U.S. Water News Online
CURITIBA, Brazil -- Representatives from organizations in 20 countries will hold the first International Conference of People Affected by Large Dams here March 11-14.
Representatives will discuss how to halt large dams and other destructive infrastructure projects, and how to obtain adequate compensation for those who have already lost lands, homes, and livelihoods due to dam construction, said conference officials.
Brazil's Movement of People Affected by Large Dams (MAB) is organizing the meeting. MAB is a broad national movement made up of farmers, indigenous peoples, riverine populations, descendants of communities of escaped slaves, and urban dwellers. For 13 years they have fought for just compensation for dam victims and resisted the Brazilian government's plans for a vast new dam network, said members of the organization.
Over the past 50 years, some 30 to 60 million people worldwide have been displaced by large dams, according to the International Rivers Network (IRN). Dams under construction or being planned are displacing millions more, they say. The majority of displaced people have been in China (estimates range from 10 million to more than 40 million) and India (14-22 million). China's Three Gorges Dam, which is now under construction, would alone force the eviction of 1.3 million people, according to IRN.
Tens of millions more living downstream of large dams have been impoverished due to the falling productivity of their farmland and fisheries after dam construction, says IRN. Millions have also suffered from diseases spread by dams, and tens of thousands have been killed by floods caused by dam breaks and badly timed releases from reservoirs, according to the organization.
MAB argues that those least able to adapt to changing conditions, such as indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, are disproportionately represented among those harmed by dams. Governments, they say, have invariably failed to provide adequate compensation for dam victims.
The goals of the conference are to form a global coalition of dam victims, to seek reparations for damages suffered, to raise public awareness of the human impacts of large dams and of the alternatives to these mega-projects, to ensure that affected people have a voice in future projects, and -- eventually -- to bring an end to the era of large dams.
For more information contact Patrick McCully at the International Rivers Network, (510) 848-1155.
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