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UPDATE: Blue Planet Project at workshop on dams and mines

Blue Planet Project organizer Madhuresh Kumar speaks about dams on the Narmada river.

Blue Planet Project organizer Madhuresh Kumar speaks about dams on the Narmada river.

The ‘Global Solidarity Against Water Grabs Through Dam Projects and Mining’ workshop at the World Social Forum in Tunis has just concluded. The session – moderated by Blue Planet Project organizer Claudia Campero – featured speakers from Kurdistan, Iraq, Peru and India.

Campero introduced the session by noting what these projects often have in common in many countries:
– lack of consultation with the local population
– violation of Indigenous rights
– no prior consent to the project
– displacement of peoples
– intimidation and violence, criminalization of those opposed.

The first speaker from Turkey then highlighted:
– 50,000 large dams have been built
– the biggest builders of dams are China, India, Brazil, Turkey and Iran
– 50-90 million people have been displaced by dams
– landless people do not receive compensation when they are displaced
– 500-600 million people downstream have been affected by dams
– debt for the states with the dams
– a reduction in water quality, people forbidden from taking water near dam
– harm to biodiversity, fishes, plants
– a major contributor to greenhouse gases
– conflict between regions and states due to the diversion of water.

Then four key struggles were noted by the other speakers on the panel:

1. The Ilisu dam
The Ilisu dam in Turkey actually consists of 23 dams, 19 of which are hydroelectric. The Iraq Civil Society Initiative has opposed this project with the Save the Tigris campaign. The dams will reduce the water flow into Iraq by 50 per cent. The speaker noted a UNESCO petition against the dam. The Blue Planet Project has previously highlighted this petition here.

2. The Caballo Blanco mine
Guillermo Rodriguez noted that mines have to be opposed when they are just a rumour, when engineers and men in suits are seen, in that it’s much harder to stop once it’s already being built or operating. The Vancouver-based Goldgroup mine in Vera Cruz in Mexico is expected to extract one ton of gold in a 7-year period, but since the company has a 50-year concession there are additional concerns and the realization that the fight will be fought over many years. The speaker added that mines and dams are death projects and that we have to continue to say that water is worth more than gold. A Blue Planet Project blog with more background on the mine can be read here.

3. The Narmada River
Madhuresh Kumar stated that there are 30 big dams, 135 medium-sized dams, and 1,000 small dams on the Narmada River in India. He noted that one dam can destroy the lives of 200,000 people. To counter dams, he highlighted we must:
– battle the idea that a dam means development, it does not
– engage as many people as possible, including lawyers, filmmakers, doctors, and teachers, against the capital class that wants the dam
– approach the World Bank – that funds dams – to investigate impacts
– fight dams in the courts
– go to the embassies of the countries building the dams
– recognize that these can be 20 year fights that peoples lives have to continue too.

4. The struggle in Peru
Nicador Alvorado from Peru stated that those who are promoting dams, logging, mining and hydrocarbon extraction expect us to bow and say ‘yes sir’ as we did 500 years ago. He said that we have to understand that the state and corporations are working together against our interests. And while he soberly noted the cost of the struggle – 350 wounded, 35 dead in one year alone – he highlighted that the success of the September 2012 ‘National March for Water’ that mobilized thousands. And to cheers, he noted that their work has thrown out two government ministers and may force out the country’s president. He called for a globalized struggle to defend water and territory and for a post-extractionist economy. For more on the march for water, please see this Blue Planet Project blog.

More than 50 people came together from at least a dozen different countries for a very lively and engaging session on these critical issues. Dam and mine opponents from Algeria, Basque, Canada, France, India, Iraq, Italy, Kurdistan, Peru, Tunisia and Venezuela were in attendance at this morning’s workshop.