When we learned that Berta Cáceres, a leader of the indigenous Lenca people, was murdered in Honduras, we were shocked but not surprised. A violent death is the all-too-frequent fate of indigenous activists who defend their rivers and lands against dams, logging and other forms of destructive development.
On February 5 the power utility of California's capital Sacramento decided to cancel the $1.5 billion Iowa Hill Dam, a pumped storage project in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The decision may not be remarkable by itself, but marks a watershed moment and signals the early beginnings of an exciting development away from large dams.
Support from climate initiatives is one of the reasons why more than 3,700 hydropower dams are currently under construction and in the pipeline. Yet large hydropower projects are a false solution to climate change. They should be kept out from national and international climate initiatives for the following reasons.
We've come up with creative ways to fight these bad projects -- we target the financiers, the governments, the companies. We work with local residents to publicize their stories, support their struggle and win them a place at the table so they have a say over decisions that could change their lives.
The one most important thing that we can do to set them free, free to provide this incredible, abundant resource for us and for the creatures with whom we share this planet, is to take down some dams that no longer serve our communities. And with well over 75,000 dams across America, there are a good number that fall into that category.
The member states of the World Heritage Committee have so far declined to declare Lake Turkana a World Heritage in Danger. They have instead asked the Ethiopian government to avert the destruction of Lake Turkana by carrying out a strategic environmental assessment of the projects in the Omo Valley. Yet so far, the Ethiopian government has thumbed its nose at the UN body.