Controversial Chinese Dam Project now Operational in Tibet

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

LHASA, Tibet – The Chinese government has announced that it has completed a major hydropower dam project on the Brahmaputra River, called Yarlung Zangbo River, in Tibet. The Dam, now Tibet’s largest hydropower station, became partly operational last Sunday. The Chinese government described the $1.5 billion project as a “huge project, which straddles the middle reaches of the roaring Yarlung Zangbo River, will have power capacity of 510,000kW after its four-year construction.” The Dam will be 116 meters (381 feet) high when completed next year. Beijing said the project would be useful in “harnessing the rich water resources of the Yarlung Zangbo River to empower the development of the electricity-strapped region.” An official from the Tibetan Electric Power Co. was quoted as saying “The hydropower station will solve Tibet’s power shortage, especially in the winter.” However the times of India claims the massive dam project will also most likely affect the amount of water flowing to downstream regions, including the amount flowing into the Arunachal Pradesh and other northeastern regions of India, where the populations are heavily dependent on farming for economic survival. Like other massive dam projects in China the dam has sparked controversy and fears that tensions may rise between China and its downstream neighbors. China’s massive hydropower projects have displaced millions of people throughout the country along China’s largest watersheds. The projects also reduce the natural flow of fresh water to downstream regions and disrupt the flow of natural silts critical for ecosystem and agricultural health, negatively impacting downstream communities.

The Brahmaputra river in the Arunachal Pradesh region. (Photo courtesy of India Today)

The Indian government has previously expressed concern about damming the Brahmaputra River, arguing that the massive Himalayan watershed is a lifeline to some of India’s remote northeastern states, communities who depend on farming for survival. Last year the Indian External Affairs ministry urged China “to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas” of the river, after state media reports that China planned several more dams in the region. However, New Delhi has had some difficulty arguing that the dam will create environmental justice concerns for its people because the Indian government has long supported the construction of massive hydropower stations along its own watersheds, despite the negative impacts on the environment created by those projects, especially in neighborhood Pakistan. S M Krishna, A previous Indian External Affairs minister has said New Delhi had “ascertained from our own sources that this is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric project which does not store water and will not adversely impact downstream areas in India.”

The Chinese Dam on the Brahmaputra is a run-of-the-river dam, a dam designer that creates a smaller retaining pool than traditional dam projects. Despite the argument that the flow of water from run-of-the-river dams is does not have a major impact on water flow these massive dams still have significant effects on the watershed. India has constructed several controversial run-of-the river dams in recent decades and is currently working on the massive Baglihar Dam project on the Chenab River in the Jemma and Kashmir region which resulted in a water dispute between India and Pakistan. The government of Pakistan has argued that the Baglihar Dam project violates the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan, a treaty intended to prevent armed conflicts over the flow of water between the two countries.

For more information please see:

First Post India – China Builds Dam on Brahmaputra in Tibet, Stokes Fear in India – 24 November 2014

International Business Times India – India Fears Natural Calamities as China Builds Hydropower Dam on Brahmaputra in Tibet – 24 November 2014

The Times of India – China Builds Hydroelectric Dam On Brahmaputra in Tibet, India Fears Flash Floods – 24 November 2014

India Today – China Puts First Brahmaputra Dam into Operation – 23 November 2014

Civil Unrest in Western and Central Africa

Pope Francis travels to Turkey to address xenophobia, the persecution of Christians, and Eastern and Western Reunification

By Ashley Repp

News Desk Reporter, Middle East

Istanbul, Turkey

As the situation in the Middle East becomes ever more dire, Pope Francis traveled to Turkey to discuss Isil, refugees, Christian expulsion, Islamiphobia, and the reunification of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis and Orthodox Christian leaders pray at the Blue Mosque (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

In a display of humility, mutual respect, and the understanding of the grave situation of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many of whom are Christians, Bartholomew I, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis, jointly condemned the violence that has escalated in the Middle East. The Middle East has traditionally been home to Christians since the birth of the religion more than 2,000 years ago. In recent decades, renewed persecution of Christians has forced many to leave their homes and settle in Western countries. For example, just since 2003, the Christian population in Iraq has fallen by 70%.

Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee as Isil tightens its grip on the region. Remaining in Syria and Iraq means risking likely death and persecution for religious beliefs. Fleeing offers refugees not only a chance for survival, but a chance to continue to practice their religious faith. Jordan and Turkey have become refuges for those escaping the fundamental Sunni Islam imposed under Isil. But the burden of so many refugees will begin to weigh more heavily on those countries hosting them, which is likely to exacerbate issues in an already relatively unstable Middle East.

Pope Francis addressed the issue of fundamentalism, the primary reason religious minorities have been forced to flee their homes, during his trip to Turkey. He called for an end to fundamentalism and its devastating effects that take a serious toll on the lives it touches. Now, Pope Francis asserted, more than ever is the time for interfaith dialogue, respect, and friendship. He also urged that military intervention is not the way to end fundamentalism and extremism; rather, addressing the needs of the impoverished and starving is the most viable way to end fundamentalism. Pope Francis urged that addressing the needs of those most in need is not simply applicable to the Middle East, but to the world as a whole.

The joint efforts by the Bartholomew I and Pope Francis suggest a desire to establish closer ties between the Eastern and Western wings of Christianity. These efforts, as well as closer ties between the two churches, may enable Christian leaders to better handle the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, particularly under Isil.

For more information, please visit:

The Telegraph- Pope and Patriarch condemn expulsion of Christians from the Middle East- 30 Nov, 2014

The Guardian- Pope and Patriarch condemn Middle East persecution of Christians– 30 Nov, 2014

Reuters- Pope condemns ‘barbaric violence’ of Islamic State– 28 Nov, 2014

Deutsche Welle- Pope Francis raises alarm over Middle East conflict in Turkey Visit- 28 Nov, 2014

Life imprisonment for homosexuals in The Gambia

By Ashley Rep

News Desk Reporter, Africa


Banjul, The Gambia-

The Gambia, a small, landlocked country in Africa, has long had some of the strictest anti-gay laws on the books. This fall though, the already oppressive laws that loom over the gay community in The Gambia, worsened.   A new law, signed by President Yahya Jammeh, provides that ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ is now an offense that carries a sentence of life imprisonment.

Senegal Gays In Exile
Alhaji, 21 (last name withheld), fled to Senegal to escape persecution (photo courtesy of Huffington Post)

The law is targeted at repeat offenders and those who are suspected of being homosexuals and have HIV/AIDS. The language of the law is vague and broad, which compounds the problem of the law’s already expansive reach and devastating effect. In addition to repeat offenders and HIV/AIDS positive individuals suspected of homosexuality, the term ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ appears to also apply to those who are suspected of engaging sexually with a minor, as well as those who are suspected of homosexuality and have a minor in their care. The homosexual community in The Gambia already lives in fear of hate crimes, exclusion, and punishment for their sexual orientation, but with this law now in effect, there is life imprisonment to worry about.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the new law and the treatment of homosexuals in The Gambia generally, contending that this law exacerbates the oppression the community faces. President Barak Obama has called the law ‘odious,’ and urged President Jammeh to reassess these actions taken against homosexuals. No level of urging seems to sway President Jammeh, an autocratic ruler, who, just this past February, publicly announced “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively” and in 2008 suggested that all homosexuals should leave the country or risk being beheaded.

Since November 7, state forces have stepped up efforts to crack down on homosexuality. Many individuals have been detained for questioning, and report having been threatened with a device to be inserted into the anus or vagina to determine sexuality. Torture is also a concern of rights groups, as many of the suspected are detained for extended periods of time. The state is also reportedly compiling a list of names for future questioning and detention.

The language of the new law almost exactly mirrors the anti-gay laws enacted in Uganda this past year, another extremely oppressive country in Africa for homosexuals and those suspected of homosexuality. The laws in Uganda were widely criticized, and were overturned on a technicality.

For more information, please visit:

BBC News- Gambia’s President Jammeh asked to reject anti-gay law– 10 Sept, 2014

The Guardian- The Gambia passes bill imposing life sentences for some homosexual acts– 8 Sept, 2014

Amnesty International- Gambia’s latest anti-gay bill– 18 Nov, 2014

Huffington Post- Gambia passes anti-gay bill imposing life imprisonment for some same-sex acts– 8 Sept, 2014