Wednesday, April 4, 2007



copyright C. Dianne Murray, 1994-2007. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Originally published at DRIIA.

Do hydroelectric developers and promoters present a balanced picture of scientifically known impacts of dams? The answer is: not so far as anyone with the Dam-Reservoir Working Group has seen. Developers and promoters claim they do but you won't find them mentioning any of the rather nasty environmental and social impacts that extravagantly large hydro comes with.

It is instructive to note that aquatic scientists trying to get information on the true effects of dams and large scale water development to the public have frequently met opposition. They and their information have been suppressed in a variety of countries leading some of them to dub {{promoters and pro-"as many dams as possible" decision makers}} as *ahem* "WATER BUFFALOES".

Yes - it sounds strange but in point of fact, aquatic scientists have spoken out about being suppressed. Well I see that is no longer there and I have no scanner so can't scan the info in, which is somewhere in DRWG's files. :-/ I FOUND THIS INTERESTING LINK THAT REFERENCES CORRUPTION AT DFO

Volume 41 of Canadian Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Perhaps the penultimate example of this happened roughly 30 years ago in one of Canada's provinces, Manitoba. Despite being warned by a panel of experts not to build reservoirs, nor divert any waters from the Nelson-Churchill river system... or if they must build.. to just sink turbines into the water, Manitoba Hydro went right ahead. And built what is now one of the world's best studied ecological disasters. One scientist actually was so upset about the impacts - including deaths of aboriginals due to changes in flow regime, drownings, that sort of thing, that he sued Manitoba Hydro.

I first encountered this information in 1992 as a student researching ecotoxicological effects of boreal hydroelectric projects (methyl mercury release and its effect on animals and plants) when a scientist in the federal government pointed our group to an entire volume of a well-respected journal, the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Volume 41. It tells in exquisite and horrible, easy to read *scientifically peer-reviewed* [!] detail exactly what happened in just
one small fraction of the area of the project. Volume 41, published in 1984, looks at Southern Indian Lake, MB... and the impacts of the results of Manitoba Hydro's negligence in not heeding the words of the expert panel of impacts scientists.

30 years later the Manitoba Cree finally broke their silence: The Pimicikamak Cree Nation site is hosted by someone at St Cloud U in Minnesota. MB Hydro has once again decided to build some more dams, divert some more water, and, whether intentional or not, the effects Are known: it will be to kill more fish. And create more negative impacts on the health and socio-economic structure of the Cree people.

These effects of too much water abstraction, diversion, "development", call it what you will, are WELL documented... over 30 years of peer-reviewed impacts studies show that there is no such a thing as truly clean water "development". There are natural limits to how many of these things you can safely build before speaking a cascade effect which is destroying more and more aquatic habitat. And just plain habitat.

BIG BLUE (and green) PLANET

Please click here to visit the the Smithsonian's Ocean Planet exhibit

[Smithsonian's Ocean Planet Exhibit Section on Freshwater Perils to the World's Oceans]Smithsonian's Ocean Planet Exhibit section on freshwater perils to the ocean.

It is a huge misunderstanding by humans - air-breathers that we are - to think that the 3/4's or more of our planet's surface doesn't count for anything just because it's underwater and we can't see it. By way of an analogy, you can't =see= carbon monoxide or oxygen, nor smell them, but I guarantee you they DO exist.

And even though they are out of the immediate detection range of our limited
sensory data, to ignore them and their importance is to ask for BIG TROUBLE.

And so it is with the hydrosphere and hydrological cycle.

Does it have to be this way? ... heavens, no! there are ways around these things. But that takes spine and the courage and the vision to change. Will the promoters lead the way to change?? I wouldn't bet on it; so it falls on the politicians, though public pressure, to push for change based on the real scientifically proven effects of too much water abstraction/development, call it what you will.