By Bonnie Barclay, Global Communications Manager for International Rivers

On March 14th for the 26th annual International Day of Action for Rivers, people all over the world gathered to protect and celebrate rivers. 

The International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life was adopted by the participants of the first international meeting of People Affected by Dams in March 1997 in Curitiba, Brazil. Representatives from 20 countries decided that the International Day of Action would take place on March 14 – Brazil’s Day of Action Against Large Dams.

Candles along the Salween River spell out the message: No Dam on the last undammed free-flowing river in mainland Asia

This year we recorded over 70 events in over 30 countries with over 350 groups celebrating the healthy rivers-themed day in multiple ways (and the photos and stories are still coming in!). You gathered and protested for protecting free-flowing rivers. You wrote to elected officials. You organized river cleanups and celebrated with music. You held online webinars, and river walks, and kayaking education events! This is true from the Salween River between Myanmar and Thailand to India, from Albania to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and from Costa Rica to Chile. The amazing global activity we’ve seen in this year’s Day of Action –  the variety, diversity and passion of our movement – continues to inspire. You have made your voices heard.

Webinar organized by ARA Bolivia and Rios to Rivers with panelists speaking about protecting the Klamath River in the USA, Beni River in Bolivia, Congo River in DRC and Biobio River in Chile

A beautiful, inspiring 26th anniversary for rivers! We loved the diversity of activities and creativity too!

In a time of immense challenges, we find connection and common cause – across languages, cultures, and borders. We know Rivers Unite Us. And we know that we must join hands to protect our life-sustaining rivers because they are essential to our future on this planet.

Radio Workshop recorded the podcast “Congo En Panne” at the conference organised in Kinshasa by CORAP (Coalition des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Suivi des Réformes Publiques), in front of an audience of scientists and civil society representatives. Photograph by Sydellewillowsmith, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Day of Action Highlights

1) Keep the Salween River Free-flowing! | Thailand and Myanmar

Karen indigenous groups organized activities to protect the last free-flowing river at Ban Sobmei, Thailand-Myanmar border. Photo by International Rivers

The Salween River is the last undammed, free-flowing river in mainland Asia where millions are dependent on the health and biodiversity of the river for food and livelihoods.

The movement opposing dams along the Salween is one of the strongest in 30 years.

Peace Yes Dam No

Read International Rivers’ Thailand and Myanmar Campaigns Director, Pai Deetes’ opinion piece in the Bangkok Post, “Free-flowing Salween River needs protection“.

Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) and Karen Rivers Watch activities

  • An online panel discussion (watch here) about the importance of our rivers, the threats they are facing due to mega hydropower dams, and ways to save them through the promotion of Indigenous people lead conservation and decentralized resource governance.
  • KESAN released a statement on the DoA for Rivers against dams and to celebrate the beauty and power of living rivers and renew our commitments to protect them for all people and the planet.
  • Around 700 Karen people (see photos) gathered on the Salween River bank in the Salween Peace Park to mark the 26th International Day of Action for Rivers and make the following demands:

1. Let our rivers flow free.

2. We want no dam.

3. We do not want military dictatorship.

4. Let the Salween River flows free

5. No Dam!

2) Vjosa Wild River National Park is officially declared | Albania

Vjosa River

A ‘Historic moment’ as Europe’s first wild river national park is announced in Albania. The Vjosa River is one of the world’s last free-flowing rivers and home to more than 1,000 animal and plant species, including the critically endangered Balkan lynx. “For years, the Vjosa’s fragile ecosystem has been under threat: at one point as many as 45 hydropower plants were planned across the region.”

“Most people in central Europe have never ever seen a wild, living river, free from the impacts of human interference… Here, you have a wild river, full of complexity and without interference” says Ulrich Eichelman, head of the organization Riverwatch; an organization that worked alongside other partners to protect the Vjosa River basin.

3) Collective Civil Society Response to ADB’s Draft Guidance Note on Large Hydropower – | ASIA

Read the collective response to the Asia Development Bank (ADB) draft Guidance Note on Large Hydropower Plants, a document that is supposed to support staff engaged with borrowers and project proponents prior to – and post – approval of proposed assistance for large hydropower dam developments.

After reviewing this draft guidance on hydropower associated with the ADB’s 2021 Energy Policy, civil society groups are calling for a thorough overhaul of the current text.

4) Save the Mekong! | Mekong River

In Northeastern Thailand, leaders and villagers celebrated the International Day of Action for Rivers to protect the Mekong River. 

5) Indigenous Lepcha Protecting River Teesta | Sikkim Northeast India

Indigenous Lepcha of Sikkim Northeast India gathered in Mantam Lake in Upper Dzongu. This is where the most sacred rivers Rongyoung flows down and meets Teesta.

Let’s save our river Rongyoung and river Teesta! When the whole world is talking about preserving and protecting rivers, here the Lepcha Indigenous community worships their rivers, mountains, forest and land. Photos by Lepcha community. More photos here and watch the video. Learn more about the movement to protect River Teesta, “The youth say NO to destructive large hydropower! – Alternative development exists!”

6) Indigenous Peoples and Allies Around the World Continue Defending Rivers | GLOBAL 

Watch Indigenous Peoples and water defenders around the world speak about the Day of Action for Rivers.

“Sing the Water Song,” Algonquin Water Song by Irene Wawatie Jerome, recorded with permission from the Wawatie and Commanda families and the Circle of All Nations Foundation and the Elders in Canada.

Learn more about Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the protection of rivers against large dams.

7) Action for rivers and against dams | Philippines

Multiple activities throughout the Philippines were held by TFIP, Panaghiusa Philippine Network to Uphold IPs’ Rights joined Network Opposed to Kaliwa, Kanan, & Laiban Dams (NKKLD) opposing the construction of large dams in indigenous territories, such as the Kaliwa Dams, Gened Dam, Saltan Dams, Jalaur Dam and Apayao Dams.

Listen to Real World Radio with Leon Dulce from Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center/Friends of the Earth Philippines about the water situation in the Philippines and how projects like the Kaliwa Dam threaten to worsen the country’s water crisis in a climate-changed world.

8) Young Leaders Speak Up for Rivers | Global Young Leaders Speak Up for Rivers | Global 

Learn more about youth leaders taking the torch from their grandparents and parents and protecting the Salween River and communities.

9) Fishermen, farmers, laborers rally for rivers | Pakistan 

On the occasion of International Day of Rivers on March 14, a rally was organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum from Royal City Gate to Press Club Sanghar. Fishermen, farmers, laborers and people belonging to different sectors from different districts of Sindh participated in this rally.

10) Protest against Siarzewo dam | Poland 

An ironic “birthday-party” with a dam-cake was held in Warsaw on the Day of Action for Rivers. The Polish “Save the Rivers” Coalition protested against the construction of Siarzewo dam on the Vistula river. Read more.

Photos by Małgorzata Kaznowska-Filipek


We hope you enjoy these highlighted events. To see more, check out the Flickr album here. If you have photos from your event you would like to add to the album please email