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Procedure : 2010/2270(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0213/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0213/2011

Debates :

PV 26/09/2011 - 22
CRE 26/09/2011 - 22

Votes :

PV 27/09/2011 - 8.14
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


Debates
Monday, 26 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

22. Dam infrastructure in developing countries (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the report by Nirj Deva, on behalf of the Committee on Development, on financing of reinforcement of dam infrastructure in developing countries (2010/2270(INI)) (A7-0213/2011).

 
  
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  Nirj Deva, rapporteur. Madam President, quite rightly we debated for the last half an hour or so the causes and prevention of unnecessary deaths on European roads. My report on dam infrastructures in developing countries is geared to the same subject: preventing unnecessary deaths from floods that are caused by glacier retreats in the Hindu Kush Himalayan range and also in Latin America.

Flying in a helicopter at 18 000 feet at the top of the Himalayas and at the Everest base camp, I saw beautiful water-bound lakes below me. They were the most dangerous things I have seen for a long time. I then met with ICIMOD, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, which has identified 8 000 glacial lakes in the Hindu Kush Himalayas alone, 203 of which they have declared to be extremely dangerous.

Two weeks ago Nepal experienced an earthquake, not reported in Europe but certainly reported in Asia, where many people died. This earthquake measured 9.69 on the Richter scale. Thank goodness those dams did not break.

The reason why these glacial lakes are being created and why natural glacial lakes with natural moraines, as they call them, are being created is that the glaciers are melting faster at certain periods in the year. The water from these glaciers normally feeds the greatest rivers in the world – the Ganges, the Yellow River, the Brahmaputra, the Darya – and they feed billions of people. In fact, 1.3 billion people eat rice and grow wheat on the river banks of these greatest agricultural assets in the world.

However, because of accelerated glacier melting and the natural accumulation of water in these 8 000 glacial lakes, they are bursting and flash flooding, and we now have periods of enormous floods, as we experienced recently in Pakistan when 20 million people – 20 million people! – were made homeless and many thousands of people starved. 500 000 people had to be fed emergency food and the wheat crop was destroyed for whole periods of years.

Again the floods returned to Pakistan this July and, as we speak, there are vast areas of Pakistan inundated with water; parts of India are inundated with water. The routine, managed drawdown of water on these great rivers of the Ganges, on the Himalayan range, is no longer predictable. Water is accumulating in the oddest places; I have seen it.

Now it is impossible, I think, for us to repair these moraines because they are naturally formed, but we can control the outlet of water by alternative mitigation methods, siphons and the construction of open channels and tunnels in order to lower the water level in the glacial lakes, and by controlling the water flow into the local river system to use the water as a reservoir for use.

There is much work to be done and I call for an international agency of the United Nations to be created, through the EU’s support, so that India, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan and other countries can come together under the auspices of the UN.

 
  
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  Jolanta Emilia Hibner (PPE).(PL) Madam President, at the moment we have a situation where we know that, as a result of reinforcements which are lacking or have not been fitted at all, some countries have only narrowly averted disaster. Equally, where they are needed they have not always been constructed. We must realise that with climate change we will encounter anomalous weather conditions from time to time, we will probably come across situations when a particular country will be flooded time and time again. That is why it is important to build very good systems. We know how to build dams because they are not water installations of which we have no knowledge. This is not new technology. This is old, effective technology. It is therefore just a question of being able to give these countries information about how to do it.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). - (SK) Madam President, floods may be described as one of the most destructive forces of nature, in terms of loss of life and damage to property. The least developed countries are the most vulnerable, due to climate and the lack of flood management measures. It is therefore important to adopt a multi-level flood management strategy, particularly in regions where unstable glacier lakes represent a critical flood risk.

I agree with the rapporteur, who warns against relying on large dams to prevent flood damage, especially in the context of climate change. It is likely that extreme precipitation will increase the intensity and frequency of flash floods, which can reduce the safety level of dams. Moreover, according to the conclusions of the World Commission on Dams, the financial return on large dam projects continues to be uncertain. In financial terms, the environmental and social costs of large dams have not been sufficiently taken into account.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, water is a resource in short supply, even though it covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. It is vital for life, but can also cause major natural disasters, whether by drought or flooding.

We encounter this paradox when we deal with the subject of dams. In many instances, dams are the only means of supplying energy to communities isolated due to mountainous or hilly relief. At the same time, these systems provide a clean source of electricity. However, if there are flaws in their construction, this causes an adverse ecological and social impact.

I should emphasise that any new projects in this area must be based on extensive impact assessments, starting with the recommendations from the World Commission on Dams. Therefore, I call on the Commission to promote these issues in discussions with other countries.

 
  
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  Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the Commission. − Madam President, first I would like to thank Mr Deva for his report, for raising awareness on this very important issue and also for reminding us of the magnitude of the problem, which for a long time was not seen as so severe and was not so high on the international agenda. I would also like to thank him for the opportunity this gives me, on behalf of the Commission, to address this issue.

I would like to underline that the Commission agrees that dam infrastructure reinforcement has a multi-sectoral dimension which needs to be tackled in a comprehensive and holistic manner, ranging from watershed management to mitigation and adaptation measures, as well as capacity building and political dialogue between bordering states. This is, of course, always very important.

This resolution is timely as it properly focuses on all the issues related to dam building and their reinforcement, as well as on the necessary investment and technological adaptation to improve sustainability and minimise social, political and environmental side effects.

At global level, the EU is already fully engaged in fighting climate change and its effects. By its commitments in Copenhagen and Cancun, the Commission is thus fully engaged in supporting developing countries in implementing adaptation and mitigation measures, as included in the national development strategies and plans. In particular, at local level, the EU also promotes projects of sustainable development with small-scale operations more adapted to the local environment. Moreover, the report rightly highlights that glacier melting is increasing worldwide and is particularly intense – as was rightly pointed out in the report – in the Himalaya mountain range. The resulting increase in water flow has important impacts on downstream areas in some of the world’s most important river basins and densely populated agricultural areas, in particular in Asia, where 16 000 glaciers exist.

Therefore, the Commission welcomes the report and acknowledges that glacier melting in the Himalaya and the related glacier lake outburst floods are a growing problem which demands specific attention. Addressing this problem and other climate change-related issues will require a cross-border approach involving expertise in disaster risk reduction, watershed management, rural development and climate change adaptation. In this regard, the EU is already teaming up with the regional institutions with expertise in this field, such as the ICIMOD, a Nepal-based institute referred to in the EP report, as well as with the governments of the affected regions, in order to discuss possible actions and cooperation. For instance, overall support for the Asian region in the fight against climate change, including water basin management, is being provided as part of the Commission’s fast-starting financing through the Global Climate Change Alliance in Nepal and the new programme which will start in Bhutan in 2012.

I would like to thank the rapporteur.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 27 September 2011).

 
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