Friday, April 26, 2013

China provides $1 billion for Ethiopian dam transmission lines

China provides $1 billion for Renaissance dam Transmission lines
Daniel Berhane's Blog, Friday, April 26, 2013

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-Dedesa-Holeta 500 KV Power
Transmission Project has been signed between Ethiopian Electric Power
Corporation (EEPCo) and China Electric Power Equipment and Technology

The transmission line is of double circuit and it stretches 1238 km from
the Renaissance Dam to Dedesa to Holeta through 500kv transmission line.
There will be two new substations in Dedesa and Holeta. The over 98 km
transmission line of 400kv stretches from Holeta to three existing
substations: Sebeta II, Sululta II and Akaki II. The total transmission
line is 1336kv long.

The total transmission line contract price is US$ 820 million and the
two substations construction costs over US$ 359 million. The overall
cost of the project is over US$ 1.17 billion.

The Chinese Electric Power Equipment and Technology Co.Itd covers 85 %
of the cost of the project from Chinese financial sources while the
balance is financed by Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation. This
implies the Chinese provide over a billion dollar to the construction of
the transmission line project, which of course shows the very close
relationship between China and Ethiopia.

When interest combined, the total contract amount of the project is over
US$ 1.4 billion. The Project duration of the contract is 28 months after
two months of the signing ceremony.

In the signing ceremony, CEO of EEPCo Mihret Debebe said the signing of
the contract is historic as the Chinese keep providing financial support
to such huge project to which the country attaches profound significance.

The Chinese responded saying Ethiopia is a strong economic and political
ally in Africa and the cooperation between the two nations will remain

The signing ceremony is attended by Dr. Debretsiyon Gebremichael with
Deputy Prime Minister Portfolio, Minister of Water and Energy, Alemayehu
Tegenu, State Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Ahmed Shide
and other dignitaries.


Source: Ethiopian Radio and television Agency – April 26, 2013.
Originally titled "Renaissance Dam Power Transmission Project signed",
by Zeryihun Kassa.

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

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Experts debate tremor’s cause

Experts debate tremor�s cause
By Hu Qingyun
Global Times
April 22, 2013

The 7.0 magnitude quake that rattled Lushan county in Sichuan Province
on Saturday has stirred heated discussions among experts about whether
the quake has any links with a previous 8.0 magnitude quake that hit the
province in 2008.

Some pointed out that the Lushan earthquake, similar to the Wenchuan
earthquake, occurred on the Longmenshan fault line and was triggered by
movement in the earth's crust.

Fan Xiao, chief engineer at the Sichuan Bureau of Geology and Mineral
Resources, told the Global Times on Sunday that the earthquake was an
aftershock of the Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008.

"After the Wenchuan quake, the fault line became active as its stress
wasn't completely released. So it was possible for a 7.0 magnitude
aftershock even five years later," Fan said, adding that it was the
Longmenshan fault line adjusting its stress.

Zhou Bengang, a researcher with the China Earthquake Networks Center,
disagreed, saying the Lushan quake was isolated. "The quake occurred on
the southern part of the fault line, while the Wenchuan earthquake
occurred in the middle part."

Zhou said the quake happened in different parts of the fracture and
earthquakes in the southern part of the fault line are comparatively weak.

Feng Zhiming, a researcher at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and
Natural Resources Research of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told
the Global Times that the death toll of the Lushan earthquake would be
lower and the property damage would be less, because of its relatively
low strength.

Apart from the natural movement of the earth's crust, recently
constructed dams and their reservoirs may have also triggered the two
earthquakes, Fan noted.

The Pubugou reservoir, which holds 5.39 billion cubic meters and was
created by a 186 meter tall dam, is 80 kilometers from Lushan.
Earthquake monitors have detected 1,834 temblors in the area between
October of 2006 and December of 2011.

"The large reservoirs built on the fault line can induce earthquakes as
the huge amount of water adds huge pressure to the fracture," Fan said.

A reservoir with a capacity of over 1 billion cubic meters and a dam
more than 100 meters tall would have a 30 percent to 40 percent chance
of inducing an earthquake, said Fan.

Fan is one of the experts who questioned whether the 2008 earthquake was
triggered by the Zipingpu reservoir, which is about 4.5 kilometers from
the epicenter and has a capacity of 1.1 billion cubic meters. He said
authorities should realize reservoirs built on seismically active fault
lines can cause movement in the earth's crust.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Aftershocks from Sichuan earthquake pose threat of secondary disasters

Aftershocks from Sichuan earthquake pose threat of secondary disasters
South China Morning Post, 22 April 2013
By Stephen Chen

Secondary disasters such as mudslides and dam-related crises may occur
in the days or even months after Saturday's earthquake, threatening the
safety of residents and rescuers, geologists warn.

Fan Xiao, chief engineer at the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau in
Chengdu, said yesterday the banks along the Qingyi River, in one of the
most geologically unstable regions of the province, had taken a big hit.

Known for its high mountains and deep valleys, the area was already
unstable before the earthquake, with villages and roads sitting almost
in the path of potential landslides, Fan said. And shockwaves from the
earthquake could profoundly increase structural instability in the region.

"Residents and rescuers must be highly alert to the dangers of
mudslides, especially after rain," he said. "There will be lots of rain
in the coming months."

Like all major rivers in Sichuan, the Qingyi has been heavily dammed by
hydropower projects. Though none collapsed during the quake, the biggest
threat to the dams' structural integrity will come during the summer
flood season, Fan said.

Yang Yong , an independent geologist based in Chengdu who is familiar
with hydropower projects in the region, told The Beijing News that he
was worried because of the large number of dams in the quake zone.

"The closest dam was just 10 kilometres from the epicentre," he was
quoted as saying. "Communications and transportation were both cut off.
We don't know the situation there."

The Ministry of Water Resources said on its website yesterday that 14
large dams affected by the shockwaves remained stable, but two
medium-sized dams were damaged. Authorities did not give the extent of
the damage, or the locations or names of the dams. Additionally, 52
small dams were damaged, and states of emergency were issued for five of
them, resulting in downstream residents being evacuated.

More than 3,000 hydropower engineers, workers and military personnel had
been sent to examine all dams in the region and carry out repairs, it said.

The Ministry of Land and Resources said more than 10 landslides had
occurred on roads deemed critical to search-and-rescue work, while
monitors at five possible mudslide sites in Yaan city sounded alerts.

The ministry issued a red alert for mudslides and landslides in towns in
Lushan county.

The China Meteorological Administration warned that rain was expected in
the quake zone in the three days following the earthquake, increasing
the risk of secondary disasters.

Sichuan is also known for its nuclear facilities, many of which are for
military purposes. The China National Nuclear Power Corporation
announced on its website that its nine nuclear facilities in Sichuan
experienced various levels of shockwaves at the weekend, prompting
safety checks. There had been no reports of leaking pipes or collapsed
buildings at the facilities.

As of 6pm yesterday, the quake zone had experienced 1,642 aftershocks -
the strongest with a magnitude of 5.4.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Africa 2013: Hydro Industry Shuts Out Critical Voices

Hydro Industry Shuts Out Critical Voices
By Peter Bosshard
April 16, 2013

The international hydropower industry is meeting in Ethiopia for their
big Africa 2013 conference this week. The event's mission is to bring
together "experts from the international water resources community" and
help African nations "achieve their development goals." Yet when Rudo
Sanyanga, the director of International Rivers' Africa program and a
noted freshwater biologist, signed up for the event, she was rejected
because of her critical views. This illustrates an approach to dam
building that increasingly silences dissenting voices.

International Rivers has regularly attended conferences of the dam and
hydropower industry over the years. Such gatherings help us understand
how dam builders think, meet informally with government and company
representatives in the corridors, and bring some ground realities into
often one-sided discussions. Our proposals for presentations were
usually rejected, but I was invited to address the annual meeting of the
International Commission on Large Dams in 2001, and the International
Hydropower Association allowed Kurdish protesters to present a statement
on the Ilisu Dam at its conference in Turkey in 2007.

This week's Africa 2013 conference will discuss dam projects such as
Grand Renaissance in Ethiopia, Grand Inga in the DRC, Merowe in Sudan,
Bujagali in Uganda, and Mphanda Nkuwa in Mozambique. Participants will
also visit the Gibe II and III dams in the Omo Valley on what has been
billed a study tour. All these projects are of great concern for African
civil society groups, and so my colleague Rudo Sanyanga decided to
attend the pricey event. Rudo, a native Zimbabwean, holds a Ph.D. in
Aquatic Systems Ecology from Stockholm University and has a
distinguished track record as an expert on the ecology of the Zambezi River.

On February 20, the conference organizers informed Rudo that they had
been "instructed to decline your registration for Africa 2013." The
conference, they informed the freshwater biologist, was "a
technical/scientific event, rather than dealing with policy." After our
protests, Alison Bartle, the main organizer, argued that the conference
would not weigh "the benefits or disadvantages of water infrastructure,"
offered only limited space for attendance and was not the appropriate
place for a "political body" like International Rivers. Never mind that
tickets for the event are still being advertised today and several
(pro-dam) politicians have been invited to address the gathering.

Africa 2013 is a private event, and the organizers are free to admit
whoever they want. Given their exclusion of dissenting voices, they
should however drop their pretense of promoting Africa's development.
The African Union in turn, at whose headquarters the conference is
taking place, should not give credibility to an event that suppresses an
open debate and free scientific exchange.

Unfortunately, the stance of the organizers reflects the repression that
often accompanies hydropower projects nowadays. Many dam activists have
been killed or forced into exile because of their engagement. Only this
month, Brazilian military police entered indigenous lands along the
Tapajos River to enforce an environmental assessment which the Munduruku
community had rejected. And the Burmese military is currently clearing
the ground for dams proposed on Shan indigenous lands on the Salween River.

The Ethiopian government, with whom the hydropower industry loves to
join forces, is one of the worst offenders when it comes to human rights
in dam projects. The government does not allow any dissent on projects
like the Grand Renaissance and Gibe III dams, and has jailed a
journalist who questioned the financing of the Renaissance Dam on the
Nile (and who won UNESCO's World Press Freedom Prize today).
International Rivers has been threatened with murder and rape for our
reporting about the Gibe III project. Save the Omo Valley and other
sites document the ongoing abuses which the Ethiopian military inflicts
on the indigenous communities that stand in the way of the Gibe III Dam
and the sugar plantations that are linked to it.

I have met many decent dam builders who abhor the repression that
shrouds some of their projects. But I have yet to see public statements
from the hydropower industry associations that denounce such practices.
When they join forces with repressive regimes, organize propaganda trips
to notorious projects like Gibe III and shut out critics from their
events, they become complicit in the growing repression that has become
a hallmark of their trade.

Peter Bosshard is the Policy Director of International Rivers

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Loan to Nepal soon: EXIM Bank of India

Loan to Nepal soon: EXIM Bank of India
The Kathmandu Post, 2013-04-18
Ashok Thapa

One and half years after the signing of an agreement with Nepal, EXIM
Bank of India has finally confirmed that it will soon release a Line
of Credit worth $250 million to Nepal to finance infrastructure
projects here.

Energy Secretary Hari Ram Koirala said that he received an email from
Radhika Lokesh, joint secretary at the India's Ministry of External
Affairs, on Tuesday, confirming the release of committed amount. "In
her email, Lokesh has assured that the Line of Credit will be released
at the earliest without fixing the date," said Koirala.

Nepal government and Exim of India Bank signed the agreement on
October 21, 2011 in New Delhi during the visit of the former Prime
Minister Baburam Bhattarai. Under the agreement, the loan is supposed
to be used in eligible machinery, equipment, goods and services
including consultancy services for the purpose of infrastructure
projects such as highways, airports, bridges, irrigation, roads,
railways and hydropower projects in Nepal. The government has decided
to use the pledged amount in hydropower, transmission line and road

While the credit agreement was supposed to come into effect from June
29, 2012, the release of the amount was delayed after the Nepal
government failed to submit the progress report of projects that are
due to be financed under the Indian aid.

"The government has already submitted the progress report, including
detailed project reports, of most of the projects to be built with the
Indian aid," said Koirala. The government, however, is yet to submit
the detailed project report of Modi-Lekhnath 132 KV Transmission Line.

After reviewing the DPR, a delegation from EXIM Bank of India led by
Lokesh had last week held a meeting with officials of Finance, Energy
and Physical Infrastructure ministries, among others.

"The delegates, during the meeting had assured to release the loan at
the earliest," added Secretary Koirala. As per the agreement, India
will provide loans for 30 years at 1.75 percent interest per annum and
Exim had written to the ministry on June 29, 2012, stating that the
loan has come into effect.

The government plans to spend $ 170 million on hydropower and
transmission line projects, while the rest of the amount will be spent
on the road and other infrastructure projects.

As per the agreement, the goods and services including consultancy
services of the value of at least 75 per cent of the contract price
shall be supplied by the

seller from India and the rest (other than consultancy services) may
be procured from outside India. "However, at the request of borrower
and with the approval of Government of India, Exim Bank may consider
reduction in the Indian content," the Reserve Bank of India stated on
its website.

According to ministry officials, there has been a difference between
the two sides over the use of Indian materials for the construction of
projects to be financed by Indian bank.

"Though we have asked the Indian side to reduce the use of Indian
materials to 50 percent, it is yet to be settled," said the ministry
official. Construction of around half a dozen transmission lines has
not moved ahead due to delay in sanctioning of the credit. The Nepal
Electricity Authority (NEA) has not been able to sign Power Purchase
Agreement with four hydropower projects to be built in Solu and Koshi
corridor due to uncertainty about construction of the transmission

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Study finds high GHG emissions from Nam Theun 2 reservoir

Sorry for x-postings

 A dam too far in Laos
By Melinda Boh
Asia Times, April 12, 2013

VIENTIANE - It was once referred to by US magazine Newsweek as a "kinder, gentler" type of dam. Since the Nam Theun 2 hydropower dam commenced commercial operations in 2010, the World Bank and other proponents of the multi-billion dollar power project have trumpeted it as an economic and social development success story for host country Laos.

But with the negative publicity and diplomatic tussles now focused on the proposed US$3.5 billion Xayaboury dam, which if built promises to hurt downstream communities and the environment in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Nam Theun 2's emerging failures have largely escaped critical scrutiny.

In particular, there are rising indications that Nam Theun 2 and its massive 450 square kilometer reservoir are responsible for massive amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, amounting to as much as one million tons of methane and carbon dioxide per year, according to recent independent academic studies, including a statistical assessment produced by the US's Duke University.

If accurate, that figure is substantially higher than the level of emissions initially estimated in the project's environmental impact assessment. Researchers from Toulouse University in France have concluded that Nam Theun 2 produces in excess of 40% of the GHG that would be emitted from a coal fired power plant of equivalent energy output, and far more than a natural gas-fired plant.

Hydropower proponents have long argued that dams like Nam Theun 2 represent a clean and green source of energy that contribute to economic development. According to the Nam Theun 2 Power Company's website, the 1,070 megawatt power producing dam has made a wide range of positive contributions to local communities, including improvement in rice yields, better health care, and the development of small businesses, among other alleged trickle down benefits.

Recent scientific studies of tropical climate dams such as the Nam Theun 2 show such claims are often more corporate social responsibility propaganda than grass roots reality. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other major backers of Nam Theun 2 had earlier faced critical questions about the dam's design, resettlement of local communities and alleged corruption related to logging and biomass clearance of the construction site.

After three years of commercial operations and a vigorous public relations campaign, the dam is now contributing to wider, more intractable problems. These include emerging evidence that resettled villagers have resorted to poaching and illegal logging to sustain their communities as well as reports from the European Union-sponsored Global Climate Change Alliance that Laos has recently become a net emitter of GHG after previously serving as a valuable global carbon sink.

These problems have emerged in clear view while the World Bank-affiliated International Financial Corporation (IFC) cites the "success" of Nam Theun 2 to justify offers of new grants and policy assistance to the Lao Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) to support further hydropower development across the country.

Unquestioning mantras of how dams promote poverty alleviation have recently appeared more regularly in the state-dominated Lao media, coincident with the signing of new dam-related contracts. The IFC's offer of US$2.4 million in financial assistance for dam development also comes amid rising speculation among Vientiane-based independent observers of a significant surge in corruption at the MONRE.

In late March, World Bank vice president for sustainable development Rachel Kyte and regional director John Rome announced while visiting Indonesia that energy renewables and conservation were "vital" to combat rapidly escalating GHG emissions that contribute to climate change. Such statements, however, indicate a disconnect between the World Bank's environmentally conscious public statements and the affiliated IFC's lending activities. They also raise questions about the integrity of the World Bank's existing external monitoring role over Nam Theun 2's implementation.

Contrary to their clean and green image, hydropower dams are a larger source of GHG emissions than generally recognized. Most dams only measure their net emissions, or the GHG emissions measured at the surface of their reservoirs. A more holistic measure pioneered by Phillip Fearnside at the National Institute for Research of the Amazon in Brazil and now used by many scientists and environmentalists takes into account a dam's entire life cycle, including GHG emissions caused by related deforestation, land excavation, and carbon created during the production of dam-related construction materials.

Dams in tropical climates such as Laos' Nam Theun 2 produce especially high levels of methane emissions, which are thought be as much as 20-21 times more potent in preventing infrared radiation from escaping the planet and account for as much as one-third of GHG-driven climate change. Independent scientists and environmentalists estimate that the Nam Theun 2's massive 450 square kilometer reservoir will continue to emit methane into the atmosphere for at least a century, regardless of when the dam stops producing power and is decommissioned.

Katy Ashe, a PhD candidate in physics at Stanford University in the US, wrote in her recent dissertation that "the tropics are especially a bad place for reservoirs to occur because the higher temperatures and flooding of large amounts of biomass leads to high levels of methane production over the lifetime of the dam. It has been estimated that artificial reservoirs that have been created in the tropics could be emitting about 64 megatons of methane each year, which would account for 90% of the methane emissions that occur in the tropics."

Methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are now literally bubbling up from uncleared, rotting vegetation in Nam Theun 2's reservoir. Because the dam's reservoir is largely anaerobic with negligible levels of dissolved oxygen, the water is toxic to aquatic life and has accelerated to a potentially debilitating degree the amount of iron sedimentation in the dam's outlet channels.

Tropical methane emissions could grow exponentially if Laos makes good on its IFC-promoted dam-building aspirations. Lao officials have indicated hopes to build another 124 dams across the county, leading to a potential 7,500 net megatons of new methane emissions per annum, according to independent scientific assessments. Already dams like the China-backed, Sinohydro-built Nam Lik have had to evacuate nearby villages as methane and hydrogen sulfide emissions posed risks to human health.

As protests and opposition to dams grows in the developed world and in developing countries where civil society groups are allowed a voice, hydropower proponents and their associated financiers are increasingly shifting their dam-building ambitions to underdeveloped totalitarian states like Laos, where protesters against state-led development schemes are habitually arrested and often disappeared. Economic reports from McGill University in Canada have recently questioned the reality of benefit sharing from state development projects in nations such as Laos where the people have no rights.

"It seems that opposition to damming in one place is more fluidly than ever leading to a fairly simple displacement of damming activities to more receptive areas nearby," said Jackson Ewing, an academic at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, in email correspondence with Asia Times Online. He cited the shift in dam-building activities from places like Thailand, where civil society has in recent years strongly opposed such projects, to Laos, where the government brooks no dissent.

Underdeveloped nations like Laos have only recently become net emitters of GHG, due mainly to unchecked rampant deforestation including massive land areas cleared for dam-building. Those emission figures, however, will grow enormously if Laos builds another 124 new dams, as government officials have outlined in recent hydropower development plans. To compound the problem, the lands cleared for dam reservoirs will destroy more old growth forests capable of sequestering carbon dioxide.

Clogged potential
Hydropower dams on the scale of Nam Theun 2 generally have a productive life span of between 20 to 30 years. However, Nam Theun 2's productive period may be much shorter than originally envisioned as preliminary surveys apparently failed to account for the area's specific geology.

Typically environmental impact assessments do not weigh the potential for seismic activity or other geological factors. The fact that rocks around the Nam Theun 2's reservoir contain high levels of iron was apparently overlooked by the dam's designers and engineers. According to an informed source who spoke on condition of anonymity, Iron leachates are now increasingly clogging Nam Theun 2's outlet channels.

"Currently they are losing around five days of generating capacity per year due to narrowing of the channels," the source claimed. "They have tried acid in the heat exchangers but the effect is negligible. If the dam was not almost completely anaerobic then it would be less of a problem as [the iron] would oxidize and be carried away. But the iron-containing sludge settles on the bottom near the outlets. I can't imagine the dam has much life left in it."

Nam Theun 2 Power Company's official website offers a more upbeat assessment of the dam's lifespan, saying that the Lao government and private shareholders will operate the project for the "first 25 years of its operation''. It's unclear if the nine international commercial banks, including ANZ, BNP Paribas, ING and Standard Chartered, and seven Thai commercial banks, among them Bangkok Bank, Kasikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank, providing Nam Theun 2 with long-term loans are aware of the dam's apparent mounting technical difficulties related to iron-clogged outlets.

At this early stage of its hydropower development, Laos has made no financial provision for decommissioning dams, a process that in some cases can be more expensive than actual construction. Moreover, even after dams have stopped producing power their associated reservoirs often continue to emit methane and other GHG for many decades, as biomass continues to degrade and is washed down into the reservoir from surrounding areas. The World Bank has admitted to significant landslides and slumping around Nam Theun 2's reservoir.

Diminished returns from the dam's operations will likely mean even less trickle down of benefits to the local population. Jared Bissinger, a PhD candidate at Australia's Macquarie University, has observed broadly that economic development based on natural resource extraction and energy, the model now being promoted in Laos, seldom if ever contributes to broad-based economic well-being. "It's not that the resource industries and the extractive industries are in and of themselves bad. It's just that they require good governance, and that's the missing link." he recently wrote.

Others see potentially corrupt motivations for dam-building in Laos. "I think the only reason that Laos builds so many dams is so they can cut the trees legally," an environmental scientist based in Bangkok who referred to herself only as ''Miss Nah'' told Asia Times Online. "All the high-value trees were taken from the [Nam Theun 2 site] but saplings and low-value trees were left behind as the profit from potential sales did not warrant the effort of removal."

If Laos follows through on its proposed 124-dam building spree, Phonesack Vilaysack, one of the country's most renowned loggers, will be well-placed to clear the areas for construction. His Laos-based construction and timber company, the Phonesack Group, profited from the trees cut for Nam Theun 2's construction, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency, which has reported in-depth on his company's alleged deforestation activities.

There is emerging evidence that villagers resettled from the Nam Theun 2 reservoir site onto poor quality lands elsewhere have assisted the well-connected Phonesack Group to log forests on the Nakai Plateau where they were relocated. According to a foreign academic familiar with the situation who accompanied the World Commission on Dams Panel of Experts to Laos last year, villagers in the area were illegally cutting trees to sustain themselves.

"We asked a lot of questions, and found the people were illegally logging the rosewood and other high-value trees to make a living. They said they sold the trees to Phonesack [Group]. Other people said they were poaching endangered species of animals and birds for sale to China and Vietnam," said the academic, who requested anonymity. The Phonesack Group did not respond to messages seeking comment for this article.

In March, the Phonesack Group signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lao government to undertake an 18-month feasibility study for another large hydroelectric dam project, Nam Theun 1, in the lower part of the same watershed as Nam Theun 2. The proposed dam has already courted controversy as it would require the deforestation and inundation of thousands of hectares of the Nam Kading National Protected Area, a globally significant biodiversity hotspot. It would also force the resettlement of some 10,000 people from valley communities.

Phonesack Vilaysack is related to one of Laos' leading political families, the Pholsenas, and is viewed as ''untouchable'' by Lao people familiar with his company's activities. That's in part because the Pholsenas are so strongly represented in the Lao government.

Khempheng Pholsena, one of Phonesack's relatives, was formerly a vice president of the Asian Development Bank and Lao vice foreign minister before he was given responsibility to oversee the country's national hydropower development plans. His wife, Madame Khempeng, is now minister to the Lao prime minister's office. Sommad Pholsena is currently minister of public works and transport while Phonethep Pholsena is president of cultural and social affairs committee of the National Assembly.

Nam Theun 1 was scratched from Laos' national power development strategy in 2004 because it was considered economically unviable from a cost perspective. Now resurrected, the dam would be situated in the verdant Nam Kading protected area, opening one of the country's last genuinely wild areas to poachers and government-linked loggers.

Despite its large land mass, Laos has very little arable land due to mountainous terrain and an increasingly fragile environment. Estimates of land suitable for farming are often put at around 6%-10% of the country's total area. Many of those areas are situated in river flats which are often inundated by reservoirs, or other downstream areas that suffer from regular bank erosion due to the on-off surges of water caused by existing upstream dams.

The same land squeeze applies to local communities that are resettled to make way for dams. "It's getting hard, almost impossible, to find suitable replacement land for resettled communities," said Lao hydro-engineer Doavanh Khamsouth while working on an unrelated dam project in northern Laos.

"We ended up sending the people on our project back up the mountain. Frankly speaking they had been sent down to the valley so the forest could be logged, then they had to move again as their valley was going to be flooded. I really don't think we can offer a good livelihood for them. We have offered them cows as they can't grow rice, but there are no vets or enough grass for the cows. The people who suffer do not have dishwashers or air conditioners. It's only the wealthy who benefit from hydropower."

Melinda Boh, a pseudonym, is an independent journalist.

(Copyright 2013 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Zambia: Electricity for All but Those the Kariba Dam Displaced

Zambia: Electricity for All but Those the Kariba Dam Displaced

By Baboki Kayawe, 26 March 2013

Lusitu, Zambia � Indigenous people who were displaced from the Zambezi Valley almost six decades ago for the construction of the Kariba Dam say they have not benefited from the development they made way for.

The building of the Kariba hydroelectric dam was supposed to usher in a bright future for the people of Zambia and Zimbabwe who gave up their land for its construction.

Unfortunately, that future was for others and not the displaced and their descendants. Most of the villages to which some 57,000 people from both southern African nations were relocated are still not electrified.

Sixty-nine-year-old Samson Nyowani was 15 when he was moved from his home in Chipepu, where the Kariba Dam now lies, to Sitikwi village in Zambia's Lusitu district some 60 kilometres away. Sitikwi village, Nyowani says, still has no electricity, and the soil is infertile.

"We do not have power here in Sitikwi, and the schools and clinic are not electrified, which is a sad situation after what we were made to undergo during the mass relocation," he tells IPS.

"They, the (British) colonial government, had promised to provide electricity in our houses and we demanded that, despite our homesteads being grass thatched," says Nyowani.

Though he was a teenager then, he narrates the story as if it happened this morning. The old man at least expects the current government to do something about the situation.

However, the current democratic government did not promise the same thing.

The acting district administrative officer at the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit in Siyavonga, Hope Mpundu, says they are aware of the challenges facing the displaced communities. She adds that the government provides them with food aid and supports them with irrigation schemes.

"More should have been done for them as people who lived in this area before they were relocated, but they were pushed to those areas which are not good enough," she tells IPS, conceding that the area they were moved to is drier than where they used to live.

Subsistence crop production is hard for the 3,000 people who settled in Sitikwi because the land is marginal. The area is also very hot which results in low harvests of maize and some indigenous vegetables.

"The yields are very low and only enough to feed our families from one harvest season to the next, which means that when the following year rains are minimal, people go hungry," Nyowani says.

Frank Mudimba, a spokesperson for Basilwizi Trust, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for reparations to be paid to those who were displaced, says the Zambian government initiated the Gwembe Valley Development Programme, which targets communities affected by the construction of the dam.

He tells IPS that clinics, irrigation schemes, and dams were built and chiefs' homes were electrified. However, he adds, funding for the programme stopped during the days of President Frederick Chiluba. "That stopped expansion, but whatever was established during the time the programme was running is still working, being run by the communities." He adds that the Zimbabwean government undertook no such programme.

Like Nyowani, many other residents of Sitikwi are eager to see electricity in their village. The vice-headman in the area, Langson Mulungu, is not pleased that they have failed to reap the benefits of being relocated to make way for the massive hydropower plant.

"I am not happy that they didn't give us electricity here, and instead electrified other neighbouring villages. Also, promises for irrigation schemes are not yet fulfilled," Mulungu says.

Madam Siankusule was only eight when her parents were moved from Chipepu to Lusitu. She is told that in Chipepu the locals irrigated their crops and, coupled with fertile soils, harvests were good.

Now they have to contend with droughts. "I remember the drought in 1995 when the community suffered and food aid was brought in," she tells IPS.

She usually sells chickens and at times tomatoes to make ends meet.

She agrees with Mulungu and Nyowani that their village should be electrified. Siankusule says preference should be given to schools because power is invaluable in those institutions.

Elizabeth Karonga, the public relations and communications manager for the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), tells IPS that the then colonial government was more concerned about the welfare of wild animals than about the indigenous people. "Operation Noah" was launched to physically move animals from the area that was going to be flooded by the dam water.

She says the authorities did not provide for the 57,000 people displaced from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides. Save for some of the men who were engaged as labourers in the dam construction, the locals did not benefit from the project.

"Although ZRA was not in existence at the time, we have realised that the relocation was done haphazardly as no provisions were made to ensure that these people who were dependant on the water for survival adapted to a new livelihood," says Karonga.

In 1997, ZRA established the Zambezi Valley Development Fund (ZVDF) as part of its corporate social responsibility policy.

"We felt obliged to do something for these people, and the fund, into which a percentage of the revenue that ZRA is paid from the Zambia Electricity Corporation and Zimbabwe Power Corporation, is an attempt to help those who were displaced," Karonga says.

The projects include irrigation schemes, grinding mills and laboratories and classroom blocks at schools. However, the authorities at ZRA are not sure whether the beneficiaries of these projects are those who were displaced or their descendants.

In addition, Karonga says though they work with local government officials in both countries to recommend people who need assistance, the current projects benefit only those who live around the listed ZVDF areas. These are Lisutu, Nkandababbwe, Nkolongoza, in Zambia and Nyamhunga, Gatche Gatche and Mlibizi in Zimbabwe.

Karonga says ZRA will be investing in projects that have a long-term impact for the displaced communities, and is considering building a clinic.

Nyowani knows he cannot go back to where his forefathers were moved. But he wishes the authorities would do more to make their lives more comfortable. Electrifying his village would be a good start.

Additional reporting by Ish Mafundikwa in Harare.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

China's Superbank

China's Superbank
By Peter Bosshard
April 11, 2013

[The following book review appeared in the April issue of Environmental
Finance and on the Huffington Post. For an extended version with links
to background documents, see]

Li Liguan lives at the outskirts of Loudi city in Hunan province. A
former farmer, he was uprooted from his land to make way for a stadium.
Now he tries to benefit from the construction boom by hauling bricks and
renting out a room. His fate is typical for the hopes and injustices of
China's development model.

The engine that transforms the lives of millions of Chinese citizens
like Li Liguan is China Development Bank (CDB). The bank channels
capital to key sectors and projects in the world's fastest growing
economy - an essential role in any development state. "Understand CDB
and you understand the core of China's state capitalism," comment Henry
Sanderson and Michael Forsythe, two financial journalists. In their new
book, China's Superbank, they recount how the development bank has grown
from a bureaucratic basket case to a global player in less than two decades.

Since its creation, CDB has funded political pet projects such as the
Three Gorges Dam, the South-North Water Transfer Project, the Beijing
Olympics and the Shanghai Expo. It has also financed every major Chinese
policy initiative, from the massive economic stimulus in 2008 to the
current rapid expansion of solar and wind farms.

CDB's biggest idea was devising a business plan for China's urban
transformation. The bank allowed local governments, which were
prohibited from taking up debt, to create special financing vehicles
outside their budgets, and use land as collateral for CDB loans. As the
bank invested in local businesses and infrastructure, including the
stadium in Loudi, land values increased and local governments could take
up more loans. This perpetual motion machine will work as long as
China's real estate boom continues.

When the Chinese government encouraged its companies to go overseas, CDB
stood ready to provide finance. It offered multi-billion dollar credits
so state-owned enterprises could buy up foreign competitors, extended
resource-backed loans to countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador, and
funded infrastructure projects such as dams and highways.

In Ethiopia, for example, the bank's projects include the glitzy
headquarters of the African Union and sugar factories which are linked
to land grabs and the controversial Gibe III Dam. CDB is even backing a
real estate project to develop 20,000 new homes in San Francisco.
Through the China Africa Development Fund, it also invests in African
industries and job creation.

CDB is today the world's largest development bank, overshadowing the
World Bank and other international financiers. It still benefits from
implicit state guarantees, but has entered commercial turf with
ambitious private equity and securities arms. Western governments urged
China to liberalize its banking sector in the 1990s. Nowadays they
welcome investment from Chinese state banks to back their own struggling

While CDB boosted economic growth beyond expectation, the side effects
of its development model have become evident. The land sales which fuel
the bank's urban development plans are based on systematic
expropriations from poor farmers. The city of Loudi for example sold the
land it had seized from Li Liguan at 16 times the compensation rate
which the farmer received. This is normal practice throughout China. Two
thirds of all protests in China are caused by land conflicts, and
continued urbanization may uproot some 60 million more farmers over the
next two decades.

China is also reaching the ecological limits of growth. Its air and
water have become public health risks, and critical ecosystems are
rapidly degraded. With its relentless focus on steel and concrete, CDB
has contributed to this crisis. Yet the bank has not developed concepts
to integrate social and environmental aspects into its business model,
and its environmental standards lag behind international best practice.

"If the Communist Party is God, CDB is its prophet," Sanderson and
Forsythe conclude. Many cash-strapped governments in need of
infrastructure will be happy to hear the bank's gospel. As it becomes
the lender to the world, China's Superbank needs to address the
challenges of its development model.

Peter Bosshard is the Policy Director of International Rivers.

Henry Sanderson, Michael Forsythe, China's Superbank, John Wiley & Sons 2013

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

[Sinohydro] Groups shrug off Africa criticisms

[Sinohydro] Groups shrug off Africa criticisms
Financial Times, 10 April 2013
By Leslie Hook

"Do we look like colonists? We haven�t killed any locals." The
remarks by Wang Zhiping, board secretary of Sinohydro, highlight the
debate about China's role in Africa, writes Leslie Hook.

"We use our actions and the things we do to show we are not
neocolonialists," he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Xi Jinping, Chinese president, during his first trip overseas as
head of state last month, countered a rising tide of criticism among
officials in Africa about China�s role there.

Mr Wang defended Sinohydro's work in Africa, where it has been
involved in more than 70 hydropower projects, as beneficial for all
parties. "A dam is a sign of social progress and civilisation," he said.
"You have resources. I have money, technology and management. We can
develop together."

Sinohydro and other engineering companies have been at the centre of
Chinese policies in Africa, where they have built highways, high-rises,
dams and football stadiums. On his visit to three African countries, Mr
Xi vowed to increase investment, highlighting the importance of Africa
to China�s foreign policy strategy.

The role of Chinese state-owned enterprises in Africa has been
controversial at times, because their projects are often funded by
government loans that the recipient nation repays with exports of resources.

Proponents say these infrastructure projects enable development in
places where western companies are unwilling to work because of
political risk or sanctions. Critics say they place overly heavy loan
burdens on the recipient countries and have a poor record of compliance
with local environmental and labour rules. Many such projects rely on
workers flown in from China.

The International Monetary Fund intervened in China's $9bn aid
package to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008 to force a rewrite
of the debt terms because the loans were deemed too expensive. Sinohydro
and China Railway Engineering received a majority stake in two large
copper and cobalt mines as part of the deal.

Other high-profile projects by Chinese companies in Africa, such as
the Merowe dam in Sudan, have been heavily criticised by environmental

Mr Wang said Sinohydro paid close attention to its environmental
rules, and denied that it selected projects to further China's foreign
policy aims.

"The reason we are going abroad is just to make money,� he said. �In
this process, we will protect the environment, assume social
responsibilities, help development and help alleviate local poverty."

** A longer piece based on the interview with Sinohydro's Wang Zhiping
titled "Chinese groups chastened by conflict zones" can be accessed at
(requires subscription)

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Heavy, Dam-Busting Rainstorms To Increase, Study Finds

Heavy, Dam-Busting Rainstorms To Increase, Study Finds

Boosted by the added moisture from warming air and ocean temperatures, the heaviest precipitation events — those that can cause dams to fail, rivers to spill over their banks, and cities to flood — are likely to become significantly heavier by the end of this century, according to a new study. The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, warns engineers and planners that are designing long-lasting, critical infrastructure that planning for only the current types and severity of extreme events is likely to underestimate the actual risk. 

This is the first study to focus on changes in the heaviest possible rain or snowstorms, and it builds upon the findings of previous research that found that extreme precipitation events are already becoming more common in some parts of the world, and that global warming has increased the odds of particular flooding events, such as record flooding that struck parts of England and Wales in 2000. 

The study examined changes in what is known as the "potential maximum precipitation," which is the maximum amount of precipitation that is "potentially possible" in a particular area given ideal conditions.

That calculation is not something that will be familiar to viewers of the daily TV weather report, but it helps engineers guide infrastructure planning for dams and other water management structures, many of which are constructed to last 50 to 100 years. Many of the dams and levees in use today along the Mississippi River were designed in the early 1900s, for example.

"We looked very specifically at the biggest storms," said Kenneth Kunkel,  a senior research professor at North Carolina State University's Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites and lead author of the study. "What we're saying is the big event on the extreme tail of the distribution . . . that event is likely to be bigger by the end of this century; quite a bit bigger."

The paper looked at three factors that can affect the potential maximum precipitation: the amount of moisture, or water vapor, in the atmosphere, the vertical motion of air, and horizontal winds. The researchers used climate models to simulate how increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, would alter those factors. Kunkel said the researchers were particularly interested in seeing whether the other factors would offset the influence of the already observable upward trend in water vapor.

The study found just the opposite — the only factor that will change significantly in a warming world is the maximum moisture in the air, and it won't be counterbalanced by changes in the other variables.

Using climate models that incorporated two different scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers found that the largest precipitation events could be as much as 20 to 30 percent larger across the lower 48 states by the 2071-2100 period. The biggest increases are slated for the West, the study found, although the maximum precipitation values are generally lower in the West than they are in the more humid eastern half of the country.

Heavy precipitation events are already becoming more frequent and/or severe in parts of the U.S. This chart shows extremes in 1-day precipitation in the Northeast during the Fall season.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA/NCDC.

The study also noted that the plumes of rich, tropical moisture known as "atmospheric rivers," which have been responsible for many of the historic floods along the West Coast, may grow more intense — making them more analogous to atmospheric rapids.

Dam failures can have catastrophic consequences. In 1889, a dam failure in Pennsylvania killed more than 2,200 people in Johnstown, and more recently, dam and levee failures were responsible for much of the deadly flooding in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005.

Other studies have shown that there already is about 4 percent more water vapor in the air over the planet's oceans compared to the preindustrial era, which translates into extra moisture for storms of all sizes to wring out as rain or snow. Water vapor is forecast to continue to increase as temperatures rise throughout the rest of the 21st century, since warmer air holds more moisture, and warmer ocean temperatures allow for more evaporation to occur. Published research also shows that global warming may yield wetter and more powerful hurricanes in the North Atlantic Basin, although there may be fewer storms per hurricane season.

How much temperatures and water vapor will go up depends in part on the amount and pace of any greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Scientists say Climate Change, Dams Threaten Mekong Livelihoods

Scientists say Climate Change, Dams Threaten Mekong Livelihoods

Daniel Schearf
March 29, 2013

BANGKOK � Scientists meeting in the Thai capital have warned extreme weather caused by climate change will reduce fish stocks and major crops in the Mekong River Basin if countries in Southeast Asia fail to adapt. However, they also warn dam building, much of it for hydropower, is the largest single threat to fisheries that sustain millions of people.

An estimated 60 million fishermen and farmers depend on the Mekong River for its rich nutrients and abundant fish.
A new study by a group of scientists said by 2050 climate change could raise temperatures in parts of the Mekong basin twice as fast as the global average.

That would intensify extreme weather events, such as flooding, and reduce fish and crop production says study leader Jeremy Carew-Reid. He said, "In Laos alone there are some 700 species that are used by families to sustain their livelihoods. We know so little about them."

While some species will benefit from hotter climates, important crops such as coffee in Vietnam and rice in Thailand could be forced to move.

But fish in the Mekong system, the largest inland fishery in the world, cannot relocate so easily and fish farming has already reached its environmentally sustainable capacity.

Some 30,000 man-made barriers, such as hydropower dams, compound the effects of climate change, said Carew-Reid.

�When you take those in concert with climate change, we're looking at a pretty, a pretty negative scenario for fisheries in the basin,� he said.

Scientists at the study's release in Bangkok said dams and other barriers constitute the single largest threat to fish diversity and production.

Laos, controversially, is set to build the first of several hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Mekong.

Hans Guttman, chief executive officer for the Mekong River Commission, warns the extent of damage from the dams is still unknown.

He said, �How much damage is under intense speculation. And, whether all of the dams will be built according to some of the plans or whether some of them will be built and that will then cause a different level of impact, and how the benefits that are generated will be used to compensate or to deal with some of these impacts, is still very much uncertain.�

The U.S. Agency for International Development funded the study as part of its Lower Mekong Initiative.

Alfred Nakatsuma, the regional director of USAID's environment office, said, "The governments in general in these regions are very interested in climate change because the welfare of their people is at stake. And, it's better to address these activities now rather than later when they're surely going to be more costly.�

But just as economics are driving dam construction, scientists say poverty will make it harder for people to adapt to rising temperatures.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Community legal empowerment brings water to Lesotho community

(Great work by our friends at Protimos and TRC!


Community legal empowerment brings water to Mapeleng community

LESOTHO � After 17 years of deprivation, clean water now flows freely from the top of the Maluti Mountains into the Mapeleng village. This is no small feat for a community that once lived comfortably in the Malibamat�so River valley, now lost under the Katse Dam. Bolstered by the efforts of the �Seinoli Project� lawyers and their transformative legal empowerment initiatives, the Mapeleng community was able to go to the High Court of Lesotho to request that their access to water to be restored. This momentous occasion will be marked by a celebration on Thursday, 4th April 2013, to coincide with annual World Water Day.

The implementation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), one of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, provides a valuable income stream to the Lesotho economy, through the sale of water from the Highlands to South Africa. However, the construction of dams and transfer tunnels in Phase 1 of the project has adversely affected over 100,000 local people. In Mapeleng village, seismic activity that resulted from the construction of the dam caused damage to houses and property, and also destroyed local wells. In a terrible irony, the new Mapeleng village overlooks the Katse Dam, but it has had no access to clean water for 17 years. The effects of resettlement have been devastating for the community; in addition to the loss of their lands, food sources, livelihoods and social networks, for the last 17 years the women and children of Mapeleng have had to trek up a steep ravine every day, while balancing buckets on their heads, to collect brackish water.

Frustrated by the plight of his community, Chief Khethang of Mapeleng approached the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC). He and his community members became clients of the �Seinoli Project�, a joint public law project between the TRC and Protimos. The Seinoli Project lawyers and their liaison officer worked tirelessly over the last 3 years with the community to seek restoration of their water supply. The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) responded to Chief Khethang�s summons and in May 2012, Judge Moiloa approved the consent order, by which the LHDA will restore the water supply at Mapeleng. Work on the pipeline was completed in March 2013. Not only does this represent an important victory for Mapeleng and for the Seinoli Project lawyers, other communities are now seeking to use the law as a peaceful and effective means by which good governance and rights under Lesotho law can be implemented. A precedent has been set.

Protimos Director Fiona Darroch said, �Use of the law is a great strength in Lesotho; whilst this issue took courage and leadership from Chief Khethang, the LHDA has shown wisdom and foresight in consenting to restore this water supply, and we hope that many of the problems of the resettled communities in Phase 1 will be similarly solved, with amicable cooperation. This shows that Lesotho can boast good governance, as well as a plentiful supply of water and minerals, which can only benefit its economy in the long term.�

On 4th April 2013, the pipeline will be officially handed over to the community by the Hon. Minister of Energy, Meteorology and Water Resources. Thousands of lives will be transformed by restored access to potable water.This will be a cause for celebration among members of the Mapeleng community, as well as all of those who have contributed to the Seinoli Project. The ceremony will also be attended by representatives from the LHDA, the Water Commission and other Government and civil society stakeholders. Members of other afflicted communities will also attend � this serves as a reminder that there is still much more work to be done.

Note to editor: In the last 24 hours, the LHDA has been invited to commit to restore the water supply in other similarly affected communities. The International Water Day celebrations on 4th April at Mapeleng provide the LHDA with a wonderful opportunity to do the right thing for these forgotten villages.


Fiona Darroch
(+) 797 665 8887

About Protimos: Protimos empowers marginalised communities in developing countries to use the law to protect their social, economic and environmental interests. It does this by supporting the professional development of local lawyers and by improving legal systems. In so doing, Protimos develops sustainable legal resources that enable communities to become active and effective participants in the development of their own futures.

About the Transformation Resource Centre: The TRC is an ecumenical, non-governmental resource centre that advocates for justice, peace and participatory development, based in Maseru. It was established by a South African couple; Jimmy and Joan Stewart in 1979. TRC focuses on the promotion of democracy, human rights, rule of law, water and environmental justice, library and information dissemination, interactive debate and the strengthening of parliament.

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Burmese army clears way for Chinese mega-dams in Shan state

Burma Army moves tanks in as its orders Shan army out
Karen News, April 4, 2013
Author: Saw Blacktown

The Burma Army orders Shan Army to clear way for Chinese Mega Projects
while surrounding Shan State with tanks and artillery.

Burma's military has given an ultimatum to the Shan State Army-North
(SSA-N) to remove its troops from the West Bank of the Salween River,
near the construction of a Chinese backed mega dam.

On March 26, Burma's Northeast Regional Commander ordered the SSA-N to
move away from the area east of the Tangyan-Mong Kao road or face an
attack by Burma's military, local Shan groups said.

The SSA-N had until recently been permitted to operate in the area under
both a 1989 ceasefire and a 2012 peace agreement with Burma's government.

Shan sources report that thousands of Burma Army troops, including
artillery and tanks, had been massing in Tangyan and Mong Hsu areas in
Shan State since Febuary this year.

Tangyan lies 20 kilometers southwest of Nong Pha, where construction on
one of six planned dams on the Salween River in Burma is proceeding. The
plan was originally announced in Burma's parliament on February 27.

"Little is known about the project," said the Shan Sapawa Environmental
Organisation in a statement to the media, "except for an announcement in
December 2009 that Burma's Ministry of Electric Power No. 1 had signed
an MOU with China Hydropower Engineering Consulting Group (HydroChina)
to develop two dams, one at Nong Pha and one at nearby Man Tung, on the
Nam Ma tributary of the Salween, which will together produce 1,200

The group said that it was feared that events could lead to growing

"It is feared that the Burmese Army will use force to seize the SSA-N
territories, as in 2009 when it launched a major offensive on the Kokang
ceasefire group in northeast Shan State. The seizure of the Kokang area
has enabled Chinese dam builders to proceed with the giant Kunlong dam
on the Salween, where construction of access roads to the site by Asia
World Company is almost completed. Most of the 1,400 MW produced by the
Kunlong Dam will be exported to China."

Previous attacks by the Burma Army against SSA-N forces in the middle of
2011 had led to the displacement of over 30,000 people.

"If full-scale war breaks out again in northern Shan State, there will
be large scale displacement and suffering," said Sapawa spokesperson Sai
Khur Hseng. "These are the costs of dam-building in Burma's war zones."
He added.

Shan Sapawa urged a halt to all dam projects on the Salween River while
peace negotiations were still underway with various ethnic armed groups.

"The issue of natural resources is at the heart of the conflict in Shan
State," said Sai Khur Hseng "Selling off the Salween, the lifeblood of
our state, before even bringing the issue to the table will derail the
peace process for sure."

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Blocked migration: Fish ladders on US dams not effective

04 Apr 2013: Analysis

Blocked Migration: Fish Ladders
On U.S. Dams Are Not Effective

Fishways on rivers in the U.S. Northeast are failing, with less than 3 percent of one key species making it upriver to their spawning grounds, according to a new study. The researchers� findings provide a cautionary tale for other nations now planning big dam projects.

by john waldman

In most major rivers in the U.S., maintaining some semblance of the integrity of migratory fish runs past hydropower dams is dependent upon the fish using ladders and elevators as freely as do two-legged humans. But is this asking too much?

Six colleagues and I undertook a study of the success � or, rather, failure � of Atlantic salmon, American shad, river herring, and other species in migrating from the sea to their spawning grounds past a gauntlet of dams on three rivers in the northeastern U.S. � the Susquehanna, Connecticut, and Merrimack. What we found was grimmer than we expected. For one species, American shad, less than 3 percent of the fish made it past all the dams in these rivers to their historical spawning reaches.

Results for other anadromous species (those that spawn in fresh water and migrate to the ocean and back again) were nearly as bad. And the sobering aspect of these contemporary studies is that they are based on the insubstantial number of fish today as compared to earlier massive migrations of these species, which numbered in the many millions. While investigating fish passage on the Merrimack River in New Hampshire, our project�s lead researcher, Jed Brown of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, was struck by the long-term lack of recovery of the targeted fish populations � at some fish restoration meetings there were more people in the room than salmon in the river.

What has happened on the U.S. East Coast, as reported in our study published in the journal Conservation Letters in January, is of more than regional or national interest. There are important global conservation
What�s clear is that providing fish passages at a dam is not a panacea.
lessons, as well. Even as some large dams in the U.S. begin to be removed for environmental reasons, a hydropower boom is occuring worldwide. Thirty large dams have been announced for the Amazon River alone. Eleven major dams are planned for the lower Mekong River. The dam industry in Canada wants to dramatically expand its recent hydropower initiative.

And dam projects are proposed, planned, or in the works for Africa�s upper Nile, the Patuca in Honduras, the Teesta in India, the upper Yangtze in China, the Tigris in Turkey, the Selenge in Mongolia, and many others. Though most of these rivers lack anadromous fishes, many are home to richly diverse freshwater fish communities that make important seasonal migrations within these river systems.

For the international community, the record of fish passage on rivers in the northeastern U.S. is a cautionary tale. Hydropower has often been billed as a clean source of renewable energy, and generating electricity without polluting the air or producing greenhouse gases is commendable. But �clean� is in the eye of the beholder, and any claims to being sustainable ignore its multifarious aquatic effects, including blocking fish passage, fragmenting habitat, and undermining a river�s fundamental ecological services.

What�s clear is that providing fish passage facilities at a dam is not a panacea. Fishways are to be included in some of these large international projects, but not in others. Yet the options are dismal: To not include fish passage on a large dam is to ensure disruption of critical fish migrations; but to include fish passage is to likely diminish and maybe even endanger critical fish migrations.

Brown�s research began when, as a biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, he relocated in 2005 from the free-flowing mainstem-Delaware River to the thoroughly dammed Merrimack. Brown was struck by the small number of fish making it past the dams. Most fish passage research seeks to engineer improvements to existing technologies; Brown instead
These rivers and others have multiple dams blocking access to historical spawning reaches.
decided to launch a survey of the actual long-term results of fish passages on large, heavily dammed rivers.

What Brown and I and our coauthors found was bleak. One metric used was the percentage of fish passing the first dam that also passed just the second dam. For shad, the numbers were 16 percent on the Merrimack, 4 percent on the Connecticut, and 32 percent on the Susquehanna. But on these rivers the second dam is only the beginning of the journey � these rivers and many others have multiple dams blocking access to historical spawning reaches.

It�s important to put these results in perspective because they are merely relative to the present paltry numbers of fish that even attempt to migrate up these rivers. For an anadromous fish population in North America, there are three absolute numbers that matter. One is how many ran annually before European colonization. The second is the numbers targeted for restoration in fish passage programs. And the third are the numbers that actually show up each year.

On all three rivers examined, restoration goals were in the hundreds of thousands of fish � at least one, if not two, orders of magnitude less than historic, pristine runs. Yet run sizes obtained across three decades ranged annually from a high of about 10 percent to, more commonly, 2 percent or less of the stated goals. To put it in historical context, despite vast spending on modern technologies, contemporary shad migrations on these rivers are at least three to four orders of magnitude below the original unfettered run sizes, with similar results for salmon and river herring. Dams alone don�t explain these results � overfishing, habitat destruction, and alien species contribute � but there is widespread consensus among fish biologists that dams are a primary cause.

No East Coast river has been as adulterated as the Susquehanna, once a veritable shad factory. Shad ran up the Chesapeake Bay, entered the river�s mouth, and swam throughout its tributaries and mainstem through much
With very low or high waters, fishways don�t work well or shut down altogether.
of Pennsylvania and almost 500 miles to Cooperstown in central New York. Shad schools driving upriver on the Susquehanna were so enormous that they were visible in the distance to commercial fishermen by the waves they pushed ahead of them. One notable haul of mixed shad and river herring made in 1827 was estimated at 15 million fish; it took more than three days to offload the catch into wagons.

Contrast the open river of yesteryear with the occluded present. A shad fresh from the Atlantic entering the Susquehanna according to its natural rhythms encounters the almost 100-foot-tall Conowingo Dam only 10 miles from the river mouth. There it must somehow sense a tongue of water � the �attraction flow� � at the dam�s base in order to allow itself to be lifted in a metal trough to the reservoir above. Next it must orient in the strangely still water and then move upriver past three more dams using fish ladders � lengthy angled chutes with baffles that break up the flow.

With these serial delays it is unlikely that the few shad that make it to the spawning reaches of the Susquehanna arrive at the optimal time in the river�s seasonal ecological cycle. Worse yet, the numbers of adults successfully returning downstream past the dams to the sea are nil, sacrificing their future spawning potential. And with very low or high waters, fishways either don�t work well or shut down altogether, further delaying migrations.

Electric utility companies have nearly de facto sovereignty over migratory fish on these rivers, with the installation of fishways providing legal but largely ineffectual mitigation for their operations. Exploring technological
Rarely does even a single salmon or shad make it as far as the Amoskeag Dam.
improvements is limited by costs and the inflexibility of the utilities. That industry is in control may be atoned for with feel-good shad fishing derbies or informational facilities. The Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center on the Merrimack in New Hampshire, for example, features a giant sculpture of a leaping American shad. Sadly, though, during most recent years that is the only anadromous fish you will see at the center, for rarely does even a single living salmon, shad, river herring, or sea lamprey make it as far as the Amoskeag Dam.

In the U.S., the overall record of fish passage is mixed. Fish ladders often work well for river herring on smaller Atlantic rivers. Fish ladders at dams on the West Coast�s giant Columbia River system allow large numbers of salmon and also non-native shad to pass, but despite this apparent success contemporary runs of salmon are likely an order of magnitude lower than historic abundances. Chum salmon runs once numbered well more than a million; today they are about three percent of that.


The Natural World Vanishes:
How Species Cease To Matter

Once, on both sides of the Atlantic, fish such as salmon, eels, and, shad were abundant and played an important role in society. But as these fish have steadily dwindled, writes biologist John Waldman, humans have lost sight of their significance, with each generation accepting a diminished environment as the new norm.
READ MORE Is it the nature of fishway technology itself or is it less than optimal implementation that is at fault? John Hay, author of The Run (1959), was a keen observer of river herring on Cape Cod, where fish ladders work relatively well. He wrote nonetheless, �There is no such thing, I have been told by men who were in the business of making them, as a good or even adequate fishway. There is always an imbalance between the purposes they serve and the results.�

My friends in the fish passage world disagree and say the fault is the difficulty in being able to fine-tune and test new ideas at real-world fishways. Fish passage researchers are earnest, hard workers who need to be optimistic; they tend to believe they are just a tweak or an insight away from a breakthrough. Perhaps they are. Clearly, with the existence of hydropower dams a continuing reality, any enhancements they can wring from fishways will be welcome.

One simple and promising idea being tested in Europe is to line the bottom of fish ladders with rubble to make the ladders seen less artificial. And in some suitable locations in the U.S. and elsewhere, �naturalized� fishways are being built that more closely resemble actual river reaches. In Germany, researchers are building fishways of different designs and then testing them, before applying the new knowledge to the next set of fishways. It�s not clear how well these new approaches will work, but it�s imperative to find out.

In the end, the challenges are daunting, and for a simple reason: It�s asking a lot for a finned creature to take an elevator or to climb a ladder.

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Looking for Co-Director, South Asia program

International Rivers
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Position Available:
Co-Director - South Asia Program

International Rivers supports civil society groups and communities
around the world which seek to stop destructive dams and promote better
methods of meeting energy and water needs. We promote stronger social
and environmental standards for national and international dam builders
and financiers.

International Rivers is looking for an experienced, skilled, dynamic
Co-Director of our South Asia Program. The preferred location of this
full-time position is Mumbai or Delhi. The Co-Director will work with
partner organizations in South Asia and other parts of the world, and
with colleagues in our Berkeley headquarters and our regional offices
around the world. Job responsibilities include domestic and
international travel. The position will report to the Policy Director in

Primary duties and responsibilities

. Program management: In cooperation with the South Asia Program
Director, manage International Rivers' program to protect river
ecosystems and communities in the Himalayas. Develop strategies and
carry out activities to stop destructive dams, promote better solutions,
strengthen civil society networks and raise awareness about rivers and
dams. Supervise interns and volunteers. Identify and nurture funders in
South Asia and internationally and raise funds for the South Asia
program. Prepare budgets and maintain financial oversight for the program.

. Campaigns against destructive projects: Monitor specific destructive
dam projects in the Himalayas, assess their impacts, support campaigns
of partner groups against particularly destructive projects, contribute
international campaign techniques and concepts.

. Capacity building: Strengthen the capacity and the networking
efforts of civil society groups working on rivers and dams in South
Asia. Share information with our partners, carry out site visits,
organize trainings and other workshops, help partners with fundraising,
and give direct advice.

. Advocacy for positive solutions: Conduct research, information
dissemination, training and advocacy work for appropriate solutions for
the region's water and energy needs.

. Media work and other communications: Devise strategies to create
awareness about the threats facing South Asian rivers. Produce reports,
fact-sheets and audio-visual materials. Nurture relations with
journalists and carry out media work in South Asia and on the
international level. Contribute articles to our magazine, World Rivers
Review, write blogs, and maintain the South Asia Program's web pages.


. Excellent research, writing and verbal communication skills in
English and Hindi; fluency in another South Asian language desired;
. Demonstrated ability to think strategically and develop effective
campaign strategies;
. Diligence, ability to handle multiple tasks and deadlines in a
fast-paced environment;
. Independence, ability to work alone while maintaining constant
communication with the South Asia Program Director in Mumbai and main
office in Berkeley;
. Knowledge and understanding of South Asian and global environment
and development issues and the NGO community;
. At least seven years of experience in social or environmental campaigns;
. Ability to work well in a team and within regional and international
. Commitment to environmental integrity, social justice and the
mission of International Rivers;
. Strong computer skills (including the ability to post simple online
. Bachelor's degree or equivalent professional experience required;
Master's degree a plus;
. Authorization to work in India.

International Rivers offers a stimulating, casual and flexible work
environment. Our competitive salary and benefits package includes health
insurance and excellent vacation and sick leave. Salary is commensurate
with experience.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume and writing sample in English to Please mention "South Asia Program"
in the subject line and indicate your preferred location of work.
Deadline for applications: April 30, 2013.

International Rivers is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We encourage
applications from all qualified candidates regardless of age, class,
disability status, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

28,000 rivers wiped off the map of China

28,000 rivers wiped off the map of China
By Emily Ford
The Times
March 30, 2013

ABOUT 28,000 rivers have disappeared from China's state maps, an absence
seized upon by environmentalists as evidence of the irreversible natural
cost of developmental excesses.

More than half of the rivers previously thought to exist in China appear
to be missing, according to the 800,000 surveyors who compiled the first
national water census, leaving Beijing fumbling to explain the cause.

Only 22,909 rivers covering an area of 100sq km were located by
surveyors, compared with the more than 50,000 in the 1990s, a three-year
study by the Ministry of Water Resources and the National Bureau of
Statistics found.

Officials blame the apparent loss on climate change, arguing that it has
caused waterways to vanish, and on mistakes by earlier cartographers.
But environmental experts say the disappearance of the rivers is a real
and direct manifestation of headlong, ill-conceived development, where
projects are often imposed without public consultation.

The UN considers China one of the 13 countries most affected by water
scarcity, as industrial toxins have poisoned historic water sources and
were blamed last year for turning the Yangtze an alarming shade of red.

This month, the carcasses of about 16,000 pigs dumped in the river were
pulled from its waters, and 1000 dead ducks were found dumped this week
in the Nanhe River in Sichuan province.

Ma Jun, a water expert at the Institute of Public and Environmental
Affairs, said the missing rivers were a cause for "great attention" and
underscored the urgent need for a more sustainable mode of development.

"One of the major reasons is the over-exploitation of the underground
water reserves, while environmental destruction is another reason,
because desertification of forests has caused a rain shortage in the
mountain areas," Mr Ma said.

Large hydroelectric projects such as the Three Gorges Dam, which
diverted trillions of litres of water to drier regions, were likely to
have played a role, he said.

The census also charted a decline in water quality. The report came as
new Premier Li Keqiang pledged greater transparency on pollution, which
Communist Party rulers fear is a potential catalyst for social unrest.

"We must take the steps in advance, rather than hurry to handle these
issues when they have caused a disturbance in society," Mr Li said,
according to state media.

The missing rivers provoked wistful recollections among Chinese internet
users. "The rivers I used to play around have disappeared; the only ones
left are polluted, we can't eat the fish in them, they are all bitter,"
a person using the name Pippi Shuanger wrote on Weibo, the Chinese
version of Twitter.

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