Folder Issue2

June 2010




Achim Steiner
Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya;
Former Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams


Dams and displacement: Raising the standards and broadening the research agenda

Brooke McDonald-Wilmsen
Research Fellow, La Trobe Refugee Research Centre, School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia;
Michael Webber
Professorial Fellow, Department of Resource Management and Geography, The University of Melbourne, Australia;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams provided an analytical overview of the cumulative effects of years of dam development. A lack of commitment or capacity to cope with displacement or to consider the civil rights of, or risks to, displaced people led to the impoverishment and suffering of tens of millions and growing opposition to dams by affected communities worldwide. However, after the WCD, little has changed for the better in terms of resettlement policies. In fact, the standards of key agencies, like the Asian Development Bank, have been lowered and diluted compared to prior policies. Dam-induced development and displacement are stifled by a 'managerialist' approach to planning, in which solutions are sought internally and subordinated to the economics that underpins the existence of the project. The aim of successful resettlement is to prevent impoverishment and to enable displaced people to share in the project'€™s benefits. Within the field of dam-induced resettlement, this is a lofty goal rarely achieved. However, in other fields of resettlement, such as refugee studies and adaptation to environmental change, such a goal is regarded as a minimum standard. In this paper we seek to broaden the research agenda on dam-induced resettlement and to raise the standards of development projects that entail resettlement. We do this by importing some of the considerations and concerns from practice and research from the fields of refugee studies and adaptation to environmental change.


Participation with a punch: Community referenda on dam projects and the right to free, prior, and informed consent to development

Brant McGee
Consultant to the Environmental Defender Law Centre and other non-government organisations;

ABSTRACT: The 2000 Report of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) found that dams can threaten the resources that provide the basis for indigenous and other peoples'€™ culture, religion, subsistence, social and family structure -€“ and their very existence, through forced relocation -€“ and lead to ecosystem impacts harmful to agriculture, animals and fish. The WCD recommended the effective participation of potentially impacted local people in decisions regarding dam construction. The international right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) accorded to indigenous peoples promises not only the opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their lands and livelihoods but to stop unwanted development by refusing consent as well. The newly developed concept of community referenda, held in areas potentially impacted by development projects, provides an accurate measure of the position of local voters on the proposed project through a democratic process that discourages violence, promotes fair and informed debate, and provides an avenue for communities to express their consent or refusal of a specific project. The legal basis, practical and political implications, and Latin American examples of community referenda are explored as a means of implementing the critical goal of the principle of FPIC, the expression of community will and its conclusive impact on development decision-making.


Social discounting of large dams with climate change uncertainty

Marc Jeuland
Sanford School of Public Policy and Duke Global Health Initiative, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA;

ABSTRACT: It has long been known that the economic assessment of large projects is sensitive to assumptions about discounting future costs and benefits. Projects that require high upfront investments and take years to begin producing economic benefits can be difficult to justify with the discount rates typically used for project appraisal. While most economists argue that social discount rates should be below 4%, many international development banks and government planning agencies responsible for project appraisal can be found using rates of 7-12% or more. These agencies justify choosing higher discount rates to account for the opportunity cost of capital. Meanwhile, a new and robust debate has begun in economics over whether social discount rates of even 3-4% are too high in the context of climate change.

This paper reviews the recent discounting controversy and examines its implications for the appraisal of an illustrative hydropower project in Ethiopia. The analysis uses an integrated hydro-economic model that accounts for how the dam'€™s transboundary impacts vary with climate change. The real value of the dam is found to be highly sensitive to assumptions about future economic growth. The argument for investment is weakest under conditions of robust global economic growth, particularly if these coincide with unfavourable hydrological or development factors related to the project. If however long-term growth is reduced, the value of the dam tends to increase. There may also be distributional or local arguments favouring investment, if growth in the investment region lags behind that of the rest of the globe. In such circumstances, a large dam can be seen as a form of insurance that protects future vulnerable generations against the possibility of macroeconomic instability or climate shocks.


Non-dam alternatives for delivering water services at least cost and risk

Michael P. Totten
Chief Advisor, Climate Freshwater and Ecosystem Services, Conservation International, Arlington, VA, US;
Timothy J. Killeen
Senior Research Scientist, Centre for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International, Arlington, VA, US;
Tracy A. Farrell
Senior Director of Conservation Initiatives, Conservation International, Arlington, VA, US;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission for Water in the 21st Century estimated the annual cost of meeting future infrastructural needs for water at US$180 billion by 2025, including supply, sanitation, waste-water treatment, agriculture, and environmental protection. These estimates assume that future global demand for water-related services will mimic those of industrialised nations that rely on centralised water supply and treatment infrastructural systems. This large annual expenditure excludes an estimated US$40 billion that will be invested annually on new hydropower dams and other large-scale water transfer systems. These estimates exclude the environmental and social cost from improperly designed dams, and the true long-term cost to society will be many times greater. Many hydropower schemes are at risk from irregular flow regimes resulting from drought and climate change, while increased land-use intensity leads to sedimentation rates that diminish reservoir storage capacity. Methane emissions from rotting vegetation can be higher than displaced fossil-fuel power plants, while fragmented aquatic habitats and altered flow regimes threaten biodiversity and inland fisheries -€“ a primary protein source for millions of poor people.

We present evidence that a value-adding and risk-minimising water planning process can be achieved by shifting from the conventional focus on supply expansion to one that concentrates on efficiently delivering services at and near the point of use. The State of California has two decades of experience with this approach, demonstrating that market-based policy and regulatory innovations can unleash efficiency gains resulting in more utility water services and energy services delivered with less supply expansion at lower costs, while minimising climate-change risk, pollution and the social cost that accompany large infrastructural projects. Efficiency in delivered water services could be accomplished with investments in the range of US$10-25 billion annually, while obviating the need for spending hundreds of billions of dollars on more expensive hydropower and related infrastructural expansion projects. The shift to a regulatory system that encompasses cost-effective end-use efficiency improvements in delivering water and energy services could eliminate the need for an estimated half of all proposed dams globally, thus allowing for the maintenance of other ecosystem service benefits and offer the best hopes of meeting basic human needs for water at a more achievable level of investment.


Discussing large dams in Asia after the World Commission on Dams: Is a political ecology approach the way forward?

Ravi Baghel
Graduate Programme of Transcultural Studies, Cluster of Excellence: Asia & Europe, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany;
Marcus Nüsser
Chair, Department of Geography, Director South Asia Institute, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany;

ABSTRACT: The guidelines proposed in the World Commission on Dams (WCD) final report were vehemently rejected by several Asian governments, and dam building has continued apace in most Asian countries. This reaction is in line with the simplistic dam debate, where dam critics offer laundry lists of socioeconomic and environmental costs, and dam proponents highlight the benefits while underestimating associated costs. Whereas the WCD sought to evaluate dams in terms of 'costs and benefits', this approach is self-defeating due to the very subjectivity of such measurements. This paper argues that the way ahead must be to move beyond a consensus evaluation of dams, and instead examine the shifting asymmetries and discursive flows that sustain and promote dam building over time. However, such an analysis of the dam discourse must incorporate an understanding of the multiple actors and driving forces, as well as the underlying power relations within this politicised environment. We therefore suggest that a post-structural political ecology approach provides a suitable framework for the future examination of large dams in Asia.


Uncertainties in Amazon hydropower development: Risk scenarios and environmental issues around the Belo Monte dam

Wilson Cabral de Sousa Junior
Professor, Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica, São José dos Campos, SP, Brazil;
John Reid
Executive Director, Conservation Strategy Fund, Sebastopol, CA, USA;

ABSTRACT: The Amazon region is the final frontier and central focus of Brazilian hydro development, which raises a range of environmental concerns. The largest project in the Amazon is the planned Belo Monte Complex on the Xingu river. If constructed it will be the second biggest hydroelectric plant in Brazil, third largest on earth. In this study, we analyse the private and social costs, and benefits of the Belo Monte project. Furthermore, we present risk scenarios, considering fluctuations in the project'€™s feasibility that would result from variations in total costs and power. For our analysis, we create three scenarios. In the first scenario Belo Monte appears feasible, with a net present value (NPV) in the range of US$670 million and a rate of return in excess of the 12% discount rate used in this analysis. The second scenario, where we varied some of the project costs and assumptions based on other economic estimates, shows the project to be infeasible, with a negative NPV of about US$3 billion and external costs around US$330 million. We also conducted a risk analysis, allowing variation in several of the parameters most important to the project'€™s feasibility. The simulations brought together the risks of cost overruns, construction delays, lower-than-expected generation and rising social costs. The probability of a positive NPV in these circumstances was calculated to be just 28%, or there is a 72% chance that the costs of the Belo Monte dam will be greater than the benefits. Several WCD recommendations are not considered in the project, especially those related to transparency, social participation in the discussion, economic analysis and risk assessment, and licensing of the project. This study underscores the importance of forming a participatory consensus, based on clear, objective information, on whether or not to build the Belo Monte dam.


Treatment of displaced indigenous populations in two large hydro projects in Panama

Mary Finley-Brook
Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA, US;
Curtis Thomas
International and Environmental Studies Programs, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA, US;

ABSTRACT: Consultation practices with affected populations prior to hydro concessions often remained poor in the decade since the World Commission on Dams (WCD) although, in some cases the involvement of local people in the details of resettlement has improved. Numerous international and national actors, such as state agencies, multilateral banks, corporate shareholders, and pro-business media, support the development of dams, but intergovernmental agencies struggle to assure the protection of fundamental civil, human, and indigenous rights at the permitting and construction stages. We analyse two large-scale Panamanian dams with persistent disrespect for indigenous land tenure. Free, prior, and informed consent was sidestepped even though each dam required or will require Ngöbe, Emberá, or Kuna villages to relocate. When populations protested, additional human rights violations occurred, including state-sponsored violence. International bodies are slowly identifying and denouncing this abuse of power. Simultaneously, many nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) seek change in Panama consistent with WCD'™s good-practice guidelines. A number of NGOs have tied hydro projects to unethical greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions trade. As private and state institutions market formerly collective water and carbon resources for profit, these Panamanian cases have become central to a public debate over equitable and green hydro development. Media communication feeds disputes through frontline coverage of cooperation and confrontation.


The Ilisu dam in Turkey and the role of export credit agencies and NGO networks

Christine Eberlein
Programme Manager, Berne Declaration, Zurich, Switzerland;
Heike Drillisch
Coordinator, CounterCurrent -€“ GegenStrömung, Potsdam, Germany;
Ercan Ayboga
International Spokesperson, Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, Yenisehir-Diyarbakir, Turkey;
Thomas Wenidoppler
Project Coordinator, ECA-Watch Austria, Vienna, Austria;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) report focused attention on the question of how those displaced by large dams can be adequately compensated and properly resettled. An important debate from the Dams and Development Forum concerned the appropriate roles of different stakeholders, and the question as to how governments and 'external stakeholders' such as international institutions, financial investors and non-government organisations (NGOs) can be encouraged to implement the WCD recommendations and international standards on resettlement and environmental protection. This article analyses the actions of three European export credit agencies (ECAs) aimed at improving the outcomes of the Ilisu Dam and hydroelectric power project in Kurdish-populated southeast of Turkey. It also explores the role of NGOs within the process of achieving best practice and preventing poor outcomes. Even though the ECAs'€™ efforts to meet World Bank project standards were unsuccessful and ended in July 2009 with their withdrawal, this was the first case in history where ECAs tried to implement specified social and environmental project conditions. This article aims ultimately to analyse the reasons for the failure to meet the ECAs'€™ conditions, and the lessons to be learned from this process.



The changing political dynamics of dam building on the Mekong

Philip Hirsch
Professor of Human Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia;

ABSTRACT: This paper explores political dynamics surrounding dam building in the Mekong river basin, prior to, and following, the World Commission on Dams (WCD). Since the 1950s, dam building in the Mekong river basin has been enmeshed in a complex and shifting geopolitical and eco-political landscape. The broad geopolitical sweep of US hegemony, Cold War, regional rapprochement and the rise of China has been superimposed on eco-political shifts between modernist belief in progress as mastery over nature, concerns of global and national environmental movements over dams and their impacts, and a galvanised Mekong environmentalism. During the first decade of the 21st century, mainstream dams on the Lower Mekong have returned to the agenda after having almost disappeared in favour of tributary projects. The growing strength and assertiveness of regional economic players has fundamentally altered the context of energy demand, planning and investment. New sources of finance have relocated the points of political leverage. Environment has been mustered in favour of, as well as in opposition to, dam construction in the contexts of climate-change discourses, protected-area linkage with dam projects, and an industry push for sustainability protocols and certification. Despite the Mekong being one of its focal basins, WCD has not played a prominent role in this transformed arena, yet many of the social and environmental concerns, stakeholder-based processes and safeguard-oriented approaches to hydropower planning that WCD brought to the fore have persisted in the wider ethos of politics around dams in the region.


Dam development in Vietnam: The evolution of dam-induced resettlement policy

Nga Dao
PhD Candidate in Geography, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada;

ABSTRACT: Prior to 1990, Vietnam did not have a resettlement programme for situations where the state appropriated land for its own interests. Vietnam is now revising its resettlement policies to meet international standards. Drawing on interviews, ethnographic research and government documents, this paper compares the Hoa Binh (constructed between 1979 and 1994) and Son La dams (formally under construction since 2005) to seek answers to the following questions: How have resettlement policies evolved over time? How have resettlement programmes been implemented in Vietnam? The comparison between a dam built in 1970s-80s and one now under construction shows that the improvements in policy may bring limited improvements in dam development planning and practices to Vietnam.


The World Commission on Dams + 10: Revisiting the large dam controversy

Deborah Moore
Former Commissioner, World Commission on Dams; Executive Director, Green Schools Initiative; Berkeley, California, USA;
John Dore
Water Resources Advisor, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Mekong Region;
Dipak Gyawali
Research Director, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation, Kathmandu, Nepal;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) was an experiment in multi-stakeholder dialogue and global governance concerned with a subject area -€“ large dams -€“ that was fraught with conflict and controversy. The WCD Report, Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making, was published in 2000 and accompanied by hopes that broad-based agreements would be forged on how to better manage water and energy development. Ten years later, this special issue of Water Alternatives revisits the WCD and its impacts, exploring the question: Is the WCD still relevant? The editorial team and the Guest Editors of this special issue of Water Alternatives have selected a range of 20 papers, 6 viewpoints, and 4 book reviews that help to illustrate the evolution in the dams debate. The goal of this special issue is to examine the influence and the impacts of the WCD on the dam enterprise, in general, and on the policies and practices of key stakeholders and institutions, and on the development outcomes for affected communities and environments, in particular. In this introduction, the Guest Editors provide an overview of the special issue, exploring the new drivers of dam development that have emerged during the last decade, including climate change and new financiers of dams, and describing the themes emerging from this diverse set of papers and viewpoints. This special issue demonstrates the need for a renewed multi-stakeholder dialogue at multiple levels. This would not be a redo of the WCD, but rather a rekindling and redesigning of processes and forums where mutual understanding, information-sharing, and norm-setting can occur. One of the most promising developments of the last decade is the further demonstration, in case studies described here, that true partnership amongst key stakeholders can produce transformative resource-sharing agreements, showing that many of the WCD recommendations around negotiated decision making are working in practice. We hope that this special issue sparks a dialogue to recommit ourselves to finding effective, just, and lasting solutions for water, energy and ecosystem management. It is a testament to the continued relevance of the WCD Report that ten years later it is still a topic of intense interest and debate, as illustrated by the papers presented in this special issue.


Chixoy dam legacies: The struggle to secure reparation and the right to remedy in Guatemala

Barbara Rose Johnston
Senior Research Fellow, Center for Political Ecology, Santa Cruz, CA, US;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams brought global attention to the adverse costs of large dam development, including the disproportionate displacement of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities and the extreme impoverishment of development refugees. The WCD recommended that governments, industry and financial institutions accept responsibility for flawed development and make proper reparation, including remedial activities such as the restoration of livelihood and land compensation for relocated communities. One exemplary case cited is Guatemala'€™s Chixoy dam. Completed in 1982, this internationally financed dam was built during a time when military dictatorships deployed policies of state-sponsored violence against a Mayan citizenry. Construction occurred without a resettlement plan, and forced displacement occurred through violence and massacre. This paper describes an attempt to implement WCD reparation recommendations in a context where no political will existed. To clarify events, abuses and meaningful remedy, an independent assessment process was established in 2003, auditing the development record, assessing consequential damages and facilitating the community articulation of histories and needs. The resulting 2005 study played a key role in reparation negotiations. The Chixoy case illustrates some of the more profound impacts of the WCD review. The WCD served as a catalyst in social movement formation and a force that expanded rights-protective space for dam-affected communities to negotiate an equitable involvement in development.


Peace on the river? Social-ecological restoration and large dam removal in the Klamath basin, USA

Hannah Gosnell
Assistant Professor, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, USA;
Erin Clover Kelly
Postdoctoral Research Associate, College of Forestry, Oregon State University, USA;

ABSTRACT: This paper aims to explain the multiple factors that contributed to a 2010 agreement to remove four large dams along the Klamath river in California and Oregon and initiate a comprehensive social-ecological restoration effort that will benefit Indian tribes, the endangered fish on which they depend, irrigated agriculture, and local economies in the river basin. We suggest that the legal framework, including the tribal trust responsibility, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Power Act, combined with an innovative approach to negotiation that allowed for collaboration and compromise, created a space for divergent interests to come together and forge a legally and politically viable solution to a suite of social and environmental problems. Improved social relations between formerly antagonistic Indian tribes and non-tribal farmers and ranchers, which came about due to a number of local collaborative processes during the early 2000s, were critical to the success of this effort. Overall, we suggest that recent events in the Klamath basin are indicative of a significant power shift taking place between tribal and non-tribal interests as tribes gain access to decision-making processes regarding tribal trust resources and develop capacity to participate in the development of complex restoration strategies.


Viewpoint -€“ The World Bank versus the World Commission on Dams

Robert Goodland
613 Rivercrest, McLean VA 22101, USA;

ABSTRACT: The World Bank Group (WBG) has long resisted guidelines from reformers and the World Commission on Dams (WCD) requiring large dam projects to internalise the social and environmental costs of dam construction. Despite some progress, the Bank continues to resist calls for it to eschew countries'€™ use of violence in removing residents from areas to be flooded by reservoirs, compensate residents adequately for their losses, or involve affected people in planning for big dams. Suggestions are made for more humane and economically responsible Bank policies.


Viewpoint -€“ Overreach and response: The politics of the WCD and its aftermath

John Briscoe
Gordon McKay, Professor of the Practice of Environmental Engineering, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, US;

ABSTRACT: This essay recounts the story of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) from the perspective of a former World Bank official who is often credited with first creating and then destroying the WCD. The story is consistent with the (in my view) only accurate previously published description of the politics of the WCD, that of the anti-dam leader Patrick McCully. In essence, this assessment is that the WCD was an extraordinarily audacious process, which aimed to substitute the legitimacy of the states in developing countries (elected in most cases, accountable in all) with the will of anti-dam NGOs that are not accountable to anyone except their fellow advocates. This essay outlines the reasons why no dam-building country has accepted the central recommendation of the WCD -€“ the 26 Guidelines. While the rejection of the Guidelines (by countries and by the World Bank) is bemoaned by anti-dam NGOs, this essay argues that this well thought-out rejection represents a positive and long overdue turning point in the governance of development assistance. Accountable representatives from the developing world eventually did their duty -€“ they developed a coherent and united position rejecting the WCD Guidelines and articulated a vision of why water infrastructure was central to growth and poverty reduction. This essay shows how this coherence evolved and how important it is in counterbalancing the moral hazard ('I decide, you live with the consequences') that pervades most discussions of development. Finally, the essay outlines the hope which this evolution and broader changes in global economic geography hold for bringing accountability and some common sense to the often Alice-in-Wonderland world of development cooperation.


Viewpoint -€“ Reflections on the WCD as a mechanism of global governance

Navroz K. Dubash
Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, India;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) has aroused debate as an innovation in global governance. I suggest that the WCD did, indeed, have many innovative features, but argue that processes such as the WCD are better suited to propagating norms than making rules at the global level. The norm setting and propagating role is critical because there are no other plausible mechanisms of debating the larger ideas that inform decision-making, in a way that credibly brings in voices of the poor and powerless. I develop this argument by looking at three aspects of the WCD: its characteristics as a global governance mechanism; how it sought to achieve legitimacy; and its role as an agent of regulative versus normative change.


Viewpoint - From dams to development justice: Progress with 'free, prior and informed consent' Since the World Commission on Dams

Joji Cariño
Former Commissioner, World Commission on Dams; Policy Advisor, Tebtebba, Baguio City, Philippines;
Marcus Colchester
Director, Forest Peoples Programme, Moreton-in-Marsh, UK;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) helped establish as development best practice the requirement to respect the right of indigenous peoples to give or withhold their 'free, prior and informed consent' (FPIC) to development projects that will affect them. Recognition of this right helps redress the unequal power relations between indigenous peoples and others seeking access to their lands and resources. In this Viewpoint, we examine the evolution of policy in the ten years since the publication of the WCD Report, and how FPIC has been affirmed as a right of indigenous peoples under international human rights law and as industry best practice for extractive industries, logging, forestry plantations, palm oil, protected areas and, most recently, for projects to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. To date, relatively few national legal frameworks explicitly require respect for this right and World Bank standards have yet to be revised in line with these advances in international law. We analyse how international law also needs to clarify how the right to FPIC relates to the State'™s power to impose resource exploitation in the 'national interest' and whether 'local communities' more broadly also enjoy the right to FPIC. In practice, as documented in this Viewpoint and in the cases we review, the right to FPIC is widely abused by corporations and State agencies. A growing tendency to reduce implementation of FPIC to a simplified check list of actions for outsiders to follow, risks again removing control over decisions from indigenous peoples. For FPIC to be effective it must respect indigenous peoples' rights to control their customary lands, represent themselves through their own institutions and make decisions according to procedures and rhythms of their choosing.


Viewpoint - Principles in practice: Updating the global multi-stakeholder dialogue on dams in 2010

D. Mark Smith
Head, Water Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gland, Switzerland;

ABSTRACT: The WCD laid out a way forward for dams to serve development better, and to deliver better outcomes for people as well as ecosystems. The conclusions reached were evidence-based and made in an open, multi-stakeholder dialogue. Given this process and taken as a whole, the WCD could not be ignored in 2000, and ten years later in 2010, the WCD still cannot be dismissed. To be meaningful in the long-run, however, the WCD required follow-up. Among many needs was the challenge of translating principles and guidelines developed at a global level to practice that could be implemented at a national and project level. IUCN'€™s response, for example, has been very practical and oriented principally towards dissemination, dialogue, demonstration and learning.

The WCD recommendations were not embraced by all stakeholders, and it is increasingly clear that the drivers for dam development and the actors involved are changing, because of for example climate change and the emergence of China as a major international financier of dams. It may be time therefore to renew efforts to expand consensus on dams and re-galvanise the global multi-stakeholder dialogue that was started by the WCD. Otherwise, the 21st century dams industry will run into the same risks - fuelled by issues of equity, environment and dissatisfaction with development outcomes achieved -€“ that brought their counterparts into the WCD in 1998.

KEYWORDS: Multi-stakeholder dialogue, learning, demonstration, sustainability


Viewpoint -€“ Better management of hydropower in an era of climate change

Jamie Pittock
Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Ten years ago the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report established new standards for the sustainable development of water infrastructure, but the hopes many of us had then for a new era of more thoughtful development have been attenuated by the resilience of the hydraulic bureaucracy and the emergence of new influences on the hydropower debate. Particularly important is the impact of climate change as a driver of government policies in favour of hydropower, water storage and inter-basin water transfers. As a former Director of Freshwater for WWF International and now as a researcher on the water-energy nexus, I spent much of the past decade seeking to influence the direction of water infrastructure development, and in this viewpoint I have been asked to reflect on the changes that have occurred, and the opportunities in an era of climate change to reduce the environmental and social impacts of hydropower development while maximising the benefits. Better outcomes are more likely with a renewed focus on limiting the perverse impacts of climate change policies, implementing standards for certification of more sustainable hydropower, building capacities within developing countries, and enhancing management of existing dams.


Viewpoint -€“ The role of the German development cooperation in promoting sustainable hydropower

Cathleen Seeger
Policy Advisor, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Eschborn, Germany;
Kirsten Nyman
Project Coordinator, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Eschborn, Germany;
Richard Twum
Executive Director, Volta Basin Development Foundation (VBDF), Accra, Ghana;

ABSTRACT: After long and intense discussions on the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD), large dams are back on the agenda of international finance institutions. Asia, Latin America and Africa are planning to expand their hydropower utilisation. Hydropower is a key component of renewable energy, and therefore supports protection against climate change. Water storage over the long term and flood control are the main issues discussed with regard to climate adaptation measures.

Such trends are reflected by the increasing engagement of the German Development Cooperation (GDC) in the field of integrated water resources management (IWRM) programmes on the national and regional levels. A number of projects on transboundary water management in Africa, Central Asia and in the Mekong region have been initiated. In the context of these and other bilateral water and energy projects, partner countries are increasingly requesting the GDC to advise on the planning and management of sustainable hydropower.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has for the last decade been known as a promoter of multi-stakeholder dialogues and as a supporter during the WCD process and the Dams and Development Project (DDP) of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). In addition, it has a reputation as an important bilateral and neutral partner. The BMZ recognises hydropower as a source of renewable energy, and acknowledges the potential and need for multipurpose usages of dams, as well as its role in global energy change. However, large dams also have to meet social and ecological requirements for their sustainable use. In this respect, the BMZ endorsed the WCD recommendations.

Germany'™s engagement in the promotion of participatory processes on dam-related issues is building on the WCD and follow-up processes, as outlined in this article. On the global level, BMZ, represented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), is currently part of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (HSAF). On the national level, one example of support is the contribution to and interaction with the Ghana Dam Dialogue, which is facilitated through two local partners: the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Volta Basin Development Foundation (VBDF).


Lost in development'€™s shadow: The downstream human consequences of dams

Brian D. Richter
Director, Global Freshwater Program, The Nature Conservancy, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA;
Sandra Postel
Director, Global Water Policy Project, Los Lunas, NM, USA;
Carmen Revenga
Senior Freshwater Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA, USA;
Thayer Scudder
Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA;
Bernhard Lehner
Assistant Professor of Global Hydrology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada;
Allegra Churchill
Master'€™s Candidate, University of Virginia, Dept of Landscape Architecture, Charlottesville, VA;
Morgan Chow
Research analyst, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA, USA;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) report documented a number of social and environmental problems observed in dam development projects. The WCD gave particular emphasis to the challenges of properly resettling populations physically displaced by dams, and estimated the total number of people directly displaced at 40-80 million. Less attention has been given, however, to populations living downstream of dams whose livelihoods have been affected by dam-induced alterations of river flows. By substantially changing natural flow patterns and blocking movements of fish and other animals, large dams can severely disrupt natural riverine production systems -€“ especially fisheries, flood-recession agriculture and dry-season grazing. We offer here the first global estimate of the number of river-dependent people potentially affected by dam-induced changes in river flows and other ecosystem conditions. Our conservative estimate of 472 million river-dependent people living downstream of large dams along impacted river reaches lends urgency to the need for more comprehensive assessments of dam costs and benefits, as well as to the social inequities between dam beneficiaries and those potentially disadvantaged by dam projects. We conclude with three key steps in dam development processes that could substantially alleviate the damaging downstream impacts of dams.


Initiatives in the hydro sector post-World Commission on Dams -€“ The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum

Helen Locher
Sustainability Forum Coordinator, International Hydropower Association;
Geir Yngve Hermansen
Senior Advisor, Department for Energy, Norad, Norway;
Gudni A. Johannesson
Director General, National Energy Authority, Iceland;
Yu Xuezhong
Associate Professor, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, China;
Israel Phiri
Manager, Ministry of Energy and Water Development, Zambia;
David Harrison
Senior Advisor, Global Freshwater Team, The Nature Conservancy;
Joerg Hartmann
WWF Dams Initiative Leader, WWF Germany;
Michael Simon
Lead - People, Infrastructure and Environment Program, Oxfam Australia;
Donal O'€™Leary
Senior Advisor, Transparency International;
Courtney Lowrance
Vice President, Environmental & Social Risk Management, Markets and Banking, Citigroup Global Markets Inc;
Daryl Fields
Senior Water Resources Specialist, Energy, Transport and Water, The World Bank;
André Abadie
Forum Chair, Sustainable Finance Ltd;
Refaat Abdel-Malek
MWH Global, Inc;
Andrew Scanlon
Manager Business Sustainability, Hydro Tasmania, Australia;
Zhou Shichun
Senior Engineer, China Hydropower Engineering Consulting Group Co., Beijing, China;
Kirsten Nyman
Policy Advisor for Sustainable Hydropower, GTZ, Germany;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) has called for developers, governments, civil society, etc. to use its Strategic Priorities as a starting point for dialogue and initiatives to address issues regarding the development of dams. One very notable follow-up initiative has been led by the hydropower industry. The International Hydropower Association developed Sustainability Guidelines (IHA, 2004) and a Sustainability Assessment Protocol (IHA, 2006), and most recently has been involved in a two-year process with governments, NGOs and the finance sector to develop a broadly endorsed sustainability assessment tool based on review and update of the IHA Sustainability Assessment Protocol. This cross-sectoral process, known as the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (HSAF), has drawn on the knowledge base and many of the findings and recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, as well as a number of other developments in the last ten years. A fundamental premise of the work of the Forum is that an industry-driven and -owned initiative has far-reaching potential to influence performance in the hydropower sector. At the same time, the potential for the use of a broadly endorsed sustainability assessment tool for hydropower by those in other sectors is well recognised and aspired to by the Forum. This paper describes the work of the Forum up to August 2009 and the contents of the Draft Protocol released publicly in August 2009, and considers some of the commonalities and points of departure between this process and the WCD. The Forum'€™s work on the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is a work in progress, so this paper can describe but not give a full analysis of the work while it is in train.


The dam industry, the World Commission on Dams and the HSAF process

Peter Bosshard
International Rivers, Berkeley, CA, USA;

ABSTRACT: Most actors of the global dam industry primarily operate within their national borders, and are either controlled by or do most of their business with the state. Because of this, the dam industry was slow to respond to the creation of the World Commission on Dams (WCD), and did not provide coordinated inputs into the WCD process. The hydropower industry is the part of the dam industry which is most directly affected by international policy developments. Not surprisingly, the hydropower sector provided the most systematic response to the WCD report among all industry actors, initially through a defensive reaction and subsequently through the creation of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum. While the hydropower industry was largely united in its rejection of the policy principles put forward by the WCD, its proactive approach has been beset by divisions and contradictions.

While some industry actors are trying to strengthen the environmental norms which are being applied in the sector, others do not see a need for this. Trying to balance such diverging views, the hydropower industry would like to establish norms that can create predictability through the certification of projects. Yet it is not prepared to accept binding minimum standards which would confer new obligations to the hydropower industry.


Perspectives on the salience and magnitude of dam impacts for hydro development scenarios in China

Desiree Tullos
Assistant Professor, Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, US;
Philip H. Brown
Associate Professor of Economics, Colby College, Waterville, ME, US;
Kelly Kibler
PhD student, Water Resources Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, US;
Darrin Magee
Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY, US;
Bryan Tilt
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, US;
Aaron T. Wolf
Professor of Geography and Chair, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, US;

ABSTRACT: Following the principles and priorities outlined by the World Commission on Dams, managers are increasingly considering a greater variety of impacts in their decision making regarding dams. However, many challenges remain in evaluating the biophysical, socioeconomic and geopolitical impacts of dams, including the potential diversity of stakeholder perspectives on dam impacts.

In this analysis, we surveyed representatives of non-governmental organisations, academics and hydropower and government officials in Yunnan Province, China, to better understand how stakeholder group views on the size (magnitude) and importance (salience) of dam impacts vary. We applied the technique defined by the Interdisciplinary Dam Assessment Model (IDAM) to simulate three dam development scenarios: dams in general, a single large dam and multiple small dams. We then surveyed the experts to measure their views on the magnitude and salience of 21 biophysical, geopolitical and socioeconomic impacts for the three scenarios.

Survey results indicate differences in the perceived salience and magnitude of impacts across both expert groups and dam scenarios. Furthermore, surveys indicate that stakeholder perceptions changed as the information provided regarding dam impacts became more specific, suggesting that stakeholder evaluation may be influenced by quality of information. Finally, qualitative comments from the survey reflect some of the challenges of interdisciplinary dam assessment, including cross-disciplinary cooperation, data standardisation and weighting, and the distribution and potential mitigation of impacts. Given the complexity of data and perceptions around dam impacts, decision-support tools that integrate the objective magnitude and perceived salience of impacts are required urgently.


Policy considerations for greenhouse gas emissions from freshwater reservoirs

Kirsi Mäkinen
Researcher, Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland;
Shahbaz Khan
Chief, Water and Sustainable Development Section, UNESCO, Paris, France;

ABSTRACT: Emerging concern over greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from wetlands has prompted calls to address the climate impact of dams in climate policy frameworks. Existing studies indicate that reservoirs can be significant sources of emissions, particularly in tropical areas. However, knowledge on the role of dams in overall national emission levels and abatement targets is limited, which is often cited as a key reason for political inaction and delays in formulating appropriate policies. Against this backdrop, this paper discusses the current role of reservoir emissions in existing climate policy frameworks. The distance between a global impact on climate and a need for local mitigation measures creates a challenge for designing appropriate mechanisms to combat reservoir emissions. This paper presents a range of possible policy interventions at different scales that could help address the climate impact of reservoirs. Reservoir emissions need to be treated like other anthropogenic greenhouse gases. A rational treatment of the issue requires applying commonly accepted climate change policy principles as well as promoting participatory water management plans through integrated water resource management frameworks. An independent global body such as the UN system may be called upon to assess scientific information and develop GHG emissions policy at appropriate levels.


Nepal'€™s constructive Dialogue on Dams and Development

Ajaya Dixit
Chairman, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation, Kathmandu, Nepal;
Dipak Gyawali
Research Director, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation, Kathmandu, Nepal;

ABSTRACT: This paper describes a consultation process that took place in Nepal from January 2003 to July 2004 involving dam builders, dam managers and dam critics. It discusses the key findings of the review and reflects on the differences between dams built with domestic designs and funding that suffer no controversy and ongoing dam projects involving international agencies that are mired in dispute. The paper concludes that Nepal must continue with the deliberative process which characterised the period immediately after the WCD Report was released if it is to end the policy impasse that plagues the development of hydropower in the country.

The government of Nepal, like the governments of its neighbours India and China, unequivocally rejected the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) Report soon after its release in November 2000. Later, more considered reactions revealed more complex sentiments among Nepalis inasmuch that social activists welcomed the recommendations as valid and necessary, while the dam building community, including the official hydrocracy, held that they were impracticable. The then government, assessing that the business-as-usual dam building approach would face an impasse and not help meet Nepal'€™s growing need for water and electricity, concluded that the country could ill-afford to reject the WCD'€™s findings. It took a policy initiative in December 2002 to engage with the report more aggressively, comparing the WCD recommendations with Nepal'€™s own national laws, acts and policies in order to explore the contours of an alternative approach. Lessons from the consultative and inclusive global review effort that the WCD represented needed to be thoroughly internalised by Nepal so that no bad dams would be proposed for funding and only good dams built.

The consultations of 2003-2004 revealed that many Nepali laws were already robust and did, in fact, incorporate the WCD recommendations adequately. A second cycle of consultations identified many second-generation problems, including those related to ensuring compliance, gaining public acceptance, recognising entitlements, sharing benefits and conducting comprehensive options assessments. The major limitation to Nepal'€™s ability to take up the WCD recommendations turned out to be less in the laws themselves and more in the implementation of, and compliance with, these laws.

The findings of the two consultative reviews meant little to either subsequent governments of Nepal or to the international aid industry, despite the opportunity for change that the dramatic democratic movement of 2005/2006 offered -€“ government hydrocracy and the political parties guiding it, as well as international donors, continued to favour the conventional model of dam building. Their silence about the review is inexplicable, especially in light of the flaws in, and controversy surrounding, the ADB-funded Kali Gandaki A and German-funded Middle Marsyangdi dams, both of which followed conventional practice. A new electricity act currently tabled in the parliament also fails to take into account many of the lessons that should have been learnt so easily from past mistakes.


Gaining public acceptance: A critical strategic priority of the World Commission on Dams

John Dore
Water Resources Advisor, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Mekong Region;
Louis Lebel
Director, Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand;

ABSTRACT: Gaining Public Acceptance (GPA) was a strategic priority recommended in the final report of the World Commission on Dams (WCD). GPA remains a central, thorny challenge for all parties interested in how society makes decisions about the development of water resources, the provision of energy, and the maintenance of ecosystems, whilst striving for social justice. The WCD'€™s GPA is largely about issues of procedural justice (e.g. inclusion and access) and proposes process-related principles. Distributional justice is also important (e.g. equitable sharing of benefits; and, avoiding unfair and involuntary risk-bearing).

Several key lessons are emerging from past initiatives to gain public acceptance through participatory exercises. Differences in development and sustainability orientations are obvious in debates on dams and need to be explicitly considered and not glossed over. Politics and power imbalances pervade participatory processes, and require much more attention than they receive. Ultimately, the accountability and legitimacy of state and non-state actors are crucial but complex as there are many ways to build public trust.

To earn legitimacy and more likely acceptance of important public decisions we suggest a comprehensive set of 'gold standard' state-society attributes for improving governance. Multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) can help deliberation to become routine, enabling complex water issues to be more rigorously examined. The combination of increased public trust, earned by the state, and high-quality MSPs to assist more informed negotiations, we see as being key to the gaining of public acceptance.


Download (pdf, 267 KB)

BR3-2-1 VENOT.pdf

Sharing the benefits of large dams in West Africa (Skinner, J.; Niasse, M. and Lawrence, H., 2009).
Jean-Philippe Venot


Download (pdf, 235 KB)


Dam (Turpin, T., 2008).
Carl Middleton


Download (pdf, 312 KB)

BR3-2-3 BOYE.pdf

Native peoples and water rights: Irrigation, dams, and the law in Western Canada (Matsui, K., 2009).
Hana Boye and Richard Paisley


Download (pdf, 225 KB)

BR3-2-4 WESTER.pdf

Water war in the Klamath basin: Macho law, combat biology, and dirty politics (Doremus, H. and Tarlock, D., 2008).
Philippus Wester


Download (pdf, 1.43 MB)

WCD+10 Survey Final.pdf