On the contrary, United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), another UN Convention,
certifies hydropower projects of all sizes as climate-friendly projects under
the CDM mechanism. All of these projects have severe adverse impacts on
biodiversity and related livelihoods. Thus, while one UN convention is supposed
to be working for protection of biodiversity, another UN convention is
incentivising destruction of biodiversity and the two do not seem to talk to
Similarly Govt of India’s decade old
National Biodiversity Act of 2002 has been of no help for rivers and
related biodiversity. In India there has not been any credible enviro-socio-cultural
impact assessment of projects in the context of riverine biodiversity.
Those affected are not even considered for compensation or
rehabilitation, leave aside participatory decision making or benefit
sharing. These issues were discussed at a side event on “Impact of Dams
on Biodiversity: Socio Ecological Dimensions in Changing Climate”,
organised by SANDRP and 5 partner organisations: Himdhara (Himachal
Pradesh), Himal Prakriti (Uttarakhand), Samvardhan (Maharashtra), River
Basin Organisation (Assam) and International Rivers (India) at the COP
11 of CBD now ongoing in Hyderabad.
Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP opened the
session with an introduction to impacts of large dams on riverine
biodiversity and livelihoods and the ineffectiveness of CBD and Indian
Government in trying to address these. Dr. Nilesh Heda from Samvardhan,
Vidarbha talked about impacts of dams on fish diversity, fisher folk
communities, traditional conservation practises and the need to build
riverine governance through communities and not the other way round.
Nachiket Kelkar from NCF talked about impacts of dams on biodiversity in
Ganga, especially indigenous fisheries and dependant livelihoods,
stressing on the need for targeted riverine protected areas, through
community participation. Prakash Bhandari from Himdhara, Himachal
Pradesh shared the terrible impacts of hydroelectric dams on terrestrial
biodiversity and livelihoods in Himachal Pradesh and the near-total
absence of any participatory Environmental Governance.
Ashish Kothari from Kalpavriksh responded
on how CBD can possibly be used in this context, stressing ecosystem
approach highlighted by COP V and using the Akwe Kon guidelines. He
raised basic questions about power and stressed that the GDP-driven
development model of India is leading to huge negative impacts on all
Himanshu Thakkar, on behalf of SANDRP
summed up the session, highlighting the failure of CBD in being
effective in any way for India’s rivers. He also brought out the irony
of one UN agency protecting biodiversity (CBD) while the other, through
UNFCCC’s CDM mechanism actually incentivising biodiversity destruction.
He put forth following recommendations which were supported by over 60
participants from various countries present at the side event.
We urge the Indian Government
● To amend the EIA notification to require
that all large dams, all hydro projects over 1 MW capacity and also
projects impacting aquatic biodiversity will need to do Impact
assessment in consultation with local people.
● To urgently review plans of big dams,
hydropower projects and interlinking of rivers that adversely affect
aquatic biodiversity and livelihoods, conduct socio-cultural-ecological
assessment as per the Akwe Kon Guidelines.
● To mandate cumulative impact assessment
whenever more than three projects are proposed on any river.
● To urgently come out with a policy and
law for protection of rivers.
● To include Rivers in definition of
wetlands in the Wetlands Rules (2010). Declare specific rivers as no go
protected zones in each state and in each ecological zone and, as per
the Aichi Protocol.
● To formally protect rivers which are
socially and culturally important and rivers sacred to indigenous
● Provide legal protection to community
conserved river stretches.
● Review operation of existing and under
construction dam projects to ensure adequate freshwater flow all round
the year in downstream river stretches.
● To stop certifying CDM hydro projects as
“sustainable development projects” without impact assessment and
mandatory participatory process that requires prior, informed, consent
from the gram sabhas.
● To improve reporting to the CBD to
include dedicated Program on Work on Rivers & aquatic biodiversity.
We hope the Presidency of COP11 will
help Parties to make progressive and bold decisions:
● Define clear norms for participation by
affected communities; and help them realise community sovereignty over
● Obtain Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC)
from affected communities before any decisions are taken that might
affect their access to inland waters and aquatic biodiversity resources.
● Strengthen the reporting framework on
Inland Waters Biodiversity by all countries.
● Publish best practices studies that show
how protection of aquatic biodiversity is essential and possible,
without sacrificing the justifiable development needs of affected
● Communicate with the UNFCCC to ensure
that the current incentivising of destruction of aquatic biodiversity
that is now going on in the name of CDM hydropower projects is stopped.
recommendations have been endorsed by over 60 persons present at the
side event on Oct 8, 2012. We hope this COP will make a bold Decision on
Inland Waters and also stimulate governments to make the necessary
changes in policy and practice before it is too late.
are known Activists working on water issues and are associated with the
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP). Himanshu Thakkar
can be contacted at
Parineeta Dandekar can be contacted at