Global Dam Experts Find World Water Forum Expands the Global Water Divide

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Istanbul, Turkey — At a press conference today at the Fifth World Water Forum (WWF), a panel of international experts and activists denounced the undemocratic methods of the WWF and World Water Council. They reaffirmed their opposition to large dams, the impacts of which include increased poverty, debt, earthquakes, and global warming.

Peter Bosshard, International Rivers’ Policy Director, noted the absence of his colleagues, Payal Parekh and Ann-Kathrin Schneider, who were deported after peacefully unfurling a banner reading “No Risky Dams” at the Forum’s opening ceremony. He then denounced the World Water Council for “remaining silent on this repression of free speech on its premises. The silence confirms that the Forum is a trade fair of corporate interests, and not the open, democratic space that the Council pretends.”

Bosshard noted, “Throughout the Forum, we have heard many calls for building more big dams. We have often heard such calls from dam building companies in the name of the poor – the poor who have no voice to speak for themselves at this event. The propaganda of interest groups disregards the track record of large dams. Dams are a risky business for people and the planet.”

Ikal Angelei of Friends of Lake Turkana traveled from Kenya to bring attention to Ethiopia’s planned Gibe 3 Dam. “Gibe 3 threatens Lake Turkana downstream in Kenya – the world’s largest desert lake. The 300,000 people who live around Lake Turkana were neither informed of the project’s impacts nor consulted on their priorities. Lake Turkana and its inhabitants face an environmental catastrophe – and an avoidable one.”

Ercan Ayboga of Turkish group Save Hasankeyf Initiative said Turkey’s Ilisu Dam “has been planned without the consent of the people living by the Tigris River. We call for an immediate suspension of all construction on Ilisu and for the government to work with local authorities and civil society groups to protect and conserve Turkey’s water resources, including our precious Tigris, the last free-flowing river in our country.”

Juan Pablo Orrego of Ecosystemas in Chile reported that the corporate giant ENEL was trying to build several dams in Chilean Patagonia. The only rationale for this ill-conceived scheme, Orrego explained, was that ENEL had been able to capture the water rights to Patagonia’s rivers, which the Pinochet regime had handed out to another investor for free. “This project is highly destructive and, in one of the world’s richest countries in renewable energy sources, totally unnecessary,” Orrego concluded.

Pianporn Deetes of Living Rivers Siam supports the rights of local communities over their rivers and opposes threats to rivers. She said that “The Mekong River is my region’s lifeline, providing food, water and sustenance to millions of people. Yet the governments of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand are planning to build 11 big dams on the river’s mainstream. If built, these dams would destroy the river’s fisheries, threatening the food security of millions of people.”

Bosshard added, “at this Forum, we have heard that dam builders have learned the lessons from their past mistakes, and are now developing projects following best social and environmental practice. Too often, the reality on the ground is different. From China’s great rivers to the Mekong and the Amazon basins, we continue to see projects that flout environmental laws and guidelines, and will have devastating impacts on the environment. From Laos to India, Turkey and Ethiopia, we continue to see projects that will impoverish large, often indigenous population groups.”

“Large dams,” Bosshard continued, “have displaced 40-80 million people globally, and impoverished millions more. Dams and other infrastructure have also turned freshwater into the ecosystem which is most threatened by species extinction. And on average, large hydro dams cost at least 50 percent more than projected. If built in the tropics, reservoirs can be significant emitters of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And if built in seismically active regions – as many of them are-reservoirs can cause massive earthquakes.”

With staff in five continents, International Rivers  is an international environmental and human rights organization. For over two decades, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the communities that depend on them.


Visit International Rivers’ World Water Forum page.