Environmental Flows

Ethiopia Pushes River Basin Toward Hydrological Disaster

Industrialization of Omo River Threatens 500,000 pastoralists in Ethiopia, KenyaPhoto: Alison M. Jones (No Water No Life) In a remote part of East Africa, the Ethiopian government is furtively transforming a pastoral landscape populated by small-scale farmers and herders into an industrial powerhouse of dams and plantations. While the government says these developments are intended to reduce poverty, those on the ground see their land and water being taken from them, their homesteads bulldozed, their choices narrowed. Impacts will be felt all the way to Kenya. The developments in the Lower Om

Ecology, The Science of Last Resort

Members of the Court of Arbitration and representatives during a field visit to the Neelum river valley in February 2012
The upper riparian on a river often wears a hegemonic hard hat and seeks to appropriate every drop of water possible; water that flows to the delta is deemed “wasteful.” But when the hegemon becomes the hegemonized, or geographically disadvantaged, the hard hat is discarded for the baggy green to invoke the science of ecology. This is the position Pakistan found itself in as a team of lawyers and a bevy of international experts tried to pull out all the stops to try and get the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to rule in its favor. Earlier in February 2013, the Court dismissed P

Omo River, Lake Turkana at Risk from Dams and Plantations

Fishermen and their dried catch, Lake Turkana
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Dams and irrigated plantations being built in Ethiopia will bring major changes to the flow of the Lower Omo River, which in turn will harm ecosystem functions and local livelihoods all the way to the river's terminus at Lake Turkana in Kenya. More dams are planned for the basin that would compound the damages. Here we outline some of the basic changes that can be expected as a result of these developments, and include resources on where to get more information. The video below illustrates the hydrological risks the dam and plantations bring to the Lower Omo and Lake Turkana: Watch an Amhar

Gibe III's Impacts on Lake Turkana

Fishing at Lake Turkana
Thursday, January 10, 2013
East Africa's “Aral Sea” in the Making?“If Ethiopia completes the Gibe III Dam and continues to press ahead with large-scale irrigation developments, the result will be a cascade of hydrological, ecological and socio-economic impacts that will generate a region-wide crisis for indigenous livelihoods and biodiversity and thoroughly destabilize the Ethiopia-Kenyan borderlands around Lake Turkana. The long-term effect could parallel what has happened to Central Asia’s Aral Sea, one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.” So begins a paper that describes how hydrological change

To Lead on Biodiversity, the World Bank Must Champion Environmental Flows

As the Bank returns to investing in hydropower both directly and through public-private partnerships, there is a pressing need to strengthen the Bank's safeguards policies to make sure that investments in “clean energy” don't end up accelerating the disappearance of the Earth's freshwater species and riverine communities.

Examining Environmental Flows Critical for River Ecosystems in India

The legendary Jog falls are a shadow of their former self after damming
Last month, International Rivers co-organized a workshop on environmental flows in Dehradun, India along with The Himmotthan Society to address the many issues surrounding key questions of river health and management in India: "How do we view our rivers? Are they mere conduits to be exploited to meet different needs? Or do we value them for their ecosystem services and revere them for their spiritual significance?"

Towards Restoring Flows into the Earth’s Arteries

Monday, June 11, 2012
A Primer on Environmental Flows"We have been taking all the flows from our rivers. Dams have regulated and fragmented the flows – often irreplaceably. More and more dams are still being planned to block the last flow and extract it for human use alone. Before it is too late we must act together to save the world's lifelines. Rivers need their flow back, to live and ensure the survival of all other beings including humans. These flows which are called the environmental flows, or the flows required by the river as an ecosystem and its connecting ecosystem to perform their evolutionary and ec

Environmental Flows

Rio Pascua, Patagonia
A river's flow is its heartbeat. Freshwater plants and animals have evolved with, and depend upon, natural patterns of hydrological variability. Naturally high and low water levels create habitat conditions essential to reproduction and growth, and drive ecological processes required for ecosystem health. Flood pulses move sediment that maintains the form and function of rivers. Seasonal inundation of floodplains and wetlands supports groundwater recharge. And the flow of freshwater to estuaries prevents saline intrusion into coastal aquifers. We all depend on healthy river flows.

No More Catfish in the Madeira?

Fish are dying at an alarming rate because of the Santo Antônio Dam.
Fish are dying at an alarming rate because of the Santo Antônio Dam. Instituto Rio Madeira Vivo This blog in Brazil caught our eye recently: catfish are now disappearing at an alarming rate from the Madeira River, thanks to the reservoir of the Santo Antônio Dam. When the environmental license for the Santo Antônio Dam was approved against the findings of fish experts, Lula controversially claimed that the dams would not be stopped because of "some catfish." Now, the catfish are disappearing. Don't say we didn't warn you.  I'll let the blog spell it out (thanks fo

Environmental Flow Policies: Moving Beyond Good Intentions

Calfornia’s dammed Trinity River is flowing more naturally this year, thanks to an agreement to restore environmental flows.
Calfornia’s dammed Trinity River is flowing more naturally this year, thanks to an agreement to restore environmental flows. © Conservation Lands Foundation river's flow is its heartbeat. Few human influences are more deadly to freshwater ecosystems than alteration of natural hydrological rhythms. Poorly planned dams and unbalanced and unsustainable water use have brought too many of our river systems to a tipping point. Because we have interfered with the heartbeat of so many rivers and lakes, our freshwater ecosystems are losing species and habitats faster than any other type of ec


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