New project will assist sustainable management of dams

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has launched a new Dams Development Project (DDP) to last two years in Cape Town, South Africa, in order to promote last year’s World Commission on Dams (WCD) report.

Launched in London by Nelson Mandela in November last year (see related story), the report provides a new framework for improved decision-making for water and energy development, and was welcomed by governments and interested organisations around the world. The widespread approval for the WCD’s work stems largely from the Commission’s bringing together of opposed parties from governments, advocacy groups, affected people, scientific networks and the private sector, in order to write the report.

Although dams around the world have brought energy and water supply for many people, they have also caused environmental damage and displaced downstream communities totalling 40-80 million people, reports the IUCN. During the 1990s, dam construction amounted to US$39 billion per year, and currently there are 1700 dams under construction, 500 of which are in Brazil, and over 700 in India.

The new DDP is designed to follow up on the report by:

  • supporting widespread dissemination of the report;
  • supporting country-level, regional and global dialogues on the report and on the issues it addresses;
  • strengthening interaction and networking among participants in the dams debate; and
  • facilitating the flow of information and advice concerning initiatives taken by individual or groups of stakeholders pursuant to the report.

“Financiers, builders and planners must work with the WCD report,” said Achim Steiner. “Especially the World Bank can do more on sustainable energy and infrastructure development. We believe that the forthcoming Water Resources Sector Strategy of the Bank must reflect its commitment to implement the WCD recommendations.”

Funding for the DDP will come from bilateral and multilateral sources, the private sector and NGOs, says the IUCN.

“IUCN will collaborate with all committed stakeholders to avoid or mitigate the impacts of dams on biodiversity and livelihoods,” said Co-ordinator of the IUCN Wetlands and Water Resources Programme Jean-Yves Pirot. Where rivers have been damaged, IUCN will help to restore them.”

As proof that the effects of dams can be mitigated, the IUCN cites the case of the Senegal River in Mauritania, where fishermen saw their annual catches decline to 10 tonnes following the construction of a dam, and then increase to 110 tonnes following the introduction of artificial floods.

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