Rasi Salai Declaration

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Second International Meeting of Dam-Affected People and their Allies

Rasi Salai, Thailand
November 28 - December 3, 2003

The Inspiration of Rasi Salai

We, more than 300 people from 62 countries throughout the world, peoples affected by dams, fighters against destructive dams, and activists for sustainable and equitable water and energy management, have met in Rasi Salai. We have met on land that is being restored to life after being flooded by a dam. The gates of the dam are now open, the river flows, the crops have ripened, the fish are starting to return, community life is becoming vibrant once more. The dam-affected people of Thailand offer to us and to all peoples an example of determination and struggle to preserve lives, rivers, territories, culture, and identities.

Water for life, not for death! The call made at the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams, held in Curitiba, Brazil, 1997, has been realised in Rasi Salai, Thailand.

Our Achievements

Since Curitiba, we have made significant progress in our struggles. In the valleys, mobilisation and direct action of affected peoples has challenged the dam industry, governments, and financial institutions. The international movement against destructive dams has shown its ability to challenge the industry in the technical, political and moral spheres. We have stopped and decommissioned some dams. In some areas we have achieved recognition of the right to just reparation.

Affected and threatened peoples and allies have exercised decisive participation in decision-making processes, and in determining our own futures.

We are successfully implementing socially and environmentally just and effective community-based water management. We support the rapid advances in new renewable energy technologies and methods of demand-side management.

This extraordinary growth in our struggle is also made possible by ever stronger ties between indigenous peoples, grassroots movements and NGOs, and between Southern and Northern civil society. We have also joined in solidarity with the global struggle against neoliberalism and for a just and equitable world.

The World Commission on Dams process is a key achievement of the last six years. The WCD report is strongly critical of large dams. While their report does not question the fundamental flaws of the neo-liberal development model, the WCDís recommendations constitute a framework for democratic, transparent and accountable decision-making processes.

Our Challenges

In the past, we were told that large dams bring development. Now the dam lobby claims that large dams are essential to "alleviate" poverty and close the gap between South and North. The last 50 years has shown this to be a fraud. The global large dam era has been marked by a sharply growing and unacceptable inequality between South and North, and between rich and poor.

We denounce the fallacy that hydropower and large dams are essential to slow global warming and adapt to its impacts.

Indigenous peoples have been disproportionately harmed by the targeting of their territories, lands, and resources. The use of violence, including by the military, to implement these projects violates their human rights and threatens their survival.

Privatization continues to spread, despite more than a decade of spectacular failures worldwide. We strongly oppose privatization which subordinates life-giving water and rivers to corporate interests and the logic of the market.

The proposed interlinking of rivers, inter-basin transfers and transnational infrastructure initiatives based on water megaprojects show the incapacity of dam promoters to learn from the impacts and failures of these grandiose schemes.

The transfer of energy-intensive industries such as aluminum from North to South, from the central to peripheral countries, imposes on the latter high economic costs, the growth of external debt, and the huge impacts of megadams.

Our Demands

Our shared experiences and our five days of rich exchanges have led us to agree:

We affirm the principles and demands of the Curitiba Declaration of 1997;

  • We oppose the construction of all socially and environmentally destructive dams. We oppose the construction of any dam which has not been approved by the affected peoples after an informed and participatory decision-making process, and that does not meet community-prioritized needs;
  • We demand full respect for indigenous peoples' knowledge, customary resource management and territories and their collective rights to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent in water and energy planning and decision-making;
  • Gender equity must be upheld in all water and energy policies, programs and projects;
  • There must be a halt to the use of all forms of violence, intimidation and military intervention against peoples affected and threatened by dams and organizations opposing dams;
  • Reparations must be made through negotiations to the millions who have suffered because of dams, including through the provision of funds, adequate land, housing and social infrastructure. Dam funders and developers and those who profit from dams should bear the cost of reparations;
  • Actions, including decommissioning, must be taken to restore ecosystems and livelihoods damaged by dams and to safeguard riverine ecological diversity;
  • We reject privatization of the power and water sectors. We demand democratic, accountable and effective public control and appropriate regulation of electricity and water utilities;
  • Governments, funding institutions, export credit agencies and corporations must comply with the recommendations of the WCD, in particular those on public acceptance and informed consent, reparations and existing dams, ecosystems and needs and options assessments. These recommendations should be incorporated into national policies and laws and regional initiatives;
  • Governments must ensure investments in research and application of just and sustainable energy technologies and water management. Governments must implement policies which discourage waste and over consumption and guarantee equitable distribution of wealth;
  • The construction of interbasin transfer schemes, river inter-linking and other water megaprojects must halt;
  • The international carbon market must be eliminated;
  • Waterways for navigation should follow the principle "adapt the boat to the river, not the river to the boat."

We commit ourselves to:

  • Intensifying our struggles and campaigns against destructive dams and for reparations and river and watershed restoration;
  • Working to implement worldwide sustainable and appropriate methods of water and energy management such as rainwater harvesting and community-managed renewable energy schemes;
  • Continuous renewal and vitalization of diverse water knowledge and traditions through practical learning especially for our children and youth;
  • Intensifying exchanges between activists and movements working on dams, water and energy, including through reciprocal visits of affected peoples from different countries;
  • Strengthening our movements by joining with others struggling against the neo-liberal development model and for global social and ecological justice;
  • Celebrate each year the International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life (March 14).

We call upon the dam-affected peoples' movements and their allies and other social movements and NGOs to coordinate common actions on March 14, 2004, which protest the World Bank, in solidarity with the protests against the World Bank and IMF on their 60th anniversary.

Our struggle against destructive dams and the current model of water and energy management is also a struggle against a social order dominated by the imperative to maximize profits, and is a struggle based on equity and solidarity.

Another model of energy and water management is possible!

Water for Life, Not for Death!