2016: The Year in Review

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The Bargny Coast Water Keepers in Senegal celebrate the Day of Action for Rivers 2016.

The Bargny Coast Water Keepers in Senegal celebrate the Day of Action for Rivers 2016.
Bargny Coast Water Keeper

What a difference a year makes.

At the end of 2015, the picture for river communities was grim. The World Bank had doubled down on its support for large dams, and a dam-building boom was underway.

Now, as 2016 draws to a close, we’re celebrating a string of victories unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 15 years.

From Peru to Chile, Brazil to China, financiers and builders are stopping projects and protecting rivers. They’re doing it because these projects don’t make economic sense. They’re doing it because these projects are harming the very people they’re supposed to help. They’re doing it because there are better ways to generate power.

This doesn’t mean we’re winning everywhere. In the Mekong, fisheries are collapsing and the delta is suffering from unprecedented saltwater intrusion because of upstream dams – yet the building continues. In Niger, the World Bank has signaled it will continue to support Kandadji Dam, a horrendous project that will displace 65,000 people in a country that has no good land for relocation.

But perhaps the greatest tragedy took place in March, when our longtime friend and partner Berta Cáceres, the Honduran activist, was murdered in cold blood for her opposition to the Agua Zarca Dam. This was a horrible moment for her organization, COPINH; for Honduras; and for indigenous activists and water protectors around the world. Our hearts broke.

But these challenges have only strengthened our resolve. The best way to honor Berta’s memory is to continue this fight – for indigenous rights, for our freshwater ecosystems, for our watersheds, for life itself. It’s a good fight, and one we must never abandon.

In 2017, we will build on all we’ve experienced this year.

We’ll be ramping up our campaigns for permanent river protection in Latin America and globally.

We’ll explore new ways to defend the defenders – the frontline communities facing threats, intimidation and violence for their courageous defense of our natural resources.

And we’ll work hard to offer solutions to countries that want economic development without environmental destruction.

Journey with us through the challenging and inspiring events of 2016, and we hope you’ll stand with us in 2017. Thanks for your support.



  • Our longtime friend and partner, the Goldman Prize winner and anti-dam activist Berta Caceres, is murdered in Honduras. The world mourns, and we ask hard questions about “Who Killed Berta Caceres.”
  • Success! Our supporters demand European funders end their support for Agua Zarca Dam, the project Berta died fighting. The funders suspend their support for the project.
  • Success! In Borneo, the Baram Dam is stopped after a sustained campaign against it.


  • With the Klamath agreement signed, the biggest river restoration in US history gets underway. We explore its global significance.
  • We hold mapping workshops with dam-affected people on the Teles Pires River in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples visits the Amazon and meets with dam-affected people, with our support.
  • Brazil suspends the licensing process of the controversial São Luiz do Tapajós Dam in the Amazon.


  • We record an interview with Bruno Kapandji, Project Director for the  Inga 3 hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He states that the world’s largest hydropower project, Grand Inga, can go ahead without environmental or social impact assessments.
  • We publicize Kapandji’s outrageous statement, and predict the project will unravel.
  • Police kill two anti-dam protestors in Northern India. We take a deeper look at this growing trend, as indigenous communities increasingly find themselves in the crosshairs of development.
  • Success! After months of sustained pressure from an international coalition of groups, including International Rivers, funders exit Agua Zarca Dam.
  • We examine new developments that suggest we may be reaching the era of “peak dam.”



  • Success! The World Bank suspends funding for the troubled Inga 3 Dam on the Congo River.