by ERN 
European Rivers Networ

European NGOs hearing
Bratislava, January 17th-18th 2000


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European Rivers Network Press Release - 24.01.00

A European NGO-organised hearing on WCD (World Commission on Dams) related issues has been held in Bratislava on 17th and 18th January. Over 60 European NGOs, as well as representatives from other continents were present. The hearing has been hosted by Friends of the Earth Slovakia.

WCD, founded by the World Bank and the IUCN, has to review the effectiveness of large dams and assess alternatives for water ressources and energy development and develop standards and guidelines for decision-making in the planning, construction, operation and decommissioning of dams.
Hearings have been held all over the world but no European one was planned in the WCD process despite the importance of dam issues in Europe. NGOs thus decided to meet to agree on what they think should appear the in the final WCD report, which will be presented in September 2000.
NGOs deeply regret that the WCD has not respected the human and financial efforts to organise such an important event which has been attended by only one of the Commissioners and two members of the staff, despite the fact that the meeting was convened on the date set by the WCD.

One of the main goals of this meeting was to explode the myth that dams are uncontroversial in Europe and the presented cases indeed proved that dams have, even in Europe, tremendous social and environmental impacts.
Another main goal was to denounce the fact that European-based companies are using different standards wether they operate in Europe or abroad. While social and environmental guidelines start to be used in their operation at home, they still export outdated and outmoded technologies to the South .

The meeting documented how dams are not a benign source of energy and mainly:
- how gross violations of human rights are often accompanying dam building
- how dams are producing an important mass of green house gas
- how dams only benefited northern companies while they often failed to bring the expected development
to southern communities
- how dams haved proved ineffective in flood prevention
The participants thus concluded that in the future, large dams must not play a major role in energy and water management policies.

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