Recognizing Dams as a World Heritage Threat
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee just concluded its 35th session in Paris, and for the activists and experts who worked long and hard to protect many dam-threatened World Heritage Sites, the results were a mixed bag.
In early June of this year, 18 organizations and individuals sent a letter to World Heritage Committee members urging them to list a number of threatened sites on the List of World Heritage In Danger.
Here are some of the recent decisions:
- The Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras made it to the List of World Heritage in Danger due to poaching, pollution and plans for a series of dams on the Patuca River.
- Thanks to the efforts of Friends of Lake Turkana and others, IUCN and UNESCO will send a monitoring mission to Lake Turkana Parks in Kenya to investigate the threats to lake levels from the 1,870 MW Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia upstream. While we were disappointed that neither Lake Turkana nor the Omo Valley were listed as in danger, we hope this mission will highlight the
severe consequences of the dam on the survival of Lake Turkana and its
- There was shockingly little action around China's Three Parallel Rivers, whose Nu River could lose its roaring rapids should a cascade of planned dams in Tibet and upper Yunnan be approved. Stay tuned for more information on our efforts to protect this mighty river.
Free flowing rivers are at the heart of many of these sites and the reason why they are so beautiful, healthy and vibrant. Natural flows help maintain groundwater levels, nutrient flows to downstream fields, and fish migrations. Free flowing rivers are often also the last refuge for many endangered aquatic species. A host of other World Heritage Sites are currently threatened by dam building planned within and around their borders.
The World Heritage Committee will publish further decisions on actions to take for these sites in the next couple of weeks. We hope that the Committee will commit to stronger actions to discourage dam-building impacts to our world's most treasured sites, and we will urge host country governments to step up their own protection measures.
We will update you on our efforts to continue fighting for the protection of Lake Turkana, Three Parallel Rivers, and other dam-threatened sites around the world. Stay tuned.