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Contents :

Press Release of the International Committee on Dams, Rivers and People (NGO's)

Critics Demand Dam-Building Moratorium, Reparations for Past Damage

Major New Report Confirms Social, Economic, Environmental Harm From Dams Dam critics are marking today's release of the report of the World Commission on Dams by challenging the funders of the dam industry, including the World Bank and export credit agencies, to halt all support for dams until the commission's recommendations are fully implemented. The groups are also demanding reparations for social and environmental damage caused by dams. Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy lends her support to the call from non-governmental organizations.

"The World Commission on Dams report vindicates much of what dam critics have long argued. If the builders and funders of dams follow the recommendations of the WCD, the era of destructive dams should come to an end", says Mr Patrick McCully, campaigns director of the California-based International Rivers Network. [1]

"Had the planning process proposed by the WCD been followed in the past, many dams would not have been built", concludes IRN’s Patrick McCully. Among the ongoing and planned projects which are clearly in breach of the WCD guidelines are China’s Three Gorges dam, the dams on India’s Narmada river, the Ilisu dam in Turkey, San Roque in the Philippines, Bujagali in Uganda, Ralco in Chile, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and dams in the Brazilian Amazon and the Uruguay River Basin in the far south of Brazil.

"Speaking as someone whose farm is to be flooded by a dam, the key recommendations of the WCD are that no dam should be built without the agreement of the directly affected people, and that reparations are needed for those who have suffered because of past dams", says Mr Sadi Baron, Coordinator of Brazil’s Movement of Dam Affected People (MAB). [2]

"For planners and engineers of big dams their past mistakes have served only to add to the majestic arc of their 'learning curve'", says Ms Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning author from India and supporter of the Save the Narmada Movement (Narmada Bachao Andolan - NBA). "It is time for them to get off their learning curve, which has devastated the lives of millions of people, and actually learn", adds Roy, who lends her support to the calls of the anti-dam movement at a press conference in London today. [3]

"The World Bank and export credit agencies play a key role in dam building and must act on the WCD's recommendations", says Mr Peter Bosshard of the Swiss NGO Berne Declaration. "NGOs are calling on them to place a moratorium on funding dams until they have adopted the WCD guidelines, and to review all ongoing projects in the light of the new recommendations." [4]

"It is time for the iron triangle of governments, dam industry and funders to cease building dams until they have incorporated the WCD’s recommendations into their policies and practices", says Ms Liane Greeff of South African NGO Environmental Monitoring Group. [5]

An NGO declaration published today calls on public funding agencies to halt all support for large dams until they have fully adopted the WCD recommendations and established mechanisms to provide reparations to those who are suffering the impacts of past dams. Under the title, 'From Commission to Action', the declaration also calls for a suspension of all large dams that are currently being planned or under construction until they have been subjected to participatory reviews as advocated by the WCD. The declaration has been endorsed by more than 100 NGOs.

McCully, Baron, Bosshard and Greeff are members of the International Committee on Dams, Rivers and People (ICDRP), which is comprised of human rights and environment groups and peoples' movements from 13 countries. ICDRP member groups pressured the World Bank to establish an independent review of dams and have closely followed the WCD process. [6]

The World Commission on Dams is an independent body sponsored by the World Bank to review the performance of large dams and make recommendations for future planning of water and energy projects. It is comprised of 12 Commissioners from a wide spectrum of backgrounds ranging from Göran Lindahl, CEO of engineering giant, ABB, to Medha Patkar, leading activist with India's Save the Narmada Movement.

The WCD's final report provides ample evidence that large dams have failed to produce as much electricity, provide as much water, or control as much flood damage as their backers claim. In addition, these massive projects regularly suffer huge cost-overruns and time delays. Furthermore, the report shows that:

  • large dams have forced 40-80 million people from their homes and lands, with impacts including extreme economic hardship, community disintegration, and an increase in mental and physical health problems. Indigenous, tribal, and peasant communities have been particularly hard hit. People living downstream of dams have also suffered from increased disease and the loss of natural resources upon which their livelihoods depended;
  • large dams cause great environmental damage, including the extinction of many fish and other aquatic species, huge losses of forest, wetland and farmland; and the
  • benefits of large dams have largely gone to the already well-off while poorer sectors of society have borne the costs.

    Based on these findings, the commission recommends that:

  • no dam should be built without the agreement of the affected people;
  • comprehensive and participatory assessments of the needs to be met, and alternatives for meeting these needs should be developed before proceeding with any new project;
  • priority should be given to maximizing the efficiency of existing water and energy systems before building any new projects;
  • periodic participatory reviews should be done for existing dams to assess such issues as dam safety, and possible decommissioning
  • mechanisms should be developed to provide social reparations for those who are suffering the impacts of dams, and to restore damaged ecosystems.

    All those quoted above will be available at a press conference at Queens and Holyrood Rooms, International Hotel, 163 Marsh Wall, Canary Wharf, 9-10am, Thursday, November 16, 2000.

    Case studies analysing how individual dam projects fare against the WCD's recommendations, briefing papers on the WCD and the World Bank and Export Credit Agencies, and excerpts from the WCD report are available at


    1. International Rivers Network (IRN) is a Berkeley, California-based human rights and environment group which works to support the rights of dam-affected communities and promote sustainable and equitable means of water and energy management. IRN is a member of the WCD Forum.
    2. The Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens - MAB) represents tens of thousands of Brazilian small farmers who have been displaced or are threatened by dams in Brazil. The movement is currently fighting to get reparations for 30,000 families displaced by dams and still waiting for proper compensation. MAB is a member of the WCD Forum.
    3. The Save the Narmada Movement (Narmada Bachao Andolan - NBA), the world's largest and best-known anti-dam group, is comprised of tens of thousands of villagers from the valley of the Narmada River and their supporters from around India. They have led a 15-year-long non-violent struggle against dams on the Narmada. The NBA is a member of the WCD Forum.
    4. The Berne Declaration is a Swiss NGO with 16,000 members. It has helped to coordinate international NGO campaigns on large dams such as Ilisu (Turkey) and Bakun (Malaysia) since 1968, and is a member of the WCD Forum. Peter Bosshard can be reached in London on mobile no. +41 79 478 9194.
    5. The Environmental Monitoring Group is based in Cape Town, South Africa, and has been acting as a liaison between the WCD secretariat and global and regional networks of NGOs and communities affected by large dams.
    6. Other ICDRP members present in London at the ICDRP's press conference and the launch of the WCD are: Mr Pedro Arrojo, Coalition of People Affected by Large Dams and Aqueducts (COAGRET), Spain Ms. Joan Carling, Cordillera Peoples' Alliance (CPA), Philippines (WCD Forum member) Mr Göran Ek, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) Can be reached in London on mobile no. +46 70 759 48 68. Ms Tonje Folkestad, Association for International Water and Forest Studies (FIVAS), Norway Mr Nicholas Hildyard, The Cornerhouse, UK Mobile no. +44 (0)777 375 0534 Mr. Chainarong Sretthachau, Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN), Thailand Mr Antonio Tricarico, Campaign to Reform the World Bank, Italy Ms Birgit Zimmerle, World Economy, Ecology & Development (WEED), Germany Additional Information Contact: Patrick McCully International Rivers Network +44 (0)774 892 1420 (mobile) Peter Bosshard Berne Declaration +41 79 478 9194 (mobile) Nicholas Hildyard The CornerHouse +44 (0)777 375 0534 (mobile)

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People and nature in danger if dam recommendations not implemented says WWF

20 February, 2000, Gland, Switzerland - As the World Commission on Dams (WCD) Consultative Forum prepares to meet in South Africa later this week, WWF, the conservation organization has warned that unless the Forum adopts a series of tangible steps for members to take, the third of the world's rivers that remain relatively intact will be destroyed and up to ten million people could be displaced in the next decade.

Up to 1,700 dams are in the pipeline around the world, mostly in India, China and Turkey. Proceeding with these projects will mean up to ten million people being displaced, thousands of small farmers losing their jobs, a widening economic gap favouring the rich, increasing social conflict over water, and more species going extinct than we already know.

The WCD Consultative Forum is expected to identify, shape, and set a timeframe on the actions that must be taken by the governments, businesses and civil society groups involved in the dams issue. It is also expected to build a consensus among the different interest groups to ensure that no more concrete and steel structures rob people of their livelihoods and rich natural resources. For example, in Senegal alone, dams on the Senegal River resulted in loss of eleven thousand tonnes of fish per year.

"While the WCD report documented benefits accrued from dams, it also confirmed that dams have done irreversible damage in many parts of the world," said Dr. Biksham Gujja, Head of WWF's Freshwater Unit. "While we applaud the WCD report for providing recommendations and a framework, we now expect to see the many groups making up the Forum commit to specific actions within a specified timeframe."

In a position statement released today, WWF listed a series of recommendations to the Forum and actions for all stakeholders to ensure that there is no further displacement of populations and loss of habitat and natural resources due to dams. WWF believes that financiers and development aid agencies such as the World Bank must commit to a code of practice so that where one funder rejects a proposal that fails to meet sound criteria, another does not step in to fund the project. By the same token, WWF wants OECD countries to refrain from building more large dams (over 15 metres high) at least for the next two decades and also wants a moratorium on megadams (over 100 metres high).

The WCD Forum should give private sector financiers and aid agencies a larger role in finding alternative energy and water options. According to WWF, where decommissioning is not possible, the focus should be on mitigating the adverse environmental impacts of dams through river restoration and recreating floodplains.

"The effectiveness of the WCD report and process will ultimately depend on the implementation of its recommendations-- Aid agencies and governments must set aside the resources and establish financial mechanisms without which, this will not be possible," Dr. Gujja added.

Source :

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Reaction of the Green Cross

Edito December 2000 - January 2001 issue of the Green Cross International Newsletter

Green Cross on the Frontline On November 16 in London, Professor Kader Asmal released the much anticipated report of the World Commission on Dams, a unique initiative which gathered together the differing and opposing parties to the large dams debate. The launching ceremony was honoured by the presence of former President Nelson Mandela, who made poignant reference to the importance of the dams and devel-opment debate when he reminded the gathering that "political freedom is not enough when you do not have clean water to drink; political freedom is not enough when you do not have a light to read by at night." He also clearly stated that he wished the WCD guidelines had been available to him when he had sanctioned some of his country's over 500 dams.

The Commission, which was created by IUCN and the World Bank, has succeeded in accessing the heart of the highly controversial issues associated with dams, which provide 19% of global energy, as well as irrigation and flood management, but have displaced up to 80 million people, often without compensation, and have wrecked havoc on ecosystems across the world. The members of the Commission herald from civil society, private sector, engineering, environmentalists, and anti-dam lobbies and provided the rationale for a fundamental shift in the assessment, planning and project cycles for water and energy resources development. The Commission established core values to be prerequisite to any decision, including equity, effiency, participatory decision-making, sustainability and accountability. The approach is based on the recognition of rights and assessment of risks.

Immediately after the presentation of the report, opponents of large dams seized the opportunity to call for the suspension of all dam projects pending their review in accordance with the WCD recommendations.

Green Cross, which contributed to the WCD on the question of conflict prevention regarding dams with transboundary impact, considers the report as a guideline for analysing existing and new projects to assess whether they contribute to the sustainable improvement of human welfare on a basis that is economically viable, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable. Many large dams, both already built and under construction, do not answer to these criteria. Green Cross, faithful to its mission, acts to mitigate the negative environmental and social impacts of such infrastructures by bringing altogether all stakeholders involved in the issue. It is what we are doing in Argentina and in Paraguay, contributing to the resolution of the negative ecological and social consequences of the Yacyreta dam. These activities began in mid-2000 and have already yielded positive results for displaced persons, who are not only financially compensated but helped to develop new commercial activities to give them a position in society and allow them to regain control of their lives. The Green Cross mediation action is in line with the recommendations of the WCD, and our role as the 'Red Cross for Environment', but the traps are many and present new challenges for our organization to surmount.

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NGO Statement on Dams and Climate Change

The following statement was released at the recent COP6 climate conference in The Hague. It is arguing that reservoirs emit greenhouse gases, using the evidence found in the WCD reports

"All reservoirs emit greenhouse gases
Hydropower is not a source of clean or sustainable energy and should not qualify for the kyoto protocol flexibility mechanisms"

This Paper has been produced by Liane Greeff, Environmental Monitoring Group, (South Africa) in conjunction with Richard Sherman, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (South Africa), Antonio Tricarico, Reform the World Bank (Italy) and Tonje Folkestad, FIVAS (Norway).
The World Commission on Dams Final Report highlights the evidence that "all reservoirs - not only hydropower reservoirs - emit GHGs ... in some circumstances the gross emissions can be considerable, and possibly greater than the thermal alternatives". This press release therefore calls for the unilateral exclusion of large dam projects from the flexibility mechanisms within the Kyoto Protocol, which are to be decided at the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Meeting at the Hague from 13 to 24 November 2000.
The basis for the position that large dams are not eligible for consideration as a CDM mechanism is the following:
* Large dams emit greenhouse gases
* Large dams do not fulfill the sustainability requirement - either environmentally or socially - necessary for consideration as a CDM mechanism
* Renewable & sustainable alternatives do exist and should be identified and supported by the flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto protocol
During COP6, state parties will take decisions that will set put the rules, modalities and principles of the Kyoto Protocol Mechanism, which includes Joint Implementation, Emissions Trading and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The main objective of the CDM is to address sustainable development needs of developing countries (non-Annex 1 parties) while simultaneously assisting developed countries (Annex 1 parties) to achieve their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. A credible CDM will find a balance between these two objectives, and has the potential to really make a difference with respect to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, and thereby to stabilize climate change. Conversely, if used incorrectly, without the necessary environmental and social controls, it is wide open to abuse and will exacerbate environmental destruction and global warming.
A critical issue for the effectiveness of the CDM, and the overall achievement of the Kyoto protocol reduction targets, will be which technologies and practices are eligible for carbon 'credits'. If unsustainable technologies such as large hydropower dams, nuclear power and fossil fuels are included, it will compromise the stated purpose of the CDM and undermine the effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol as a whole.
The Economic Implications of the Kyoto Protocol, and indeed COP6, must not be underestimated. It is predicted that these negotiations will ultimately result in the flow of between US$24 - 37 billion from developed to developing countries within the next ten years. The hydro industry has been promoting itself as a carbon free, clean energy source, and therefore they have been lobbying for inclusion as a CDM, which would allow them to access large new sources of finance which is critical for its continued existence. Indeed, the recent World Commission on Dams has highlighted the ingredients of the proposition that the era of large dams is over.
Evidence from the WCD Final Report:
The above position is substantiated by the Final Report of the World Commission on Dams, from which the following excerpts are taken.
Dams emit Greenhouse Gases "The emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) from reservoirs due to rotting vegetation and carbon inflows from the catchment is a recently identified ecosystem impact (on climate) of storage dams. A first estimate suggests that the gross emissions from reservoirs may account for between 1% and 28% of the global warming potential of GHG emissions. It also implies that all reservoirs - not only hydropower reservoirs - emit GHGs ... in some circumstances the gross emissions can be considerable, and possibly greater than the thermal alternatives."
Large Dams are unsustainable
(a) Environmentally unsustainable: "Unsustainable irrigation practices have affected more than a fifth of the world's irrigated area in arid and semi-arid regions. As a result, soil salinity and water-logging either make agriculture impossible, or limit yields and the types of crops that can be grown."
"Large dams have fragmented and transformed the world's rivers, modifying 46% of primary watersheds Among the many factors leading to the degradation of watershed ecosystems, dams are the main physical threat, fragmenting and transforming aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems with a range of effects that vary in duration, scale and degree of reversibility At least 20% of the world's more than 9000 fresh water fish species have become extinct, threatened or endangered in recent years substantial losses in downstream fishery production as a result of dam construction are reported from around the world .The problems may be magnified as more large dams are added to a river system, resulting in an increased and cumulative loss of natural resources, habitat quality, environmental sustainability, and ecosystem integrity."
(b) Socially unsustainable: "While many have benefited from the services large dams provide, their construction and operation have led to many significant, negative social and human impacts. The adversely affected populations include directly displaced families, host communities, where families are resettled, and riverine communities, especially those downstream of dams. More broadly, whole society have lost access to natural resources and cultural heritage that were submerged by reservoirs or rivers transformed by dams. The construction of large dams has led to the displacement of some 40 to 80 million people worldwide These figures are at best only estimates and certainly do not include the millions displaced due to other aspects of the projects such as canals, powerhouses, project infrastructure, and associated compensatory measures, such as biological reserves and so on. They also refer to physical displaced only and thus do not include communities upstream and downstream of dams that have suffered livelihood displacement Analysis of the Knowledge Base, and in particular the WCD Case Studies, indicates that the poor, vulnerable groups and future generations are likely to bear a disproportionate share of the social and environmental costs of large dam projects without gaining a commensurate share of the economic benefits ".
Alternatives to hydro, nuclear and fossil power exists "The priority for a sustainable and equitable global energy sector is for all societies to increase the efficiency of energy use and the use of renewable resources There are enormous opportunities for demand side management in industrial economies. There is also considerable scope for efficiency investments in expanding economies where they would moderate the required investment in new supply" In the last two decades, the cost of wind power under good wind conditions dropped by 75%, bringing it within reach of avoided fuel costs of modern fossil-fueled power plants In addition to wind and solar, biomass and ocean energy systems (wave, tidal energy and ocean thermal) have application for grid power. Biomass options are commercial where biomass fuel is readily available".
Hydro dams cost more than estimated and achieve less then predicted "The bulk of projects have deliver power within a close range of pre-project targets but with an overall tendency to fall short of targets. Hydropower projects - as with other large dams - have incurred cost overruns and schedule delays. It also shows that around on-fifth of the projects in the sample achieved less than 75% of the planned power targets."
Climate change likely to increase the frequency of extreme events and thereby reduce hydropower output, increase flooding and reduce dam safety: "Normal variations in weather and river flows dictates that virtually all hydroelectric projects will have year to year fluctuations in output, whether climate change will affect this remains to be seen There is a risk that a changing climate will modify the hydrological basis on which many flood control dams were designed. This raises concerns about the physical adequacy of many dams to perform their flood management functions, as well as the adequacy of spillways to handle much higher flood control volumes likely in a changed climate .Climate change has introduced another level of uncertainty about changing flows within the life span of most dams. The safety of large dams is affected by changes in the magnitude or frequency of extreme precipitation evens ...There is concern, therefore, about whether existing spillways can evacuate such floods in the future."
In addition to the Final Report, the World Commission on Dams convened a workshop in Montreal, where leading researchers in this field from around the world - including both proponents and opponents of the hydro industry - discussed the issue of large dams and global warming. Following the workshop, they issued a consensus statement, which included the following points:
* All reservoirs emit greenhouse gases, and continue to do so for decades, at a minimum
* GHG emissions result not only from flooded biomass, but also from carbon transported by the river from the catchment area, and
* The multiplier commonly used to convert methane emissions to "equivalent CO2" significantly underestimates the climate change impact of reservoirs over the first several decades."
Recommendations for the COP6 Negotiation Process
If the CDM, and the other flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, are to survive as credible instruments for sustainable development, climate action and technology transfer, then they cannot be used to support environmentally damaging or unsustainable technologies. Governments have a real opportunity to actively create a new mechanism that could make a considerable contribution to tackling the climate problem and to lead us into a sustainable future. In order to do so, we strongly urge the following:
* Large hydro, and other unsustainable power sources such as nuclear and coal, which are inconsistent with the CDM goal of sustainable development, should not be eligible for certified emission reduction units.
* COP6 must establish an environmentally effective and socially equitable CDM, which catalyses the introduction of zero carbon technologies in developing countries. To achieve this, CDM must focus on renewable energy sources and demand side energy efficiency technologies. Governments must define a priority list of cutting edge renewable technologies that have access to a preferential set of CDM rules.
* The urgency of developed countries to meet their obligations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by domestic action requires agreement on a quantitative cap on the use of the Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms to meet emission reduction targets. Global rules must ensure that the majority of developed countries greenhouse gas emissions reductions, at least 70% are met through domestic action at home. The rules must not present a loophole that allows high per capita emitters to evade aggressive domestic action.

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A dam-builders' perception of post WCD-context

Why should you attend URHP VIII? International Water Power and Dam Construction - 25 Oct 2001
Over the past year, the water power and dams industry has witnessed the call for a moratorium on large dam construction. In addition, while questioning the operational effectiveness of existing dams and hydroelectric facilities, the World Commission on Dams has urged the industry to squeeze more out of these projects. Isn't this a wake up call? Shouldn't we be grasping such opportunities to generate new business for old plants?
International Water Power and Dam Construction's conference, Uprating and Refurbishing Hydro Power Plants VIII, will show you where new uprating and refurbishment opportunities are, particularly in Eastern Europe where political and economic transformation of the power sector is now taking place. Financial institutions will give you guidance about their funding policies for such work, and panellists will help you identify and successfully overcome environmental, social and legal barriers in this area. Practical approaches to cost-effective uprating and refurbishment will also be demonstrated through technical papers and panel discussion.
Careful analysis of existing plant, along with probing discussion on how uprating and refurbishment is carried out, will highlight expanding business opportunities for the future. Successful uprating and refurbishment may also have implications for future dam construction. The simple fact is if existing projects are not maintained properly, why should dam opponents believe these are worthwhile, or that new schemes will perform any better?
By looking at the broader issue of uprating and refurbishment you can run your hydro business more effectively. At URHP VIII, our skilled panellists and technical presentations will help you define the path for uprating and refurbishment well into the twenty-first century.

Source: IRNs WCD Listserv

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