Mexican Village Becomes Global Hub of Dam Fighting for a Week

International Rivers
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hundreds of River Activists Gather to Discuss Strategies

This week, more than 300 people from 60 countries will gather in the small village of Temacapulín, Mexico, for "Rivers for Life 3," a global gathering of dam-affected people and their allies. From October 1-7, Temacapulin will almost double in size and become the hub of the global movement to protect rivers from the ravages of destructive dams.

"Rivers for Life 3 will bring together people whose lives have been harmed by dams, activists, and experts in clean energy and sustainable water projects from all corners of the globe. Participants will share experiences and strategize on how to protect their rivers and rights. Indigenous people from the Amazon will mingle with farmers from the Zambezi River, providing a unique opportunity to build connections across cultures," said Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director of International Rivers.

The people of Temacapulín are looking forward to strategizing and networking with people facing struggles similar to their own. The village, located on the Rio Verde, is fighting a large dam that would flood the entire town. It is one of Mexico's longest-inhabited towns.

"The whole village of Temacapulín is against the El Zapotillo Dam. This meeting is very important for Temacapulin and for the Mexican movement against dams. We have tried many ways to stop the dam but the government is completely deaf to our voices," said Marco von Borstel, of IMDEC, the Mexican Institute for Community Development and one of the organizers of the event. "This meeting can help not only in the campaign to stop the El Zapotillo Dam, but to educate the media and the people of Mexico that dams are not a sustainable form of development. We need to get water and energy without killing rivers and flooding historic towns like Temacapulín."

Today, a cover story in the journal Nature brought even greater urgency to the global struggle to protect rivers. The magazine reports that the world's rivers are in crisis, suffering from the cumulative impacts of dams, pollution, agricultural runoff, the conversion of wetlands and the introduction of exotic species.  

The report reveals that 80% of the world's population - nearly 5 billion people - live in areas where river waters are highly threatened. Global water security and the health of aquatic environments that support thousands of species are at risk.

Those gathering now in Temacapulín, Mexico have first-hand knowledge about the high cost of damaged rivers, and the value of preserving life-giving waterways.

"We are going to the meeting to develop initiatives and common tactics to stop the companies that are evicting us from our lands. In addition, we want to raise awareness of the widespread opposition to the current energy model and its consequences on people and rivers, and discuss proposals for a new energy model," said Josivaldo de Oliveira, of the Brazilian Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB).

The week-long meeting will include workshops on clean energy alternatives, best-practice river management strategies, and policy challenges; a community fair to showcase highlights from the various dam struggles represented at the meeting; and field trips to relevant sites in the region.

This is the third international meeting of people affected by dams. Similar meetings were held in Curitiba, Brazil in 1997, and in Rasi Salai, Thailand in 2003.


Note to editors:
There is no cell phone coverage in Temacapulin. To arrange an interview with meeting attendees after October 1, please send an email to

Media contacts: 

Marco von Borstel, IMDEC: + 52 33 1269 26 21 (until October 1),
Aviva Imhof, International Rivers: + 1 510 717 4745 (until September 30),