As International Rivers' Policy Director and before, the coordinator of a Swiss NGO, I have advocated for human rights and the environment for more than 20 years. When I'm not at work, I spend time with my family, hike, and visit the opera. My favorite river is the Albula in the Swiss Alps.
“If you are interested in environmental public policy on a global scale, Peter Bosshard’s blog is the way to go,” the Policy Police recommends. Happy reading! You can also follow me on Twitter @PeterBosshard.
Nelson Mandela passed away today, on December 5. Through the World Commission on Dams report, his life-long commitment to human rights dignity briefly shone a light on our own modest work on rivers and dams.
Guest Blog by Eugene Simonov. The Mongolian Law to prohibit mineral exploration and mining operations at headwaters of rivers, water protection zones and forested areas was drafted and promoted by communities affected by gold mining. This unique legislation is now threatened by amendments proposed by the Ministry of Mining and many defenders of the law have been jailed.
Climate change is bringing more extreme floods and droughts. Floodplains, marshes, dunes, reefs and mangrove forests - often referred to as green infrastructure or bioshields - are vital to making our societies more climate resilient in the face of extreme weather events. Large dams built today not only weaken the climate resilience of riverine ecosystems, but are themselves highly vulnerable to a changing climate.
In spite of numerous reforms, the World Bank continues to support environmental destruction through its projects. A new book explores why the world's most powerful development financier does not seem to be able to learn from its mistakes.
Energy conservation, efficiency improvements and renewable energy projects are the most effective ways to address the global energy and climate crisis. In spite of this, the World Bank's self-interests prioritize big dams and other centralized power plants. This article sheds light on the Bank's institutional constraints and perverse incentives.
The staggering growth in renewable energy has the potential to fundamentally change the way we generate and use power. Previously dismissed as marginal technologies, renewables have become “increasingly mainstream and competitive with conventional energy sources.” This is the conclusion of a new report on the global status of renewable energies by the REN21 Network.
Governments and donors have announced their plans to move forward with the Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River, the world's largest hydropower project. Mega-dams have often been presented as silver bullets for the region's power crisis, but have left Africa's poor high and dry.
The Chinese government has issued environmental guidelines for Chinese overseas investors. They are not binding, but they express expectations for which NGOs that are faced with Chinese overseas projects can hold companies to account.
The international hydropower industry is meeting in Ethiopia for their big Africa 2013 conference this week. 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.
China Development Bank has prepared the blueprint and business plan for China's rapid economic transformation. As the bank becomes the lender to the world, it needs to address the dark sides of its development model.
The World Bank proposes to increase funding for mega-dams as part of the upcoming negotiations about the IDA fund for the poorest countries. Such an approach would undermine the Bank's purported goals of inclusive growth, gender equality, and climate resilience.
California counts some of the nation's most beautiful rivers and dreadful reservoirs within her borders. Can you imagine a river trip from the Yosemite Valley to the Central Valley dams through the eyes of a tiny water molecule? Will Yanopah, our little river traveler, ever reach the San Francisco Bay?
China has made great efforts to support poverty reduction in Africa, and likes to present itself as a friend of the African people. A new report warns that its loans for the Gibe III Dam and irrigation projects on the Omo River now threaten to pull China into an explosive regional conflict between well-armed groups in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
A new report by the International Energy Agency reads like a propaganda piece by the dam industry. It calls for a massive expansion of hydropower dams, while consistently downplaying the impacts and risks of these projects.
Renewable energy solutions are not only good for the environment. If done well, they can pay for themselves and reduce poverty around the world. This is the message of the 2012 Ashden Awards, which just recognized inspiring renewable energy programs from Afghanistan, Cambodia, East Africa, India and Indonesia.
Some projects are so destructive that no reputable actors want to get involved with them. Think of the oil wells in Sudan’s conflict zones, China’s Three Gorges Dam, and the gas pipelines in Burma. If the price is right, however, some will still be tempted to do business on such projects through the back door. The World Bank is currently taking such an approach with a big credit for Ethiopia’s power sector.
Kikwit is a town of almost one million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Its inhabitants have no access to electricity. Because the water pumps are no longer working, they have no access to clean water either. In the 1990s, the town made news through an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, which was helped by the poor sanitary conditions.
Two inspiring river activists from China and Kenya, came together for a public event in San Francisco. With the Three Gorges and the Gibe III dams, Dai Qing and Ikal Angelei have taken on some of the most destructive development projects of the past 20 years. Through our global grassroots network, they have engaged in what may be called the great dam builders’ Whac-a-Mole.
Ikal Angelei, the founder of Friends of Lake Turkana in Kenya, received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2012. The award honored an activist who is defending the interests of 500,000 poor indigenous people against a destructive hydropower dam, and has successfully taken on many of the world’s biggest dam builders and financiers.
Jim Yong Kim rapping at Dartmough CollegeYoutubeJim Yong Kim – a public health expert, president of Dartmouth College and astute rapper – is the US government’s candidate for the presidency of the World Bank. As Dani Rodrik, a development expert at Harvard University, summed it up this morning, “it’s nice to see that Obama can still surprise us.” Will the new candidate, who was not on anybody’s shortlist for the position, be able to reinvent the World Bank?
The national parks of the Lower Omo Valley in Southwest Ethiopia are among “the last unspoiled biodiversity hotspots in Africa” and constitute “resources of all people in the world.” These are not the words of tree-hugging foreign environmentalists, but of Ethiopian government officials who recently prepared a report about the region. The Gibe III Dam and the sugar plantations associated with it are now putting these unique biodiversity hotspots at risk.
Tree of LifeWikimedia CommonsAll life on Earth began in the sea some 3.5 billion years ago. Yet there is a twist to this story. New research shows that almost all fish species that inhabit the oceans today moved there from rivers and lakes. This sheds new light on the importance of freshwater ecosystems for life on Earth. And it suggests that by damming and polluting rivers, we may destroy the seed banks of future generations.
Milestone birthdays are opportunities to take stock of our family, health and financial situation. So how is Planet Earth doing 20 years after the Earth Summit, the historic UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro? The planet’s economic output has more than doubled since 1992. Some members of the global family are doing extremely well, but the number of hungry people is increasing. And the planet’s health is steadily deteriorating, with vital ecosystems nearing the point of collapse.
Villagers affected by the Inga DamMost of the world’s poorest people lack access to basic services such as clean water and electricity. The World Bank and the Group of 20 are now proposing a new strategy to scale up infrastructure investment in developing countries. They pay lip service to the needs of the poor, and promote subsidies for large private projects such as the proposed Inga Dam on the Congo River. A new report from Christian Aid demonstrates that a more promising approach to reducing poverty and protecting the climate is possible.
Nexus HugDuring the last few days I attended an international conference on the nexus of water, energy and food security in Bonn. The event offered a lot of diplomatic hot air, some promising ideas and engaging discussions. We were even taught a new way of hugging our fellow participants - the "nexus hug" - and practiced working in the embrace of dam builders, UN bureaucrats and government officials.
Exclusive club: the G20 heads of stateDemocracy is a messy affair. It forces government officials and politicians to face parliamentary scrutiny, pesky journalists and grassroots pressure. While they uphold democracy and good governance in their rhetoric, governments and the World Bank have begun to shift important decisions about global development to the Group of 20, a body that is largely shielded from public debate and democratic control. It’s time to shed some light on an institution that has become a key power broker for the interests of the global 1%, including through the promotion of large dams.
Bottom-up approaches conserve water and strengthen climate resilience in agricultureCIIFAD CornellWhen the World Commission on Dams reviewed the development effectiveness of dams, multipurpose projects with large dams, power plants and irrigation schemes had the worst social, environmental and economic track record. As the world is grappling for appropriate answers to climate change, influential actors such as the World Bank want to give these complex schemes a second chance. They are wrong. While we need to integrate the concerns of climate change, water, energy and food security, we don’t need to go back to old-fashioned multipurpose schemes like the Narmada dams. And while we need to store water to adapt to a changing climate, we can do so in other ways than the big, centralized reservoirs of the past.
Displaced by a landgrab in Western EthiopiaOakland InstituteAs food prices rise, the lands of rural communities are being snatched up for plantations at an alarming rate around the world. According to the World Bank, large agricultural land deals made up an area the size of Sweden in 2009 alone. A new report documents how the controversial Gibe III Dam is fueling landgrabs in Southwestern Ethiopia right now. These grabs will compound the dam’s impacts on poor communities and their unique ecosystems.
Protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them.
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