It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …. 2011 saw dams cancelled or delayed in Burma, Laos and Central America; the decommissioning of a few large dams in the US, and strong growth in true renewables in many parts of the world. But 2011 also ushered in huge dam plans in China, Turkey and Ethiopia; and saw new dams proposed or ready to start construction on too many rivers around the globe. As our friends in Mozambique say, “A luta continua!” The struggle continues… Herewith, the year’s high- and low-lights.
- Deconstruction of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State got underway, after a long campaign to decommission them. The dam removal is one of the largest in the US, and will open up river habitat to endangered salmon and other species.
- On the White Salmon River in Washington state, another big dam removal began last year. The removal of Condit Dam will restore 33 miles of habitat.
- Removal of two dams on Maine’s Penobscot, New England’s largest river, also began in 2011.
- Drought-related power outages affect Tanzania, China, Kenya, the Balkans, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, all of which have a large dependence on hydropower for meeting their energy needs.
- The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board launched a policy debate on the future of the CDM. While the carbon market continues to struggle amid the financial crisis and new scandals involving fake carbon credits, the CDM Board nevertheless awarded carbon credit financing to a number of controversial projects, including two in Latin America that involve human rights violations, and two hydropower projects that had already started construction (CDM projects are supposed to be unable to go forward without the credits).
- The Green Climate Fund was created at the COP17 meeting in South Africa. Civil society is now closely monitoring it to make sure it does not include large hydropower, and that strong social and environmental safeguards guide its operation.