Reclaim Our Rivers. Reclaim Our Rights - Statement International Day Of Action For Rivers

Published: Fri 15 Mar 2024 06:55 PM
March 14 is the International Day of Action for Rivers. This year we mark 27 years of global solidarity for the protection of our rivers against mega dams, large hydropower projects, and encroachment of our Indigenous territories. For Indigenous Peoples this means safeguarding our land, waters, and our right to live.
In 1997 Indigenous People, rural workers, fisherfolk, and small farmers gathered at the first International Meeting of People Affected by Dams. This meeting sought to address the issues that were brought about by the construction of large dams– the submerging of farmlands, destruction of fisheries, forests, and sacred places of Indigenous Peoples.
This meeting proved to be an effective first step towards fostering international solidarity among communities plagued by the encroachment megadam builders. These huge dams were built and funded by international financial institutions, credit and lending agencies, multinational and transnational corporations backed by powerful states, with strong military forces to exploit natural resources and inundate forests, mountains, and rivers at the expense of people’s rights and welfare.
The crisis of imperialism is continuously driving the world's biggest powers to seek greater and wider control over every natural resource. Big corporations have plowed our mountains, and forests flat. Rivers that sustained and provided life, culture and livelihood to Indigenous Communities are being killed off in the name profit, whilst hiding behind the guise of “green energy” and “development”
Mega-dams and other hydropower infrastructure projects are often sold to the public as efficient means of providing clean power, water supply, and livelihood. The grim reality behind this is that these projects have led to the widespread displacement of Indigenous communities, and disasters such as floods and landslides that have killed off the livelihood of Indigenous farmers.
Just last October, a major hydroelectric infrastructure in Sikkim, India burst and caused massive flash floods in the area. The tragedy left 14 people dead and over a hundred missing. The dam was one of the nine hydropower projects operating in the Teesta river.
Protected ancestral territories, including our rivers, have frequently been seized, and exploited by states and corporations. Indigenous farmers have been unable to maintain their crops due to intensified military presence in Indigenous communities, and restrictions imposed by military and paramilitary forces have made it harder for Indigenous communities to freely roam their lands and bodies of water.
In Ogoniland, Nigeria rivers and other bodies have been polluted by big oil companies to the worst possible conditions that Indigenous communities have been left with not even clean water to drink. Just this month, on March 2, Uebari Adoole, an Indigenous elder and farmer was injured after being shot at by paramilitary forces linked with Shell, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
In the Philippines large-scale dams are sprouting like mushrooms left and right. Brought about by the Marcos government's “Build, Better, More” program, Indigenous communities are being wiped out to give way for these foreign-backed projects. In Central Philippines, the Kaliwa-Kanan-Laiban Dam, the Jalaur Dam in the southern region, and the Cabacanan Small Reservoir in the north. There are currently 15 large dams operating in the country, and 117 others have been poised since the last regime.
As the world’s powerful nations, banks and corporations are set to meet on multiple occasions throughout the year, there is great need to consolidate the demands and concerns of Indigenous Peoples, small farming communities, and the broad masses of people that rely on rivers.
In May, the Asian Development Bank is set to hold its 57th Annual Board of Governors Meeting in Georgia, following this is the World Bank’s Land Conference. Thus it is with great importance that we are able to bring light to the issues faced by Indigenous Peoples. Our present challenges compel us to come together, consolidate our demands and register our clamor for a more just & sustainable future. We are often sidelined, or at worst deliberately ignored in decision-making processes. This must change, the narrative must be shifted towards amplifying the demands of the people on the ground.
In this light we call for greater resistance against the offensives against our rivers, livelihood, the environment and our right to land, and self-determination. Shed light on the issues and calls of Indigenous communities, farmers, fisherfolk, and the right of the people to a more accessible, sustainable, and truly climate resilient, and people-centered development.
Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination & Liberation

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