Sign Now: Don't Dam(n) the World's Heritage to Extinction

    To: International Hydropower Association members, to be delivered during May 2019's World Hydropower Congress in Paris

    Just days ago, the UN released a report warning of looming mass extinctions that will undermine humanity's existence unless we act. This is in addition to the mere 12 years that the UN has given us to avert the climate crisis.

    You, the global hydropower industry, worsen and accelerate these crises. You profit while your immense dams emit dangerous greenhouse gases and devastate biodiverse ecosystems, threatening half a billion people's survival.

    While scientists warn about what's happening, you've successfully deceived the public and major institutions with false claims that large-scale hydropower is renewable. This week's World Hydropower Congress (WHC) in Paris is purportedly about “delivering on the Paris Agreement and the UN sustainable development goals,” despite the fact that you continually undermine them.

    One major sign of your greenwashing? Your hypocritical partnership with UNESCO on this year's WHC, despite the threats that dams and other water infrastructure pose to nearly 25% of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

    For example, dam construction will soon flood and destroy a precious 12,000-year-old Mesopotamian village in Turkey. And UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has already recognized the danger posed by Ethiopia's Gibe 3 Dam because it has cut off the main water source for World Heritage site Lake Turkana, which supports a rich, diverse ecosystem -- including half a million indigenous people.

    Your projects drive aquatic species' extinction and devastate downstream species, including endangered orangutans and chimpanzees. And dam construction often opens up sensitive areas to environmentally destructive mining, agriculture, logging, and poaching.

    What's worse, emissions from dam-created reservoirs rival the dirtiest fossil fuel: coal. Hydropower reservoirs are the leading source of human-induced methane, a greenhouse gas up to 200 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Not to mention the widespread deforestation that dams cause, jeopardizing some of the world's most important carbon sinks.

    By flooding areas and ruining food and livelihoods, your projects have already displaced at least 80 million people and plunged nearly 500 million more people into poverty -- many of whom are indigenous and haven't received any reparations.

    Your large-scale dams are often approved in secret, through processes rife with corruption and kickbacks. These processes often violate human rights -- including the right to food and clean water, as well as indigenous people's right to free, prior, and informed consultation and consent, as mandated by the UN. When social movements oppose your projects, they often face intimidation, cooptation, and even murder.

    Given the catastrophic impacts that you have caused, you must fundamentally reconsider the types of projects you are involved in. We urge you to adopt and implement the highest global standards to ensure the protection of the environment and rights of communities. And as you co-sponsor this week's World Hydropower Congress with UNESCO, you must commit to halt or avoid any dam project that would impact our World Heritage sites.

    This is among the asks of a coalition organizing a parallel conference in Paris. Unlike the Hydropower Congress, this conference will raise up voices of indigenous people and dam-affected communities, who are often excluded from decision-making processes about hydroelectric dams. The coalition will protest during the first day of the Congress, and then deliver a joint statement from hundreds of civil society groups, along with this petition. The public is paying attention.
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