer Sean Gallagher, whose
work focuses on environmental issues across Asia, was awarded his fifth
grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to travel to the
Tibetan Plateau and document the effects of climate change on the "roof
of the world". You can learn more about this work on the Pulitzer Center

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Protecting water pays dividends

Protecting water pays dividends (IRIN)

JOHANNESBURG, 17 January 2013 (IRIN) - As soaring temperatures and rapid urbanization threaten water security, countries are beginning to invest in the protection and preservation of their water sources, a new report reveals.

The efforts - such as planting trees along the shorelines of rivers to prevent soil erosion - are also creating jobs, the report, State of Watershed Payments 2012, says.

Produced by the nonprofit Forest Trends, the report is the second instalment of an inventory of initiatives around the world that are paying individuals and communities to revive or preserve water-friendly features of the landscape, including wetlands, streams and forests that can capture, filter and store freshwater.

Protecting watershed services

Countries are seeking to protect watershed services - the benefits, like clean water, obtained from healthy watershed ecosystems - by incentivizing the maintenance and improvement of watershed areas.

Of the 205 "payments for watershed services" programmes tracked around the world, more than half are in China (61) and the United States (67). Forest Trends discovered watershed investment programmes in 29 countries, but a staggering 91 percent of the payments in 2011 took place in China.

There are, however, massive initiatives underway in Africa. South Africa runs the continent's largest water conservation programme, Working for Water, which since its inception in 1995 has employed at least 20,000 people to uproot water-hogging invasive plants such as water hyacinth and eucalyptus. Studies estimate that the programme has saved South Africa more than US$50 billion in avoided costs from invasive plant impacts.

The government has been paying people employed by the programme out of its poverty relief fund. The programme, through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), is now working with private companies in South Africa to offset their water consumption "footprints" and improve their water efficiency by investing in watershed services.

Around the world, there are at least 73 new investments in watershed services (IWS) programmes under development. Countries like Bulgaria, Gabon, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi and Romania are "in line to implement their first IWS mechanism in 2012 and the coming years", the report said.

But sustainable funding is critical. China is doing well in this regard because all of its initiatives are state-funded. The report found that in many regions, particularly Africa and Latin America, new or developing programmes identified in 2008 no longer existed by 2011, largely because initial grant funds ran out.

Lessons for future programmes

"Sure, these types of mechanisms are fairly new, and practitioners are still early in the learning curve. Some amount of project failure is not unexpected," said Nathaniel Carroll, one of the authors of the Forest Trends' report, in an email to IRIN.

"But part of what we hope this report - and other products like - will do is share some of the elements of success and project design (such as feasibility assessment, local buy-in, long-term local financing as opposed to foundation support alone, etc.) with other projects in early stages to improve likelihood of success," he added.

Researchers Maryanne Grieg-Gran and Ina Porras, from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), say they have been recording "faltering progress of payment for watershed services initiatives" in their reviews of such schemes in developing countries. One such review, All that Glitters, published in 2008, found that only three of the 17 proposed schemes reported in 2002 proceeded to a pilot stage. Of the 25 schemes reported as being pilot or mature programmes in 2002, only about half were still ongoing by the review's publication.

The schemes that survived were flexible and adapted to changing conditions, said Grieg-Gran.

For countries that cannot afford to keep these programmes alive, "engaging the private sector is one piece of the puzzle", said Carroll. "Redirecting more of the government, multilateral bank and aid dollars away from grey infrastructure [concrete, manmade infrastructure] and towards watershed payment systems and natural infrastructure is another piece of the puzzle."

Greig-Gran and Porras say governments can raise funds from the private sector for payments schemes in other, more indirect ways, directing revenue from taxes on energy and water. Costa Rica, which has been running an IWS scheme since 1997, provides a model for this approach that other countries can learn from.

The IIED researchers said more evidence is required about the impact such payments have on livelihoods and on improving water sources to strengthen the case for long-term investments in such schemes.

An evaluation by the World Bank estimates that 700 million people in 40 countries face water shortages. Today, one third of the World Bank's loan portfolio involves water projects. And though investments in watershed services are growing rapidly, they are tiny compared to the estimated $1 trillion per year that will be needed through 2025 to meet water supply and sanitation demands.