Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hydropower Dams Pose Threat To Tribal Peoples

Hydroelectric Dams Pose Threat To Tribal Peoples, Report Warns

Giant hydroelectric dams being built or planned in remote areas of Brazil, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Peru and Guyana will devastate tribal communities by forcing people off their land or destroying hunting and fishing grounds, according to a report by Survival International today.

The first global assessment of the impact of the dams on tribes suggests more than 300,000 indigenous people could be pushed towards economic ruin and, in the case of some isolated Brazilian groups, to extinction.

The dams are intended to provide much-needed,low-carbon electricity for burgeoning cities, but the report says tribal people living in their vicinity will gain little or nothing. Most of the power generated will be taken by large industries, it concludes.

At least 200,000 people from eight tribes are threatened and a further 200,000 people will be adversely affected by the Gibe III dam on the Omo river in Ethiopia. Ten thousand people in Sarawak, Malaysia, have been displaced by the Bakun dam,which is expected to open next year, and a series of Latin American dams could force many thousands of people off their land.

The authors say enthusiasm for large dams is resurfacing, driven by a powerful international lobby presenting them as a significant solution to climate change. Lyndsay Duffield, said: "The lessons learned [about the human impact of large dams]last century are being ignored, and tribal peoples worldwide are again being sidelined, their rights violated and their lands destroyed."

The report says the World Bank is one of the biggest funders of destructive dams, despite worldwide criticism in the 1990s for supporting such projects. Its portfolio now stands at $11bn, with funding up more than 50% on 1997.

The UN now subsidises dam building via the clean development mechanism (CDM), which allows rich countries to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in clean energy in poor countries. The watchdog group CDM Watch says more than a third of all CDM-registered projects in 2008 were for hydropower, making them the most common type of project vying for carbon credits.

Concern is growing over the role of China, now the world's largest builder and funder of big dams. The Three Gorges Corporation, firm behind the controversial Three Gorges dam, which has displaced more than a million people from around the Yangtze river in the last 20 years, has been contracted to build a dam on the land of the Penan tribe in Sarawak. China's biggest state bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, may fund Gibe III in Ethiopia, to be Africa's tallest. The Chinese government has financed the majority of dams built in China, which account for about half the global total of large dams.

The report says tribes have borne the brunt of the development over the last 30 years. In India, at least 40% of people displaced by dams and other developmentprojects are tribal, though they make up just 8% of the country's population. Almost all of the large dams built or proposed in the Philippines have been on the land of the country's indigenous people.

The report accuses banks and dam builders of consistently underestimating the number of tribal people affected. "There is an endemic tendency within the dam industry to significantly underestimate the number of people to be affected by their projects," it says.

"The World Bank's review of big dam projects over 10 years found that the number of people actually evicted was nearly 50% higher than the planning estimates."

Survival International called for all hydroelectric dams on tribal peoples' land to be halted unless the tribes have given full consent. "In the case of isolated or uncontacted tribes, where consultation is not possible, there should be no development of hydroelectric dams on their territories," it said.

Greed has killed humanity. And hydropower is the new "scheme" for companies to back through banks to gain "carbon credits" in order for them to keep doing business as usual as they push indigenous peoples off their land. How ironic. . Hydropower is not renewable, especially in lands where drought is prevalent, agriculture and fish stocks suffer through diversion or flooding, culture and history is destroyed, and environmental degradation is a part of it. Mega dams are also detrimental to the stability of the Earth's crust, and dam building is a source of CO2 emissions, with waste built up in dams contributing to climate change/ global warming, (or pick the term of your choice) through methane emissions. Insanity.

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