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New NGO Guide on Chinese Dams Around the World

New Great Walls


International Rivers report announcement:

New NGO Guide on Chinese Dams Around the World

Chinese dam builders have come to dominate the world market. Civil society groups have documented serious social and environmental impacts with numerous Chinese dams in Africa, Asia and Latin America. A new guide published by International Rivers explains how NGOs can influence Chinese dam builders and advocate for social and environmental interests.

In the past 10 years, Chinese companies and financiers have rapidly rolled up the global dam building market. Chinese companies and financiers are involved in more than 300 overseas dam projects, and Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, has become the world's biggest hydropower company. With more than 80 projects completed, under construction and in the pipeline, Africa is one of the focus areas of Chinese overseas dam building.

Although they have become global actors, Chinese dam builders don't always follow international social and environmental standards. Chinese financiers have for example agreed to fund the Merowe Dam in Sudan and the Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia after numerous multilateral development banks and Western banks declined to get involved because of their social and environmental impacts. Chinese projects have also provoked opposition in Burma, Honduras, Malaysia and other countries.

In recent years, civil society groups have found ways to engage with and influence the projects and policies of Chinese dam builders. After protests by local communities and NGOs, Chinese companies and financiers had to suspend projects in Burma and Gabon, and withdrew from operations in Cambodia. Sinohydro is engaged in a dialogue with Chinese and international NGOs, and has prepared an environmental policy that puts it at the forefront of the international hydropower industry. Chinese government agencies have also issued guidelines for foreign investors to protect the environment and respect local communities in their host countries.

A new guide published by International Rivers presents the lessons of past experience and informs interested NGOs how they can best influence the projects and policies of Chinese dam builders and advocate for social and environmental interests. The report provides an overview of the relevant actors, laws and standards in the Chinese dam building sector, including Sinohydro's new environmental policy. It presents case studies of how NGOs have influenced Chinese overseas projects, and concludes with a list of addresses and other useful information.

Entitled "The New Great Walls," the 60-page report is available at Translations into Chinese and Spanish are planned for early 2013. Please contact Katy Yan at International Rivers (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) if you would like to organize a civil society training with the new guide, or suggest translations into other languages.

Judge Halts Construction on Brazil's Belo Monte Dam

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
Wed, August 15, 2012
Brazilians bathe in the river near the area where the Belo Monte dam complex has been under construction.
(CNN) -- A Brazilian court has ordered an immediate halt to construction of a controversial hydroelectric dam project in the Amazon.

It's the latest twist in a long-brewing battle between the Brazilian government and local indigenous communities over the Belo Monte dam.

The government has backed the construction of what would be the world's third-largest hydroelectric dam, while activists argue that it would displace thousands of local residents and damage the environment.

In the most recent ruling, announced by Regional Federal Judge Souza Prudente to reporters, construction is ordered suspended until indigenous communities get a say on the matter before congress, court spokesman Jair Cardoso said.

Injunctions blocking construction have been issued in the past, but the government has successfully overturned them.

Congress approved the Belo Monte dam in 2005 and construction started in 2010 when then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed a $17 billion contract with Norte Energia, the consortium chosen to build the dam.

But lawmakers erred in not seeking input from the indigenous communities beforehand, the judge ruled.

"The legislation requires consultation (by indigenous communities) prior to a decision by congress (on construction of the dam), and what we have is an attempt after the fact," Prudente told the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency. "Congress made a mockery and acted as if it were in a dictatorship, putting the cart before the horse."

Norte Energia had not received notification of the ruling as of Wednesday, and would not comment for the time being, spokeswoman Sarah Barros said.

The company will be fined $250,000 daily if it does not comply.

If and when it is completed, Belo Monte will be the third-largest dam in the world, after the Three Gorges dam in China and the Itaipu dam on the Brazil/Paraguay border.

The dam, being built on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon, will produce 11,000 megawatts and provide electricity for 23 million homes.

According to Norte Energia, after environmental considerations the area to be flooded by the dam was reduced to 516 sq. km (200 sq. miles). Estimates of the number of people who will be displaced by the construction of the dam range from 19,000 to 40,000.

The judge also found fault with a previous regional federal court decision that assumed that the country's supreme court had upheld the constitutionality of the legislation behind the dam construction, according to Agencia Brasil. The decision in question had been the opinion of a single judge. For matters of constitutionality, two-thirds of the high court judges would have to agree.


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