Last night, Synchronicity Earth hosted a small event about large-scale dams. During it, we showed Todd Southgate’s DAMOCRACY, a story of resistance against two of the world’s most controversial dams – the Belo Monte in Brazil and the Ilisu Dam in Southeastern Turkey. The film was recently screened at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada and is attracting an international audience.
As well as spreading awareness, DAMOCRACY symbolises the growth of a new global movement uniting local communities and NGOs against the injustices and ecological losses associated with large-scale dams.
The film spurred lively debate, with guests asking whether there are any true means of addressing the ‘energy gap’ and if it is possible to protect the biodiversity of dam-impacted rivers. The discussion also focused on ways of improving the practices associated with hydropower: during it, we highlighted some recent victories.
For example, as we reported in January, the US Congress recently pledged to support reparations for communities affected by the Chixoy Dam, Guatemala. As a consequence of the atrocities associated with the scheme, Congress has requested that the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank provide stricter oversight of future infrastructure projects: particular concern has been raised about investing in large-scale dams.
In Patagonia the plan to develop five dams (named HidroAysen) was removed from the active roster of Endesa Chile (the developer). The firm will now be conducting two more impact assessments before any further consideration can be given. An opinion poll shows that 87.2% of local communities and 62.9% of Chileans nationally oppose the scheme.
The World Bank has, this week, decided to indefinitely suspend its support for the Inga III dam – part of the planned Grand Inga dam in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which (if built) would be the biggest dam in the world. This follows a request by twelve Congolese NGOs to consider the needs of the local population who are overlooked by current proposals for Inga III: the potential energy generated from the scheme has been ring-fenced for mining companies and for export to South Africa.
Our partner, International Rivers (IR) played a key role in orchestrating community and NGO opposition to Inga III. Rudo Sanyanga (Director of IR’s Africa Programme) comments: “Decentralized energy is the only feasible way of meeting the energy needs of the majority in such a vast country with limited capacity for maintaining huge infrastructure. It is time to move quickly to develop these resources, rather than destructive mega-hydro plants.”
These successes are major achievements in themselves, but are just the start of the work needed to protect the world’s rivers from the damaging impacts of large-scale dams for the sake of the people and wildlife that depend on them.
More information about our Freshwater Programme can be found here.