Activists Protest Greenwashing of Dams at World Water Forum

Call for Compliance with the World’s Highest Standards

Inflatable dam at the stairs of St-Charles trainstation, Marseille

Marseille – Activists created a living river and inflated a large dam in central Marseille today against the corporate greenwashing of dams at this week’s 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France. The  colourful  manifestation  of  over  50  protestors  from  China,  Turkey,  Brazil,  Vietnam,  France,  and others  called  attention  to  how  dams  are  destroying  the  world’s  freshwater  biodiversity  and  causing irreversible losses to the world’s cultures.

Ronack Monabay of Friends of the Earth – France, stated that “large dams are not green. 60% of the world’s rivers are dammed, and freshwater ecosystems are losing species and habitats faster than any other type of ecosystem. Millions of people have been displaced because of dams worldwide. These are the reasons why we are protesting today. Life depends on healthy rivers.”

Caterina Amicucci of CRBM continued: “Yet, the world’s banks are rushing to finance big dams. Since 2003, the European Investment Bank alone has spent close to 1 billion euros in financing dams in the global south under the guise of clean energy access, though the dams primarily benefit manufacturers and large industries looking for cheap electricity to produce export goods.”

The protestors warned that the World Water Forum has turned into a trade show for corporate initiatives to  greenwash  the  dam  industry.  At  the  Forum,  the  International  Hydropower  Association  (IHA) presented the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment  Protocol, a voluntary self-policing scorecard for dam builders.

“The  IHA  Protocol  is  a  greenwash  of  the  world’s  dam  industry,”  said  Zachary  Hurwitz,  Policy Coordinator of  International Rivers.  “The Protocol allows dam builders to claim they are sustainable while they continue to violate international and national environmental and human rights law. In order to  not  repeat  the  errors  of  the  past,  dam  builders  must  be  held  accountable  to  the  highest  social  and environmental standards.”

One of the World Water Forum’s twelve priorities for action, “Harmonize Water and Energy,” calls for 20  countries  to  adopt  the  Protocol  by  2015.  The  IHA  is  lobbying   governments,  the  European  Union, and  international  agreements,  such  as  the  EU  Emissions  Trading  System  and  Water  Framework Directive, to use the Protocol in place of existing high standards.

Instead  of  adopting  the  IHA  Protocol,  the  protestors  are  calling  on  corporations,  governments  and international  financial  institutions  such  as  the  World  Bank  and  European  Investment  Bank  to  comply with the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, and international standards such as the Conventions  of  the  International  Labor  Organization  (ILO)  and  the  United  Nations  Declaration  on Indigenous Peoples  (UNDRIP). They  also call on  governments  and international financial  institutions to  stop  to  finance  large  dams  and  to  diversify  their  energy  portfolio  towards  more  sustainable  energy alternatives.

Electricité  de  France  (EDF),  a  founding  sponsor  of  the  IHA  Protocol,  is  currently  in  negotiations  to build dams in Southeast Asia’s Mekong basin, one of the world’s great repositories of freshwater fish species. EDF has already built the controversial Nam Theun 2 in Laos with funding from the EIB and World Bank, and expects to build more dams in the basin.

Nguyen Viet Dung, the Deputy Director of Vietnam’s Pan Nature, said “the future of millions of people who depend on the Mekong basin cannot be traded off by this private initiative. They are not second-class citizens. Dam builders should adhere to the same strict social and environmental standards there as they do at home. The IHA Protocol does not require that they do.”

The action is one of  over 30 occurring simultaneously in more than  20 countries across the world, as part of the International Day of Action for Rivers.

Note for editors

–  For  more  information  on  the  International  Day  of Action  for  Rivers,  including  summaries  of today’s actions, see http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/7094.
–  To  read  the  civil  society  critique  of  the  IHA  Protocol,  see http://www.internationalrivers.org/node/5905.
–  For  more  information  on  the  campaign  against  big  dams  of  Friends  of  the  Earth  France,  see  http://www.amisdelaterre.org/grandsbarrages
http://www.amisdelaterre.org/IMG/pdf/plaquettebarrages.pdf

Media contacts:
Ronack Monabay, Amis de la Terre, France:
+33 (0)6 38 89 81 05 ronack.monabay@amisdelaterre.org / www.amisdelaterre.org

Caterina Amicucci, Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, Italy:
+39 349 852 0789  camicucci@crbm.org / www.crbm.org

Zachary Hurwitz, International Rivers, United States:
+ 33(0) 6 46 54 02 46 zachary@internationalrivers.org www.internationalrivers.org

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