“We live in an age of urgency… We cannot remain silent onlookers while corporate profiteers, financiers, and their allies peddle false solutions for addressing climate change and implementing sustainable development,” declared the joint statement issued by over 250 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on the occasion of 2019 World Hydropower Congress, which was recently organised in Paris by the industrial lobby of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) in partnership with UNESCO.
The statement, titled The False Promises of Hydropower: How dams fail to deliver the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, called out various attempts to portray large hydroelectric dams as a ‘clean and green’ source of energy. Criticising the conference titled Delivering the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, the statement observed,”Such glossy portrayals of hydroelectric dam projects—with an eye toward capturing financial incentives through mechanisms like Climate Bonds and the Green Climate Fund— conveniently ignore a long legacy of social and environmental catastrophes, economic waste and, all too often, massive corruption schemes that are the antithesis of truly sustainable development.”
Signatories from India included Narmada Bachao Andolan, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective; and Forum for Policy Dialogues on Water Conflicts in India; Intercultural Resources; Kalpvriksha; and Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, and South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers, and People, Centre for Financial Accountability; and Centre for Research and Advocacy.
Wide-ranging impacts of dams
Emphasising on the impact of the large and small dams, the statement, which is signed by CSOs from the six continents, observed, that the hydroelectric dams, together with reservoirs and transmission lines have a devastating impact on highly vulnerable communities, on freshwater ecosystems.
Citing specific examples from across the world, the statement stressed, “dam construction, especially in frontier areas like the Amazon, Tibetian Plateau, Congo and Siberia, has typically been accompanied by the opening of penetration roads, massive immigration, an escalation in illegal land-grabbing, logging, deforestation, and mining—all associated with increased levels of violence.”
Other important issues raised by the CSO were related to the emission of greenhouse gases, being one of leading sources of human-induced methane emissions; destruction of culturally and historically important heritage sites, including the UNESCO’s World Heritage sites; creation of public debt technological innovations in solar and wind generation; and absence of transparency and citizen participation.
The CSOs demanded to steer priorities, investments and financial incentives towards energy efficiency and truly sustainable renewable energy options; elimination of financial incentives for new hydroelectric projects within climate change mechanisms; independent audits of controversial dam projects; Ensure that renewable energy policies and projects adopt, across the board, robust guidelines to safeguard human rights and environmental protections, such as ILO Convention 169 and the UN Principles on Business and Human Rights; and permanent legal protection of the world’s last free-flowing rivers, including transboundary watercourses, with due respect for the territorial rights of indigenous peoples and other traditional communities.