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Tools for Activists

The tools on this page provide practical advice for community activists working to protect rivers and stop destructive river-engineering projects.

The Basics

If you're just getting started, a good place to start is Dams, Rivers and Rights: An Action Guide for Communities Affected by Dams. This guide provides general information about dams and their impacts, shares lessons and ideas from the growing international anti-dam movement, and gives concrete ideas on how to challenge dams. (Available in English, Spanish, French and Hindi.)

Maps can be a valuable campaign tool. To learn how to get started in mapping, read Making Maps that Make A Difference: A Citizens' Guide to Making and Using Maps for Advocacy Work.

How do dams alter rivers? For a look at basic dam impacts, check out, where you can explore the components of healthy rivers and what happens when a dam is built.

Learn how Thai groups do community based research on fisheries to protect their resources when dams are proposed.

Regional guides

Proposing a Better Way

If you want to propose alternative planning processes: our Citizens’ Guide to the WCD summarizes key findings of the World Commission on Dams' final report, and describes how community groups can use the report to improve water and energy planning.

If you want to propose better solutions to meeting water and energy needs:

  • Beyond Dams: Options & Alternatives. An overview of low–impact and non–structural alternatives to dams.
  • Alternative Power Planning: 20 Questions, by Prayas Energy Group and Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group. Using an easy to understand question-and-answer format, the booklet outlines the social, environmental and economic costs of large centralized power plants, and explains how conventional power planning favors large power plants at the expense of energy efficiency, conservation and decentralized renewable sources. Although written with Indian citizens in mind, this booklet would be useful worldwide.

If you are working to decommission a dam:

  • Reviving the World's Rivers, an overview of the global experience with dam removal.
  • If you're in the US, see the Hydropower Reform Coalition's Hydropower Licensing Guide.
  • American Rivers provides several citizen’s guides on how to protect and restore rivers in the US; many of these guides are useful for campaigns in other regions.
  •, an educational primer especially for those not aware of the impacts of dams.

If the aluminum industry is the primary motivator for a dam: Foiling the Aluminum Industry: A Toolkit for Communities, Activists, Consumers and Workers. This toolkit provides a variety of information fundamental to understanding the aluminum industry. Includes case studies, practical suggestions on tactics that may be useful for activists, and consumer tips on reducing the impacts of aluminum products.

Didn't find what you were looking for? Visit our publications page for our complete library.