U.S. Water News Online
GLAND, Switzerland -- Dam critics and proponents have agreed to work together to establish a top-level commission to review the social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits of the world's dams. The new commission will recommend international standards on dam construction; assess sustainable, equitable methods of land and water management and energy production; and make recommendations on repairing the environmental damage done by existing dams.
The need for an independent review of dams was agreed upon by participants at a workshop in Gland, Switzerland, co-sponsored by the World Bank and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the world's largest network of conservation organizations and agencies. The 35 participants at the workshop included senior World Bank officials, critics of large dams from advocacy groups and academia, representatives from dam-building companies and agencies, and people affected by dams.
The two-day workshop in Gland was organized to discuss the findings of a review of 50 World Bank-funded dams carried out by the Bank's semi-independent Operations Evaluation Department (OED). Participants at the workshop largely agreed that the OED's conclusion that the benefits of large dams "far outweighed" their costs was based on inadequate data and flawed methodology. International Rivers Network presented a detailed critique of the OED review to the workshop.
Over the next six months, IUCN will work with the World Bank to find funding for the independent review initiative, establish its terms of reference, and select 5-8 commissioners. This work will be done in close consultation with dam critics and proponents. Once established, the review will have two years to receive submissions, hold hearings, commission studies, and publish its conclusions.
Patrick McCully, campaigns Director of International Rivers Network, said: "We are greatly encouraged that the World Bank and other dam builders have accepted that dam building has caused many problems, that there is a need for an independent review of dam impacts, and that existing practices through which dams are planned and built are in serious need of improvement. We look forward to working with the World Bank and IUCN in establishing the format of the review."
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