Activists Take on Greenwashing at the 6th World Water Forum

Monday, March 12, 2012

From March 12-17th, 2012, the world's governments, corporations, and financiers convened at the Sixth World Water Forum (WWF6) in Marseille, France, to present "solutions" to the world's water, energy, and food challenges.  Yet, many of the solutions proposed will do more to protect business-as-usual interests than to spark innovative approaches to tackling our most pressing water-related problems.

Held once every three years, the World Water Forum is the largest privately organized gathering of water officials in the world. It is developed and managed by the World Water Council, a consortium of mostly private companies active in the water and sanitation sector. The last forum was held in Istanbul, Turkey in March 2009. Previous fora were held in Morocco (1997), the Netherlands (2000), Japan (2003), and Mexico (2006). The sixth World Water Forum is, like its predecessors, heavily weighted with corporate players, including many from the large-dam industry, making pitches for large-scale projects and private-sector approaches. 

Greenwashing dams is high on the agenda

One corporate "solution" on the agenda at this year's meeting was the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP), a  voluntary, non-binding scorecard that allows dam builders to greenwash the social and environmental performance of each other's projects. HSAP is more about protecting the right to build large dams than protecting the rights of the millions of people who depend on rivers for their daily needs. HSAP does nothing to require developers to follow high social and environmental standards.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA), a London-based organization of the world's most active dam builders that prepared the HSAP in cooperation with other institutions, is heavily promoting the HSAP at the World Water Forum, and wants the HSAP to replace the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams in international policy agreements.

Activities in Marseille

Zachary Hurwitz, International Rivers' Policy Program Coordinator, was in Marseille with partners from across the world taking part in discussions and events as part of the forum. On March 14 groups came together to celebrate the International Day of Action for Rivers with an event to raise awareness about the greenwashing of large dams. This was one of many global actions taking place on March 14th in honor of the world's rivers and those who fight to keep them free.