The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned that the reservoirs of the world are losing their capacity due to siltation caused by erosion. Speaking to the Bonn International Conference on Freshwater, UNEP executive director, Klaus Toepfer, said that the process is being accelerated by the clearcutting of forests.

‘The issue of dams can arouse strong passions on both sides,’ Toepfer told delegates. ‘Some people are very much in favour of building dams and others are vehemently against. However, what we are talking about here is the state and fate of the existing stock of dams and reservoirs on whose water billions of people depend on, not only for irrigation and drinking water but also for industry and the production of hydroelectricity.’

Toepfer, a former German environment minister, said that the world’s stocks of fresh, drinkable water should be managed prudently and sensibly in the most sustainable way possible.

In response, UNEP has launched a new Dams and Development Project (DDP), to address siltation and other serious environmental effects of dam development.

• For further information on the Dams Development Programme, turn to page 17