Peter Bosshard's picture
Policy Director
Blogging is a new thing for me, but dams, rivers and affected people are not. As the Policy Director of International Rivers (and before, the coordinator of a Swiss NGO), I have advocated for human rights and environmental protection for more than 20 years. When I don’t study wonky reports and prepare campaigns, I spend time with my family, hike, and visit the opera. My favorite river is the Albula in the Swiss Alps.

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Wet, Wild and Wonky

Thousands Flooded Out by Merowe Dam in Sudan

Flooded home at Merowe Dam village.

Flooded home at Merowe Dam village.

The Sudanese government has closed the gates of the Merowe Dam in order to flood out thousands of people who have so far resisted displacement from their villages in the Nile Valley. The affected people are holding out, but desperately need our support. The credibility of the Chinese, German and French companies which are involved in the project is on the line.

Bailing Out Environmental Subprime Lenders?

Gibe III dam site in Ethiopia

Gibe III dam site in Ethiopia

Last night, I got a phone call from Henry Paulson. The Treasury Secretary urged me to quickly send some cash to bail out the imprudent Wall Street banks. For our family, Paulson explained, the bill would be $7,000. If we wanted to pay up for all members of International Rivers in the US, the amount would be $1.2 million. Our contribution would allow paying the salary and bonus of Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase's CEO, for one month, and give the bank some breathing space to offload their bad debt to the taxpayers.

A Guide on China’s Overseas Dam Industry

China is building hydropower projects around the world. We are currently aware of at least 140 large dams with Chinese involvement in 40 countries, and counting. Many of these projects pose serious social and environmental risks. NGOs need to learn how to deal with the new actors in the dam building world. A guide by International Rivers shows how to do this.

We're Making Waves in Fiji

Nice to see that our work on China's overseas dam builders is making waves in Fiji. A civil society group with a strong reputation as an independent government watchdog has questioned the credibility of Sinohydro, the main contractor in a large dam project on the Pacific island, because of its safety and environmental record. Here is a news report from the Fiji Times.

Pollution Eats the Fruits of China’s Growth

Three Gorges Demolition

Three Gorges Demolition

A new report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences finds that the cost of environmental destruction in China was $402 billion in 2005, or close to one seventh of the country’s economic output. There is a growing realization in China that the current growth model is not sustainable, and should not be exported to other countries unabated.

The Vicious Circle of Corruption, Dams and Disaster

Kosi River Breaks Embankment

Kosi River Breaks Embankment

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2008, to which your blogger contributed a brief paper, is devoted to corruption in the water sector. It states forcefully that “corruption in the water sector puts the lives and livelihoods of billions of people at risk”. The recent flood disaster on the Kosi River in Nepal and India illustrates in a shocking way how corruption, dams and disaster feed on each other.

Ilisu – A Test Case for the Global Dam Industry

Protest in Berlin

Protest in Berlin

The high drama over Turkey’s Ilisu Dam continues. A new report by the official monitoring team demonstrates that the project continues to violate the conditions under which Austria, Germany and Switzerland agreed to fund the project. Ilisu has become a test case for the dam industry’s efforts to strengthen the social and environmental acceptability of its projects.

Sabbatical

In ancient Israel, among other places, farmers conserved the fertility of their soils by letting their fields lay fallow every seventh year. Even the Bible mandates that "you may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it." Thus the concept of the Sabbath year was born.

Navigating Beijing’s Contradictions

In Beijing on a mission for our China global program, more doors are opening for us than in the past. The emerging picture is still confusing. Understanding the contradictions of China’s overseas investment policies can be as difficult as navigating a Beijing traffic jam.

China's Environmental Footprint in Africa

A new report written by your blogger discusses China’s environmental footprint in Africa. Are Chinese investors Africa's new colonizers? Are they simply following the mold of Western investment? Or does China's investment offer new opportunities of South-South cooperation? This is a hot topic, and my report has already triggered controversial reactions.