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Saturday, March 14, 1998 Published at 10:05 GMT


Environmentalists stage anti-dam protests
image: [ Environmentalists are worried about the damage caused by dam projects ]
Environmentalists are worried about the damage caused by dam projects

Environmental campaigners in many countries are staging demonstrations on Saturday for the protection of river waters, and against the construction of large dams. In India, a large papier-mache model of the recently postponed Narmada dam will be burnt, and in Hungary, a human chain will link two bridges over the River Danube in a symbolic action against the government's plans to complete a hydro-electric scheme on the river. From Budapest, Nick Thorpe sent this report.

International Anti-Dam Day is a comparatively new event on the environmentalist's calender.

According to the organisers, the events being staged around the world have three aims: to celebrate their life-giving rivers; to better inform the public about them; and to protest against the damage being done both by pollution and by large-scale dam projects.

In Hungary, the demonstrators are taking to the streets for the second time in a fortnight, to try to prevent the Hungarian government completing the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydyo-electric project with neighbouring Slovakia, along a 200km stretch of the River Danube.

The government was embarrassed last week by the publication in a Hungarian newspaper of the secret framework agreement between the two countries.

Slovakia is ready to sign the document, but Hungary, under pressure from environmentalists, postponed its signature until more impact studies are completed. The International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled last September that the two countries should jointly operate those parts of the project which are already completed.

Both governments now agree that to do so, new dams are necessary, but the greens say that the court's ruling has been distorted.

Campaigners in each country say environmental values should be given priority over industrial considerations.

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The World Court and the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros project

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International Rivers Network - campaigning against dams

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