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History & Accomplishments

Over the years, numerous friends in the movement here in South Asia and other parts of the world, have seen International Rivers Network as an integral part of our collective struggle. – Smitu Kothari, Lokayan and Intercultural Resources, India

Seeking to protect the world’s rivers from destructive dams and amplify the voices of dam-affected communities, a small group of volunteers formed International Rivers Network in 1985. Their vision was simple and yet remarkably ambitious: to develop a worldwide network of people working to protect rivers and promote just and sustainable water and energy development.

Today, almost everywhere that a big dam is being planned or built there is organized local opposition. In communities where existing dams have created severe problems, dam-affected people are demanding reparations. International Rivers stands with these people, providing advice, training and technical assistance, and advocating on their behalf with governments, banks, companies and international agencies. The rate of large dam construction has fallen by half since our founding along with a dramatic increase in worldwide understanding of the need for better options.

We are proud to count among our accomplishments:

  • Stopping destructive river projects from Brazil’s Pantanal to the valleys of Nepal.
  • Being the driving force behind the formation of the World Commission on Dams, whose recommendations form a gold standard for water and energy planning.
  • Coordinating the International Day of Action for Rivers: A global celebration of healthy rivers, a day of protest against projects that would harm them, and a day of solidarity with dam-affected communities.
  • Ensuring that promises made by companies and government agencies to dam-affected communities in Lesotho, Laos, Thailand and Brazil have been kept.
  • Helping communities in Guatemala get reparations for injustices resulting from dam projects.
  • Promoting a better way, from community watershed regeneration efforts in India to increased support for alternative energy options in Uganda.

Read more about our history and accomplishments in the 20th anniversary issue of World Rivers Review.

Number of Large Dams Built Per Year Going Down:

For a visual introduction to dams, rivers and people watch our We All Live Downstream slideshow.