PR: International Coalition For River Restoration Formed

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Tue Jul 28 10:06:52 PDT 1998

[Before I talked with Patrick McCully and read his book Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, I had no idea how destructive dams are. - DH]

X-Sender: patrick at Mime-Version: 1.0 Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 18:42:57 -0800 To: 100065.3664 at (Keith Hayward) From: patrick at (Patrick McCully) Subject: PR: International Coalition For River Restoration Formed

American Rivers * Assembly of the Poor, Thailand * European Rivers Network * Florida Defenders of the Environment * Friends of the Earth, USA * Friends of the Eel River, USA * Glen Canyon Institute, USA * International Rivers Network * John Muir Project, Earth Island Institute, USA * Let's Help the River Movement, Russia * Save the Narmada Movement, India * Pedder 2000, Australia * River Alliance of Wisconsin * Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, USA * SOS Living Loire, France * Water Watch of Oregon * Wildlife Fund Thailand * Green World, Ukraine


Berkeley, California, 27 July, 1998

International Coalition For River Restoration Formed

Dam Decommissioning Key Element in Strategy

Eighteen environmental and social activist groups from seven countries in North America, Europe and Asia have announced the formation of Living Rivers: The International Coalition for the Restoration of Rivers and Communities Affected by Dams. The coalition will focus on restoring rivers and the well-being of the communities which depend on them by working to change the operating patterns of dams, drain reservoirs and remove dams.

The decision to form the coalition was reached at a workshop on dam decommissioning held at Walker Creek Ranch, Marin County, California, on July 23-25, 1998. The workshop ended with the endorsement of the Walker Creek Declaration, the founding statement of the Living Rivers coalition.

The Declaration notes that:

""Worldwide . . . rivers are degraded by hundreds of thousands of dams, which have flooded huge areas of the world's most beautiful and ecologically rich habitats and the lands and homes of tens of millions of people . . . the promised benefits of many dam projects have never been realized, and their adverse effects are more serious than predicted . . .

"Many dams provide services for society, including the generation of electricity, the storage and diversion of water, flood protection, navigation and flat-water recreation. But we now know that these services . . . often can be met in less damaging ways . . . "

"Many dams are now obsolete. Many have reached the end of their functional life span and no longer serve a purpose that justifies their negative impacts. Many are unsafe, threatening the lives of millions of people, as well as property, fish and wildlife.

"For many dams the cost of maintenance and of environmental and social mitigation exceeds the benefits to be gained from dam operation. The cost of removing dams is in many cases proving less than the cost of continuing to operate them . . . removing dams is an economically, technically, socially and environmentally viable and sensible option for . . . restoring living rivers."

The Declaration states that the "continued existence and operation of individual dams must be justified on the grounds of ecological and social impacts, economics and safety". It calls for a number of measures relating to dam decommissioning, including:

* Evaluations of which dams should continue in operation, which should have their operations altered to mitigate adverse impacts, and which should be decommissioned or removed.

* The preparation of decommissioning plans for all dams, whether existing, planned or under construction. These plans should include dam removal and restoration of the river, reservoir zone and floodplain.

* Dam owners and the beneficiaries of dams must be held responsible for the costs of mitigating the impacts of their continuing operation, paying reparations for past damages, and where relevant decommissioning or removing the dams. Funding mechanisms must be established for the decommissioning of abandoned dams or where the owner has insufficient financial resources. International agencies which have financed dams, such as the World Bank, should share the responsibility for their decommissioning.

* Rigorous dam safety standards must be developed and enforced, including the preparation and publication of maps of areas to be flooded in the event of a dam failure, emergency evacuation plans for areas at risk, and the purchase of liability insurance. The safety records of dams must be made public.

* Watershed management and energy plans must be developed in a participatory and transparent manner. Watershed management plans should integrate sustainable agriculture and fisheries, urban planning, flood management, water supply and environmental restoration. Regional energy plans should incorporate demand-side management and the most environmentally benign and cost-effective forms of generation.

Living Rivers will start by disseminating information on successful dam decommissioning case studies and on river restoration. It will also work to ensure that the newly-formed World Commission on Dams will assess in depth the issue of dam decommissioning.

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For more information contact:

Patrick McCully, International Rivers Network, USA +1 510 848 1155, patrick at,

Sara Johnson, River Alliance of Wisconsin, +1 608 257 2424, wisrivers at,

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Save the Narmada Movement, India +91 265 382232, nba at

Roberto Epple, European Rivers Network, France, +33 471 02 08 14, ern at,

Helen Gee, Pedder 2000, Australia, +61 3 6257 5155, thomtec at

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