Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

23.4.10

Water Newsclips Earth Day After Edition 2010

http://www.la-croix.com/Les-barrages-chinois-soupconnes-d-aggraver-la-secheresse-du-/article/2421214/55351
(English translation: http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=fr&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http://www.la-croix.com/Les-barrages-chinois-soupconnes-d-aggraver-la-secheresse-du-/article/2421214/55351&sl=fr&tl=en )

Les barrages chinois soupçonnés d'aggraver la sécheresse du Mékong


Lors d'un sommet sur le Mékong, lundi 5 avril à Bangkok (Thaïlande), la Chine a promis plus de concertations aux pays d'Asie du Sud-Est, où le fleuve atteint des niveaux historiquement bas




Un couple de Cambodgiens traverse le Mékong près du village de Koh Touch, à une vingtaine de kilomètres au nord de Phnom Penh, au Cambodge (AP/Heng Sinith).

Le niveau du Mékong n'avait jamais été aussi bas en cinquante ans, dans le nord de la Thaïlande et au Laos. Depuis le début de l'année, le plus grand fleuve d'Asie du Sud-Est, dont dépendent 60 millions de personnes, est victime d'une sécheresse qui suscite inquiétudes et polémiques dans la région.

Dans la province thaïlandaise de Chiang Rai, frontalière du Laos, le niveau de l'eau n'atteint plus que 33 centimètres depuis février, au lieu des 2,2 mètres habituels en cette saison. Les bateaux ne peuvent plus circuler entre le Laos et la Thaïlande. Marchandises et touristes doivent emprunter la route. Les pêcheurs font face à une diminution de leurs prises. En temps normal, la zone est l'une des plus poissonneuses au monde.

Riverains et ONG de défense de l'environnement montrent du doigt les barrages chinois situés en amont du fleuve. Ils sont au nombre de huit, dont cinq encore en construction. Planifiés sans aucune discussion avec les pays en aval, ils auraient aggravé la sécheresse.

Pour Pékin, la baisse du niveau est liée aux conditions climatiques

« Le niveau de l'eau fluctue d'une manière qui n'est pas naturelle et pas saisonnière », estime Pianporn Deetes, une activiste thaïlandaise membre du réseau Save the Mekong et de l'ONG Rivers International. « Le remplissage du réservoir du barrage de Xiaowan, l'un des plus hauts du monde, coïncide avec le début de la sécheresse actuelle », a-t-elle souligné dans une tribune publiée par le Bangkok Post.

Lundi 5 avril, la question a dominé le premier sommet de la Commission du Mékong (MRC). Les chefs de gouvernement de la Thaïlande, du Laos, du Vietnam et du Cambodge étaient réunis à Hua Hin, en Thaïlande. Créée il y a quinze ans, la Commission est un organisme intergouvernemental censé « promouvoir la coopération et le développement durable » dans l'aménagement du fleuve. Face à l'ampleur de la polémique, la Chine – qui n'est que membre observateur de la Commission –, a dépêché sur place son vice-ministre des affaires étrangères.

Pour Pékin, la baisse du niveau du fleuve est uniquement liée aux conditions climatiques. « La situation est due aux faibles pluies en Chine et au bas niveau des affluents du fleuve », a affirmé également Jeremy Bird, président de la Commission du Mékong. Les autorités chinoises assurent même que les barrages ont contribué à atténuer les effets de la sécheresse, en relâchant de l'eau.

«Il y a d'autres moyens de produire de l'électricité»

En mars, Pékin a accepté de communiquer une partie de ses données sur le niveau des barrages, une première. Les écologistes s'en félicitent mais estiment le geste insuffisant. « Il faut que la Chine publie aussi les données antérieures à la construction des barrages », réclame Pianporn Deetes. Lundi, la Chine a néanmoins promis aux autres participants plus de concertation à l'avenir sur les projets hydroélectriques liés au Mékong.

Les inquiétudes autour du fleuve dépassent de loin les problèmes de sécheresse actuels. Plus de 80 projets de barrages sont en discussion, sur le fleuve et ses affluents. Les écologistes redoutent des conséquences dramatiques pour l'écosystème du fleuve.

« Le Mékong est à la croisée des chemins, estime Witoon Permpongsacharoen, directeur du Réseau Énergie Écologie Mékong. Les besoins en électricité sont souvent surestimés, notamment au Vietnam. Les barrages sont parfois mal adaptés aux besoins. Ils sont à sec pendant la saison sèche, quand la demande d'électricité est la plus forte. Il y a d'autres moyens de produire de l'électricité, sans endommager l'environnement. Il faut y réfléchir. »

Emmanuelle MICHEL, à Bangkok (Thaïlande)
http://planetark.org/wen/57416

China Says Dams Not To Blame For Low Mekong Levels
Date: 06-Apr-10
Country:
 THAILAND
Author:
 Ambika Ahuja


China Says Dams Not To Blame For Low Mekong Levels Photo: Chor Sokunthea
A man and his dog walk on the river bed of the Mekong river at Koh Dach district in Kandal province, east of Phnom Penh, March 17, 2010.
Photo: Chor Sokunthea

China on Monday denied that its dams were reducing water levels on the Mekong River and blamed problems along the river on unusually dry weather, but it also offered to share more data with its neighbors.
Leaders of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, badly hit by the Mekong's biggest drop in water levels in decades, met in the Thai coastal town of Hua Hin to discuss management of Southeast Asia's longest waterway. Some 65 million people depend on the river.
China sent vice foreign minister Song Tao to rebut criticism of the eight hydropower dams it has built or is building in its south.
"Statistics show the recent drought that hit the whole river basin is attributable to the extreme dry weather, and the water level decline of the Mekong River has nothing to do with the hydropower development," Song said in an official statement after the meeting.
The Mekong originates in the Tibetan plateau and flows 4,800 km (2,980 miles) through rice-rich areas of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia before emptying into the South China Sea off Vietnam.
Song said southwestern China was suffering its worst drought in decades. Beijing says the drought has left about 18 million people and 11 million animals with insufficient drinking water and affects 4.3 million hectares (10.6 million acres) of crops.
Activists and environmentalists say China has not provided relevant data to assess the impact of the dams on water flows.
But Song said it had given rainy season data since 2003 and dry-season data from two hydrological stations since March in response to requests from its four downstream neighbors through the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission (MRC).
Environmental organizations in the lower Mekong basin, particularly in Thailand, have long accused China of a lack of transparency in water management policies.
In particular, they are demanding more detailed data from Xiaowan hydroelectric dam on the upper reaches of the Mekong. Xiaowan, China's second-largest hydroelectric station, began storing water in its reservoir last October.
Government officials in the four Mekong countries are more guarded in their comments, mindful of trade and investment flows.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters the dialogue with China had been positive, commending the powerful northern neighbor for cooperation and for providing data.
"The heart of effective management of the water is information sharing. I am optimistic it will become more systematic and more consistent. It will allow for more effective management of the river as well as building of trust," he said.
ONE STEP FORWARD
Activists said giving data was a step in the right direction.
"We need more and we need effective management of available data. But simply breaking that silence is progress for us after years of very little information on what's going on upstream," said Pianporn Deetes, spokeswoman for the Save the Mekong Coalition, an alliance of environmental groups.
But Pianporn said the water level problem could not be put down simply to drought and more cooperation was needed.
"If the dams don't contribute to the loss of water level, China should publicly release information on water level flows that goes back several decades, not just the latest."
Song said China had responded to the concerns of downstream countries, even at the expense of some hydropower projects.
To prevent any impact on fish migration, Beijing canceled one hydroelectric plant, the Mengsong, on the upper reaches, Song said, and it was planning to build a counter-regulation reservoir to prevent abnormal downstream fluctuations in water level.


http://www.wbcsd.org/plugins/DocSearch/details.asp?type=DocDet&ObjectId=MzgxNjk

Nonprofit (CDP) presses corporations to report water use

Greenwire, 7 April 2010 - A nonprofit organization that has persuaded some of the world's largest corporations to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions will press 302 international companies to take similar action detailing their water use today.

The effort by the Carbon Disclosure Project, an investor-backed group, aims to put the issue of water consumption on similar footing with carbon emissions as an area of concern for company shareholders.

Investors are eyeing water consumption as a "material" issue because scientists have forecast that climate change will exacerbate global water shortages, according to Marcus Norton, who will head up the new project, called C.D.P. Water Disclosure.

"It matters because long-term investors in particular see that water scarcity is going to impact companies' operations and supply chains," he said.

Norges Bank Investment Management in Oslo, which oversees $441 billion, is already looking at water-related obstacles down the road and has identified 1,100 companies in its portfolio facing water risks, according to Anne Kvam, global head of ownership strategies for the bank. Kvam said that knowing such information is an important issue for investors.

Acting on behalf of 137 international financial institutions, the Carbon Disclosure Project is asking 302 companies from industries with large water use to reveal what percentage of their operations are in water-stressed areas and the portion of their water use that comes from those regions. The group is also asking for more details on companies' recycling habits and discharges into or near water-related risk sites as part of an 11-page questionnaire. The questionnaire went out to companies in the pharmaceutical, auto, electric utility, food and beverage, oil, gas, and mining sectors.

Ford Motor Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Molson Coors Brewing Co. have already signed on to disclose their water practices.

"Unlike carbon, water use isn't fungible," said Bart Alexander, vice president for global corporate responsibility at Molson Coors, the global beer brewer. "You can't offset a water shortage in one region with credits in another region" (Todd Woody, New York Times, April 6)

http://planetark.org/wen/57659

Brazil Completes Controversial Amazon Dam Auction
Date: 21-Apr-10
Country:
 BRAZIL
Author:
 Raymond Colitt and Denise Luna

Brazil awarded a domestic consortium on Tuesday rights to build the world's third-largest hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rain forest in a chaotic auction amid criticism the dam is an environmentally hazardous money loser.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva likely faces a prolonged battle over the 11,000 megawatt Belo Monte dam that he has heavily promoted despite opposition from a range of critics including Hollywood director James Cameron.
Government leaders say the project, due to start producing electricity in 2015, will provide crucial power for Brazil's fast-growing economy, but environmentalists and activists say it will damage a sensitive ecosystem and displace around 20,000 local residents.
State power regulator Aneel said a consortium including state electric company Eletrobras and a group of Brazilian construction companies -- considered the weaker of the two consortia that participated -- won the bid.
Those results were blocked from being announced for more than two hours because a last-minute injunction trying to halt the project on environmental grounds.
The results of the auction are unlikely to affect overall electricity rates in Brazil because most of the electricity is already set aside for specific clients, with only a small remainder entering power markets.
PROTESTS
Financial analysts say the government set an artificially low price for the power to be generated by the dam, adding it faces considerable risks including cost overruns and the likelihood that protests will frequently halt construction.
Native Indians in the area are already promising just that.
Luis Xipaya, a local leader speaking to Reuters from the city of Altamira near the proposed dam site, said 150 Xikrin Kayapo Indians will move to a new village on the construction site by Wednesday.
"There will be bloodshed and the government will be responsible for that," Xipaya said.
Environmental activist group Greenpeace organized an early morning dump of several tonnes of manure at Aneel's gate to visually demonstrate "the legacy that the Lula government is leaving by insisting on this project."
The auction has for weeks been a stop-and-start process that by Tuesday had already been halted twice by court orders that the government quickly overturned.
The winning consortium, known as Norte Energia, will sell the power for 78 reais ($44.5) per megawatt hour, below the maximum price of 83 reais established by the government as the maximum.
Earlier this month two of the country's biggest construction firms walked away from Belo Monte, saying it financial returns were too low -- threatening the leave only one consortium in the running.
The Norte Energia consortium was formed at the last minute after the government added sweeteners including a 75 percent income tax write off and longer-term financing from the state development bank BNDES, which will finance 80 percent of the estimated cost of the project.
Slack investor interest also created the unusual situation of Eletrobras bidding in both consortia, though authorities said this was allowed under the bidding rules.
Official estimates put the construction costs at 19 billion reais ($11 billion) though private sector estimates go as high as 30 billion reais ($17 billion) for the project.
Originally conceived 30 years ago, progress on Belo Monte has been slowed over the years by protests, including an incident last year in which Kayapo Indians armed with clubs and machetes attacked a state electricity official.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)