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$200 Million USD More Approved for Washington State Nuclear Cleanup

Washington DC

The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Department of Energy approved July 30 $200 Million USD in additional funding for completing cleanup of nearly 20 square kilometers of the 1,500-square-kilometer Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, where plutonium was made by the US for nuclear weapons during World War II and the Cold War. The land involved in the plan contains thre

WSP Acquires Controversial US Government Consultancy Louis Berger For $400 Million USD

WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian consultancy WSP Global is to buy professional services business Louis Berger for $400 Million USD.

The acquisition will add 5,000 people to WSP’s workforce, predominantly strengthening the company's United States footprint, while broadening WSP’s presence in Continental Europe (mainly Spain and France), Middle East and Latin America.

2017 Most Deadly Year For Environmental Activists; Agribusiness Kills More Than Mining Industry For First Time

LONDON, UK

A new report published July 31 by international NGO Global Witness records a rise in 2017 in the number of “environmental defenders” killed last year to 207 - the highest total ever recorded by the organization since inception in 2010.

Taiwan Government Says China Water Transfer Dedication Ceremony Should Be Postponed

KINMEN, Taiwan

The Mainland Affairs Council of Taiwan (MAC) has urged postponement of a ceremony to recognize the start of water transfer to Kinmen Island from China’s Fujian Province.

While Kinmenis considered part of China’s Fujian Province by both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, the territory is governed by Taiwan.

Protests In Addis After GERD Project Manager Shot Dead

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Updated 1 August:

The project manager of the contentious Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) project has been found dead in Addis Ababa. Simegnew Bekele's body was found July 26 in a Toyota Land Cruiser, parked near a busy road in Addis Ababa's main public square. Protesters alleging that the manager was murdederd initially gathered outside the studios of State television company ETV as news emerged of Bekele's death.

Police subsequently fired tear gas at demonstrators July 29 as tens of thousands gathered to mourn at Bekele's funeral after members of the crowd became angry at being prevented from following the engineer's coffin to a church ceremony.

Bekele had been overseeing the project since the dam's construction began in 2011. As project manager and main driver of the project, Simegnew Bekele was the public face of the GERD.<--break->

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Nigeria Climate Conflict Kills More Than Boko Haram Insurgency

ABUJA, Nigeria

Deaths caused by climate-change induced conflict among Nigerian herders and farmers has killed more than six times as many as the country’s Boko Haram insurgency according to a July 26 report by NGO International Crisis Group.

World Bank Finances $70 Million USD For Water Access And Quality In Peru

WASHINGTON, DC

The World Bank is to finance $70 Million USD to support provision of upgraded water and sanitation services in Peru.

Financing will be delivered through six water and sanitation service (WSS) providers, according to a July 26 statement from the lender.

USAID Project Will Address Scarcity, Improve Management In Limpopo And Okavango Basin Communities

HARARE, Zimbabwe

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced a five-year, $32.4 Million project to address water challenges facing Limpopo River Basin and Okavango River Basin communities.  

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OOSKAnews Voices - Stuart Orr, WWF: Unprecedented Wave Of New Dams Could Spell Disaster Far Beyond Laos

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest "opinion columns" written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. Stuart Orr, Leader of WWF’s Freshwater Practice, driving the freshwater strategy of the world’s largest independent conservation organisation, writes that an unprecedented wave of new dams could spell disaster far beyond this week's deadly dam failure in Laos. A global authority on water stewardship, Stuart has spent the past decade devising and testing innovative approaches to freshwater conservation at WWF by engaging business and finance, and focusing on emerging themes such as the water-food-energy nexus, economic incentives and water-related risk. He has written numerous scientific papers and mainstream publications on issues ranging from corporate water governance to fish protein in the Mekong. Stuart has also sat on various advisory panels and boards, including the World Economic Forum’s Water Security Council and the IFC’s Infrastructure & Natural Resources Advisory Steering Committee. Stuart holds an MSc in Environment and Development from the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia. 

The scale of the catastrophe in Laos is still unclear. Dozens could be dead, killed by the man-made flash floods that swept through their villages after the collapse of a dam under construction in Attapeu province in southern Laos. Thousands are homeless, their villages and livelihoods destroyed. It is a tragic reminder of the inherent risks of major dam projects – just as the world finds itself in the middle of a headlong rush for hydropower as countries seek to produce extra energy while reducing carbon emissions. 

From the Amazon to Zambia, thousands of new hydropower projects are under construction or on the drawing board. Maps show rivers across the Balkans and Himalayas smothered in planned dams. Governments and developers talk excitedly about the energy that could be generated, the jobs created. Meanwhile, risks and costs are invariably downplayed, and community and environmental concerns often disregarded – give or take the usual rhetoric about ‘consultation and impact mitigation’.

Major Dam Projects Require Good Governance

The reality is that major dam projects require not only advanced engineering expertise but also good governance to ensure that the best construction practices are followed and that governments opt for the best trade-offs between benefit and risk. But this latest disaster once again raises some serious questions, particularly about the capacity of small developing countries to effectively oversee the development of numerous hydropower projects – often at breakneck speed.

Laos currently has dozens of hydropower dams under construction, with many more awaiting the green light. It is questionable whether the country has the institutional capacity to fully review all the various feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments as well as monitor all the ongoing construction work – the same is true of other countries in this new dam-rush era.

All this heightens the risks that are part and parcel of every major hydropower project. While dam collapses are the most catastrophic in the short term, large dams involve a variety of other risks that can negatively impact people and nature from local communities to distant deltas. Many of those risks are specific to each river and each site, and they are all cumulative, requiring well-coordinated multi-disciplinary teams to assess them fully. As a result, these risks are very seldom fully factored into the ‘should-we-build-it-or-not’ equation.

Take the world’s forgotten fish – freshwater fish. At least 11.6 million tonnes of wild freshwater fish are caught each year, providing low-cost protein to tens of millions of people and enhancing food security. But major dams block fish migration routes, preventing species from reaching their spawning grounds and devastating wild fish stocks. The lower Mekong river boasts the world’s most productive freshwater fisheries but dams in upstream countries – including Laos and Cambodia – have already contributed to their decline. Future dams could see populations and catches collapse, threatening the livelihoods of millions.

This is a far less visible risk, but a very real one in the Mekong – and many other river basins around the world where communities rely on fish stocks that depend on free flowing rivers.

And then there are the world’s sinking and shrinking deltas. While everyone is aware of the risk of rising seas, very few seem to know that deltas around the world are already disappearing – bit by bit. Or by one and half football fields per day in the case of the Mekong and one football field per hour in the case of the Mississippi. The cause – not enough sediment is flowing down rivers to replenish the deltas because sand and silt are being blocked by dams. This is putting not only the future of many people (500 million people live in major Asian deltas alone) but also some of the world’s most productive agricultural land at risk.

Already we are watching houses and infrastructure gobbled up by the sea – and that’s before it really starts to rise.

Factor in associated risks like river bank erosion and the displacement of communities and it’s clear that every dam involves significant impacts and trade-offs, which are only magnified by the cumulative impact of a series of dams. This is why it is absolutely critical for countries to pursue a system-wide approach to dam development – as part of an overall sustainable energy plan. Otherwise dams around the world could spell further disaster for people and nature.

Hydropower has an important role to play in providing reliable, renewable power in countries, like Laos, where so many people lack basic access to electricity. But new dams – and even those under construction – need to be thoroughly and transparently assessed in terms of all costs and benefits. And very carefully sited – off mainstems, for example – to mitigate the considerable impacts downstream.

Most importantly, hydropower dams need to be looked at again in the light of the plunging cost of solar and wind energy and large-scale storage. These now provide a genuine alternative to major hydropower projects – beset as they so often are with social, environmental and financial risk. Solar, in particular, is becoming much more competitive, is much less capital intensive, and can be implemented in a much shorter timeframe. It also carries far less risks.

When was the last time you heard about a solar power plant disaster?

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USEPA Downplays Cancerous Effects Of Infamous Toxic Solvent TCE

WASHINGTON, DC

Tap water supplies for more than 14 million Americans are contaminated with a cancer-causing industrial solvent according to an investigation released July 24 by US not-for-profit the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Swedish Fund EQT Acquires Saur Group

PARIS, France

French water company Saur Group has entered into exclusive takeover talks with Swedish investment firm EQT after the company had been put up for sale in April this year.

Founded in 1933, Saur serves around 7,000 French local authorities under long-term contracts. Internationally, the Group has presence in Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Spain, and Poland.

Laos: Several Dead, Hundreds Missing, Thousands Homeless After Mekong Dam Collapse

VIENTIANE, Laos

Updated: July 26

The July 23 collapse of a hydroelectric dam in southeastern Laos left at least 27 people dead, more than 130 missing missing and thousands homeless according to state media.

Lao authorities have ordered closer monitoring of hydroelectric facilities as they investigate the dam failure. Floodwaters that rose to rooftops were slowly receding July 26 as villages began digging out of the deluge of mud.

Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith suspended the planned monthly meeting of the government for August and led his cabinet members and other senior officials to Sanamxay to monitor rescue and relief efforts being made for flood victims. Thongloun said authorities were investigating if the dam's collapse resulted from heavy rainfall or from inadequate construction standards.

The accident happened at the “saddle dam” of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower plant which is under construction in the Sanamxay district of southeastern Attapeu province at 8PM Monday July 23, releasing five billion cubic meters of water, the Laos News Agency reported, describing the portion that collapsed as a "saddle dam," which is an auxiliary dam used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam.

The dams making up the hydropower plant are on two tributaries of the Se Kong River, which flows into the Mekong River from the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos.

The neighboring villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong have borne the brunt of flooding, sweeping houses away and making more than 6,600 homeless, the Laos news agency said. Authorities of Attapeu Province have urged the Party, government organizations, business community, officials, police and military forces and people of all strata to provide emergency aid for the victims of the disaster namely: clothing, food items, drinking water, medicines, cash and other relief items.

The 410-megawatt, $1.2 Billion USD dam project planned to export 90 percent of its electricity to neighboring Thailand with the remaining amount was to be offered up on the local grid. Construction of the dam started in 2013, with commercial operation scheduled to commence in 2019.

The plant is being built by the Xepien-Xe Nam Noy Power Company, a joint venture between several South Korean and Laos companies. Among the companies involved in the project according to the Laos News Agency are Thailand's Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding, South Korea's Korean Western Power and the state-run Lao Holding State Enterprise.

The plant will be owned and managed by Korean Western Power until 2045. After 2045 it will be taken over by the Laotian authorities.

A spokesperson for the South Korean construction company SK Engineering and Construction said heavy rain and flooding caused the collapse and it was cooperating with the Laos government to help rescue villagers near the dam. South Korea's Yonhap News agency said SK E&C has dispatched its president to Laos and has set up an emergency team in Seoul.

Dam construction in the Mekong River region remains a highly polarized debate. Groups such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have warned of the impact on communities and local food supplies affecting millions of people across the region.

Maureen Harris at the pressure group International Rivers said the July 23 collapse "raises extremely serious questions about dam planning and management" and called for other projects must now be put under “immediate scrutiny”.

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Ukraine Mine Flooding Poses Serious Socio-Economic And Environmental Risk

KYIV, Ukraine

Concern is mounting in Ukraine about radioactive contamination of fresh water caused by flooding of mines in the Russia-occupied east of the country.

Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, said in a statement to the OSCE Permanent Council, 19 July:

"The ongoing conflict, which Kremlin does not wish to end, continues to pose serious socio-economic and environmental risks for the population forced to live under Russia’s occupation. In the heavily industrialized areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, we face “the risk for environmental pollution resulting from major operational disruptions and incidents occurring at industrial and other large-scale facilities”, as emphasized in the report by Ambassador Apakan. The report refers, in particular, to more than 35 mines flooded entirely or in the process of being flooded. The issue of utmost concern remains the Yunkom mine in Bunhe, where the Russian armed formations deny access of the SMM and, consequently, the update on the intentions of the Russian occupants to shut off the pumps".

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Cholera Deaths in War-Torn Yemen Surpass 2,300: UNICEF

TEHRAN

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said that the total number of cholera fatalities in Yemen surpassed 2,300 within the past 13 months. “In spite of the progress made in responding to the cholera outbreak, the ailing health system and ongoing conflict could compromise such efforts,” UNICEF’s Yemen office tweeted July 18. 

Baiyangdian Lake Wetlands Pollution To Be Curbed

BEIJING, China

Hebei Province's Xiongan New Area has launched a campaign to curb pollution and improve the ecology of the Baiyangdian wetland, taking a series of measures such as closing high-polluted plants and installing sewage treatment facilities.

Thousands Of Redundant Dams In Europe Should Be Removed

BRUSSELS, Belgium

A new study by Dam Removal Europe has called for tens of thousands of redundant dams and other barriers to be removed to help restore rivers and lakes – boosting wildlife populations and benefiting communities across the continent.

Israel Forces Destroy Water Pipelines In West Bank Village

RAMALLAH, Palestine Authority

Israeli forces destroyed water pipelines in Furush Beit Dajan village, east of Nablus July 19 according to a municipal source.

As reported by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Deputy Mayor of Furush Beit Dajan Azzam al-Hajj Mohammad, said that Israeli forces escorted bulldozers as they destroyed pipelines supplying water for farmlands and residential homes because they are "unauthorized".

Saudi Arabia Engages Acciona For ACCIONA to build $230 Million USD Al Khobar Desal Plant

RIDAYH, Saudi Arabia

Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), a Suadia Arabia government corporation has engaged ACCIONA Agua to build the Al Khobar desalination plant in Khobar on the country's east coast, about 400 kilometres from Riyadh. This EPC contract, plus a one-year warranty, is SWCC's first Design & Build project with a Spanish company.

Water-scarcity-hit Mexican Town Blames Coca-Cola For Shocking Levels Of Diabetes

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico

Residents of San Cristobal de las Casas in south east Mexico are blaming the Coca Cola company for high levels of diabetes in the population.

Potable water is scarce in the Chiapas mountain town, where some neighborhoods have running water just a few times a week, and many households rely on tanker trucks for water supply.

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