This weekend's Mekong-Japan Summit marks two years since an agreement between the Mekong governments to work together to conduct further study on the sustainable development and management of the Mekong River, including the impacts of dams on the Lower Mekong River’s mainstream. The study was by strong regional and international concerns over the transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi Dam, the first of 11 dams planned on the Mekong mainstream. However, two years later we are no closer to seeing the results of this study or understanding the true impacts that the Xayaburi Dam, along with other proposed mainstream dams, will have on the Mekong River.
Vietnam has cancelled plans to build two dams on the Dong Nai River that would threaten a world biosphere reserve. The Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A dams would destroy more than 327 hectares of forests, 128 hectares of which are in the Cat Tien National Park. The Cat Tien National Park received UNESCO recognition as a Biosphere Reserve Zone in 2001, and is now one of the six biggest biosphere reserves in the world.
Chile’s presidential front-runner Michelle Bachelet recently made a very public statement against HidroAysén when she appeared on a billboard for Senator Guido Girardi’s campaign next to the slogan “Somos Patagonia Sin Repreas.”
It was a good rain that morning in Aysén up a glacial tributary of the Río Baker. Drips came down through the roof of a one-room house where a young man named Filipe Henriquez stood next to the crackling cocina telling me about how the privatization of water in Chile, the selling of rivers, has interrupted the flow of life.
People say that the “Patagonia Without Dams” campaign is epic. No wonder. This campaign is not only about saving two of Patagonia’s most magnificent rivers, the Baker and Pascua. It is not only about protecting the legendary, magical beauty of this planetary bio gem, its biodiversity and complex ecological mosaic. It is not only about saving the unique natural and cultural heritage.
Chileans took to the streets Monday – in celebration of Earth Day – to demand that the state regain control of water management in Chile. More than 6,000 people, including many of our partners, took part in a peaceful march through the streets of Santiago “for the recovery and defense of water”
Last month the newly elected Governor of Jalisco, Mexico Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval, officially took office and with his appointment comes a renewed sense of hope for the community of Temacapulin in their struggle to stop El Zapotillo Dam.
In remote villages, in large cities, along rivers and lakes, from New Zealand to Russia to the US, more than 150 actions took place this year in 40 countries to honor the 16th annual International Day of Action for Rivers.
On March sixteenth, seventy-five people gathered on the banks of the Rio Futaleufú to float down a calm stretch of the world-renowned whitewater river. The crowd was an eclectic mix of Chileans and foreigners, raft guides and shopkeepers, professional kayakers and tourists. The local municipality had provided transportation from the town plaza in its yellow micro-bus, and a handful of local outfitters had contributed guides and rafts for those without their own boats.
What struck me first was the sheer scale of the landscape, the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and glaciers juxtaposed with green rolling hills, and the blues and greens of Patagonia’s largest and most powerful rivers.
Tawang, the enchanting land of the ethnic Monpa tribe, with seven rivers that pass through it, is the hub of ancient Buddhist culture. However Tawang is experiencing a dramatic spike in social unrest and protests against fifteen proposed hydropower dams, which has even lead to violence by police against Buddhist Lamas (monks) who joined the protests.
Make your voice count today – take action to defend the rights of communities fighting all over the world to protect the rivers that sustain them and to work for change in how and whether dams are planned, designed and built.
On Sunday afternoon the heart of Santiago will be filled with the sounds of cumbia, salsa, and reggae music as Chilean musicians take the stage in front of the National Fine Art Museum as part of the cultural event “Juntos Desenchufemos HidroAysén – Together Lets Unplug HidroAysén!”
The Government of Manipur is threatening to forcefully evict and relocate the villagers of Chadong and Lamlai Khullen, in the Ukhrul District of Manipur, Northeast India, to make way for the Mapithel Dam. Despite strong objections and protests by affected communities, the forced verification of these two villages began on October 29th, and was accompanied by heavy military deployment.
Thanks to every one of you who voted in our World Heritage photo contest and took action! Not only do we have the top three photos, but the World Heritage Centre has also issued a positive response to your more than 200 letters, along with publishing their recommended decisions for the 36th Committee meeting.
"May Day" is an international distress signal for ships at sea. "May Day for Rivers" is a local distress call in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, to citizens of the uMngeni catchment to help ensure the health of the uMgeni and Msunduzi Rivers and their tributaries.
The following is a guest blog by Irene Bonilla, whom I was lucky enough to meet and get to know while in Temacapulín, Mexico during Rivers for Life 3 in 2010. Over the past year Irene, Steve Fisher and Carla Pataky have been working on the film "I Belong in Temaca" which you can view below. Temacapulín is a beautiful town in Los Altos de jalisco, México. In 2005 the government of Jalisco told residents that they planned to build a reservoir dam that would provide water to León, Guanajauato, and Guadalajara, Jalisco. They explained that the Temaca would be flooded and demanded that the residents sell their land and agree to be moved to a new location.Since that time the people of Temaca have been fighting to save their town. They have spent the last six years organizing protests, forums, and cultural festivals, among many other actions and yet the government refuses to listen to them. In October of 2010, International Rivers hosted Rivers for Life III in Temaca in which 64 countries were represented.
My colleague Lori Pottinger recently published an inspiring piece in Al Jazeera entitled "Rivers must flow: The case against big dams." In the conclusion of her article, she reflects that "finding ways to become an advocate for a river near you in 2012 would be a good way to celebrate the new year!"Lori's comment is the perfect call to action for the March 14 International Day of Action for Rivers, which is not just a day to celebrate the world's rivers, but also to celebrate the world's river advocates. This is the perfect opportunity for all of us to speak out and advocate for our rivers and watersheds.This March 14, Keep Our Rivers Free
This is a guest blog by a researcher who visited the Xayaburi Dam site and whose name must remain anonymous for security reasons.Leaving from Vientiane it takes 9 hours by car to reach a junction 30 km south of Luang Prabang. From there a slippery dirt road leads to Ban Pak Khon village. We take the ferry to cross the Mekong River and reach Ban Tha Dua village. Here we meet up with villagers who will have to resettle due to flooding if the Xayaburi Dam is completed. For a small fee they agree to bring us 20 km downstream to Ban Houay Souy village right next to the construction site of the dam. We've come to find out what is happening here after the MRC member countries put construction of the dam on hold in late May.
Representatives from CONAGUA at the second mesa de diálogoMarco von BorstelPerhaps one of the most elaborate April Fools jokes played this year was done so by representatives of the Mexican Federal Government and the National Water Commission. On April 1st they started a series of mesas de diálogo - face-to-face discussions - with representative from the communities of Temaca, Acasico and Palmarejo, all who will be affected by El Zapotillo Dam.The agreement to hold these talks came about because of the huge public opposition to the project expressed throughout Mexico and internationally by communities, NGO's and civil society members. This opposition has manifested itself in hundreds of letters sent to authorities involved in construction of the dam, large protests and marches in the streets of Guadalajara and Mexico City, and many more actions. However it was expressed most recently and perhaps most clearly on March 27 when more then 200 community members and supporters from around Mexico occupied the dam site, calling for cancellation of the dam and a dialogue with authorities involved in the project. This peaceful protest was a result of desperation and exasperation, after more than five years of campaigning against El Zapotillo Dam.
Occupation of El Zapotillo dam siteBy Marco von BorstelTemacapulín received recognition in more ways than one this week. On Monday the community of Temaca was awarded the International COAGRET Prize by the Spanish organization Coordinadora de Afectados por Grandes Embalses y Trasvases (COAGRET). The award was given in recognition of the community's "struggle to defend their land and for their tenacity, perseverance and faith. They are a symbol of the struggle against the irrational construction of dams that destroy lives and territories and [Temaca] is now a glimmer of hope for those fighting against dams in Spain and around the world." - Premio COAGRET-Internacional
Nature Action Group took to the mountainsNature Action Group International Day of Action for Rivers events made front page news around the world this week, here's just some of that headline news: Day of Action for Rivers Delights in Dalian, ChinaThe Hills are Alive with the Sound of Turkish River ActivistsBoats Float down the Papagayo River in protest of La Parota DamThousands of Fisherman Celebrate Life on the Xingu River in BrazilBaked Fish Repopulate the Elbe River in Czech RepublicActivists Fight for the Last Free-Flowing Section of Teesta River in Sikkim, IndiaThe Future of Life, People and the Environment Explored through Powerful Photo Exhibit in Mozambique
The call to action has gone out far and wide, whispers have spread from Mexico to Colombia, crossing oceans to reach Turkey, China and Iran, gaining strength and volume as they gain momentum.With just over a week until the International Day of Action for Rivers we have already heard about 48 events taking place in 21 countries: Canada, Chile, China, Dominican Republic, India, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, to name a few.
Day of Action For Rivers generating Oscar buzzI am quite sure that had the Academy seen our Wild River Dance Videos in time for the Oscars last year, they would have given "Hurt Locker" a run for it's money as winner for Best Picture. Therefore it's high time that these wonderful videos from the 2010 Day of Action For Rivers were re-released for public enjoyment...and just in time for this year's Oscar season.Spearheaded by our very own Web Producer Ian Elwood, the Wild River Dance contest saw many river-loving, dance-filled, inspiring videos. Although the competition is over, you can still post your own Wild River Dance videos in response. So when you watch these and immediately feel the need to go dance by your nearest river, please don't forget your video camera!
"The river showed no mercy. It swallowed the landscape in slow, heaving gulps. The surrounding fields had all but disappeared, digested over the course of the day in a pulpy mass."- Excerpt from Li Miao Lovett's In the Lap of the Gods.Artists Respond to Three Gorges: March 14, Berkeley CABuilt on the Yangtze River in China, the Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest hydropower project. No single dam has displaced as many people (1.2 million), nor flooded as many cities, towns and villages (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages). Although the dam has already been completed, its problems continue and while the above statistics are staggering, the human stories often get overlooked.Artists around the world have focused their attention on these individual stories of displacement and used various artistic mediums to convey the feelings of anger, frustration, and hope.
Protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them.
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