Why I Risked Arrest

WWF5 protest
WWF5 protest
International Rivers sent two colleagues and myself to attend the fifth World Water Forum (WWF5) to draw attention to the unacceptable risks of large dams. But the World Water Council, the main organizer of the WWF, had no intention of giving us a chance to voice our opinion. Our proposal for a side-event on dams, as well as those proposed by other NGOs, were all rejected. On the other hand, the International Hydropower Association was permitted to organize a number of sessions for the official program.

Having worked for many years in solidarity with dam-affected communities in the Narmada Valley in India, I knew firsthand about the unacceptable risks that dams pose to the people and environment. I felt that it was extremely important to get this mesage out and combat the lies that the WWF5 would propagate about large infrastructure projects. Therefore my colleague Ann-Kathrin Schneider and I unfurled a banner that stated "No Risky Dams" prior to the start of the opening session. Little did we know that the consequences would be a 24 hour detainment and deportation.

While not exactly a pleasant experience, it is nothing compared to the repression my friends in the Narmada Valley have endured over the years. And I would do it again if it gets people to take a closer look at the tainted legacy of dams. Globally 40-80 million people have been displaced by dams, many of them indigenous peoples. Their track record on the financial front is no better. Dams have cost overruns on the order of 50% and often don't deliver the promised benefits. Largely because of dams, freshwater species are now the most endangered on the planet. And it's a myth that dams are climate friendly. Dams in the tropics can emit more greenhouse gases than thermal power plants.

The verdict is clear. Large dams are a solution that just doesn't make any sense. Here at International Rivers, my colleagues and I are committed to continue the fight against destructive dams and promote sustainable solutions to meet our energy and water needs.