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Meet the activists risking life and limb to protect rivers

In late March of this year, an unusual group of activists gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia for a four-day conference to strategize around stopping destructive hydropower projects across the globe.

Hailing from countries as diverse as Chile, Congo, Albania, Mongolia, China, Thailand, and Colombia, they had been invited to Georgia because the former Soviet Republic is in the grip of a dam-building boom. Citizens there have been frustrated and overwhelmed by the hydropower onslaught, and are seeking international support for their struggle. During one plenary session, a newly-minted Georgian activist shouted, “I’m just a grape farmer. I don’t know how to stop these projects. We need your help.”

The participants also shared ongoing experiences with harassment and intimidation for their opposition to destructive hydropower projects. Meet four activists who are risking life and limb to keep rivers free.

Ask Sani Ayouba what it looks like when people are resettled to make way for a hydropower project, and his answer isn’t pretty.

The activist from Niger has firsthand experience with resettlement: From 2012 to 2016, he watched as more than 5,000 people were displaced to make way for Kandadji Dam, a project proposed for the Niger River not far from Niger’s capital city of Niamey.

“This first phase of resettlement has faced many problems,” says Ayouba. The resettled families, he says, have no access to water. “You can imagine what life is like without water. They can’t do anything.”


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