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New coalition calls for in-depth assessment of dams

Eighteen environmental and social activist groups from seven countries in North America, Europe and Asia have announced the formation of an organisation called Living Rivers: The International Coalition for the Restoration of Rivers and Communities Affected by Dams.

The coalition says that it will focus on restoring rivers and the well-being of communities which depend on them by working to change the operating patterns of dams, drain reservoirs and remove dams.

The decision to form the group was reached at a workshop held on dam decommissioning in California, US, in July. The workshop ended with the endorsement of the Walker Creek declaration, the founding statement of the Living Rivers coalition.

The declaration claims that ‘worldwide rivers are degraded by hundreds and thousands of dams, which have flooded huge areas of the world’s most beautiful and ecologically rich habitats and the lands and homes of tens of millions of people’.

Although the declaration acknowledges that many dams do provide services for society, such as power, water storage and flood protection, the coalition claims that ‘we now know these services often can be met in less damaging ways’.

The coalition claims that ‘many dams are now obsolete’ and their continued existence and operation must be justified on the grounds of ecological and social impacts, economics and safety. Living Rivers says it will endeavour to work to ensure that the newly formed World Commission on Dams assesses the issue of dam decommissioning in depth.

Organisations connected with the new Living Rivers coalition include the Intern-ational Rivers Network in the US and Save the Narmada Movement in India.