WCD+10: Revisiting the Large Dam Controversy

International Rivers, 10 June 2010

In November 2000, the World Commission on Dams published its ground-breaking report, Dams and Development, after an unprecedented multi-stakeholder process. Ten years later, Water Alternatives, an independent academic online journal, revisits the WCD and its impacts in a special issue, and explores the question: Is the WCD still relevant?

A team of editors and guest editors 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 the special issue is to examine the influence and impacts of the WCD on dam building in general, on the policies and practices of key actors and institutions, and on the development outcomes for affected communities and the environment. The papers and commentaries are from a broad cross-section of authors from the dam industry, civil society, dam financiers and governments, and academia. They reflect the current state of the global dams debate.

In their introduction, the guest editors of the new Water Alternatives issue write:

“Despite the WCD process, the legacies and controversies of the world’s 45,000 large dams continue to cause conflict. Few rivers remain that have been untouched by some type of dam. Displaced populations, estimated between 40-80 million, have frequently been resettled with minimal or no compensation, often in marginal lands, and in the majority of cases have become and remained poorer. Large-scale alteration of natural hydrologic regimes has had massive impacts on fisheries, water-based livelihoods, aquatic ecosystems and environmental services as a whole. Some scientists also believe that many reservoirs emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, up to 4% of all human-induced GHG emissions, as reviewed in this volume by M�kinen and Khan. Indeed, the first-ever global estimate of the number of river-dependent people potentially affected by dam-induced changes in river flows and other ecosystem conditions is presented in this volume by Richter et al.: that 472 million river-dependent people have had their livelihoods negatively affected by dams.”Several papers explore new tools and approaches – the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum, economic risk analysis, non-dam alternatives, community referenda as a means of participatory decision making – and others examine specific cases, including dams in the Mekong, Amazon, Klamath, Tigris-Euphrates, and Chixoy river basins.

Viewpoints from many individuals and organisations with direct involvement during the WCD process provide perspectives on the roles of the state, non-government organisations (NGOs), and multilateral agencies in developing and enforcing policies, and on the evolution of principles of ’free, prior, and informed consent’ in international law.

“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.”

The new issue of Water Alternatives can be viewed at http://www.water-alternatives.org. UNEP is funding a book version of the new issue, which will be presented at a special session of World Water Week in Stockholm on September 7, 2010.

International Rivers has contributed a paper and a book review to the new issue of Water Alternatives. We will be reviewing some of its papers separately.

Water Alternatives.
WaA Alert: Issue 3-2

This Special Issue will also come out as a book to be printed and distributed by UNEP. The book will be released at the Stockholm World Water Week on 7 September 2010 at a special session convened by Water Alternatives and UNEP, with the collaboration of M-POWER, International Rivers, WWF, IUCN, International Hydropower Association and Water Integrity Network.

Volume 3 | Issue 2

June 2010

Special Issue: WCD+10: Revisiting the large dam controversy
Guest editors: Deborah Moore, John Dore, Dipak Gyawali

Achim Steiner
Water Alternatives 3(2): 1-2

The World Commission on Dams + 10: Revisiting the large dam controversy
Deborah Moore, John Dore, Dipak Gyawali
Water Alternatives 3(2): 3-13

Lost in development’s shadow: The downstream human consequences of dams
Brian D. Richter, Sandra Postel, Carmen Revenga, Thayer Scudder, Bernhard Lehner, Allegra Churchill, Morgan Chow
Water Alternatives 3(2): 14-42

Initiatives in the hydro sector post World Commission on Dams – The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum
Helen Locher, Geir Yngve Hermansen, Gudni A. Johannesson, Yu Xuezhong, Israel Phiri, David Harrison, Joerg Hartmann, Michael Simon, Donald O’Leary, Courtney Lowrance, Daryl Fields, André Abadie, Refaat Abdel-Malek, Andrew Scanlon, Zhou Shichun, Kirsten Nyman
Water Alternatives 3(2): 43-57

The dam industry, the World Commission on Dams and the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (HSAF) process
Peter Bosshard
Water Alternatives 3(2): 58-70

Perspectives on the salience and magnitude of dam impacts for hydro development scenarios in China
Desiree Tullos, Philip H. Brown, Kelly Kibler, Darrin Magee, Bryan Tilt, Aaron Wolf
Water Alternatives 3(2): 71-90

Policy considerations for greenhouse gas emissions from freshwater reservoirs
Kirsi Mäkinen, Shahbaz Khan
Water Alternatives 3(2): 91-105

Nepal’s constructive Dialogue on Dams and Development
Ajaya Dixit, Dipak Gyawali
Water Alternatives 3(2): 106-123

Gaining public acceptance: A critical strategic priority of the World Commission on Dams
John Dore, Louis Lebel
Water Alternatives 3(2): 124-141

Dams and displacement: Raising the standards and broadening the research agenda
Brooke McDonald-Wilmsen, Michael Webber
Water Alternatives 3(2): 142-161

Participation with a punch: Community referenda on dam projects and the right to free, prior, and informed consent to development
Brant McGee
Water Alternatives 3(2): 162-184

Social discounting of large dams with climate change uncertainty
Marc Jeuland
Water Alternatives 3(2): 185-206

Non-dam alternatives for delivering water services at least cost and risk
Michael P. Totten, Timothy J. Killeen, Tracy A. Farrell
Water Alternatives 3(2): 207-230

Discussing large dams in Asia after the World Commission on Dams: Is a political ecology approach the way forward?
Ravi Baghel, Marcus Nüsser
Water Alternatives 3(2): 231-248

Uncertainties in the Amazon hydropower development: Risk scenarios and environmental issues around the Belo Monte dam
Wilson Cabral de Sousa Júnior, John Reid
Water Alternatives 3(2): 249-268

Treatment of displaced indigenous populations in two large hydro projects in Panama
Mary Finley-Brook, Curtis Thomas
Water Alternatives 3(2): 269-290

Export Credit Agencies and the Ilisu dam in Turkey
Christine Eberlein, Heike Drillisch, Ercan Ayboga, Thomas Wenidoppler
Water Alternatives 3(2): 291-311

The changing political dynamics of dam building on the Mekong
Philip Hirsch
Water Alternatives 3(2): 312-323

Dam development in Vietnam: The evolution of dam-induced resettlement policy
Nga Dao
Water Alternatives 3(2): 324-340

Chixoy dam legacies: The struggle to secure reparation and the right to remedy in Guatemala
Barbara Rose Johnston
Water Alternatives 3(2): 341-361

Peace on the river? Social-ecological restoration and large dam removal in the Klamath basin, USA
Hannah Gosnell, Erin Clover Kelly
Water Alternatives 3(2): 362-383

Viewpoints and experiences

The World Bank versus the World Commission on Dams
Robert Goodland
Water Alternatives 3(2): 384-398

Overreach and response: The politics of the WCD and its aftermath
John Briscoe
Water Alternatives 3(2): 399-415

Reflections on the WCD as a mechanism of global governance
Navroz Dubash
Water Alternatives 3(2): 416-422

From dams to development justice: Progress with ’free, prior and informed consent’ since the World Commission on Dams
Joji Cariño, Marcus Colchester
Water Alternatives 3(2): 423-437

Principles in practice: Updating the global multi-stakeholder dialogue on dams in 2010
Mark Smith
Water Alternatives 3(2): 438-443

Better management of hydropower in an era of climate change
Jamie Pittock
Water Alternatives 3(2): 444-452

The role of the German Development Cooperation in promoting sustainable hydropower
Cathleen Seeger, Kirsten Nyman, Richard Twum
Water Alternatives 3(2): 453-462

Book Reviews

Sharing the benefits of large dams in West Africa (Skinner, J.; Niasse, M. and Lawrence, H., 2009).
Jean-Philippe Venot
Water Alternatives 3(2): 463-465

Dam (Turpin, Y., 2008).
Carl Middleton
Water Alternatives 3(2): 466-468

Native peoples and water rights: irrigation, dams, and the law in Western Canada (Matsui, K., 2009).
Hana Boye and Richard Paisley
Water Alternatives 3(2): 469-472

Water war in the Klamath basin: Macho law, combat biology, and dirty politics (Doremus, H. and Tarlock, D., 2008).
Philippus Wester
Water Alternatives 3(2): 473-474

2 Respostas

  1. Big dams often cause controversy due to the widespread impact on local communities, flood areas, changes in river ecosystems, geologic hazards, and regional water disputes.here are five of the world’s most controversial dam projects, either recently completed or still under construction.

  2. […] the world’s largest hydroelectricity projects, he played a key role in the establishment of theWorld Commission on Dams in 1997, led by Achim Steiner (who later became the head of IUCN and then of […]

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