WWF calls for dam compensation fund

The World Wildlife Fund has called for an international fund to compensate countries that refrain from building dams on rivers important for freshwater bio-diversity.

This is one of a series of measures proposed by the organization to break the world-wide deadlock between pro and anti-dam supporters.

In a report ‘A Place for Dams in the 21st Century?‘ published today, WWF argues against a single world-wide strategy on dams. The organization says that the World Commission on Dams should initiate a process to develop different dam strategies, linked to countries’ potential hydropower production, freshwater needs, and the requirements of their ecosystems.

“Some countries in the developed world have already exhausted all opportunities for developing hydropower and many have started to reduce their reliance on dams,” said Dr. Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. “Others are actively removing dams, and restoring rivers to their natural condition – a move that is welcomed by WWF.” In developed countries, removing dams does not lower energy availability, and provides substantial benefit to the ecosystem”.

In a limited number of less developed countries, serious damage is done to the environment by the use of fossil fuel and wood burning to produce energy. “The ‘no to any dam anywhere in the world’ strategy is neither realistic nor viable,” said Biksham Gujja, Manager of WWF’s Freshwater Programme. “In some countries people are using wood due to lack of electricity. This results in deforestation and degradation of river basins.”

However, WWF says some sites are so ecologically sensitive that no dams should ever be built there. It recommends the World Commission on Dams should draw up a list of these ‘off limit’ sites, based on existing scientific data. Poorer countries that agree not to develop their hydroelectric capacity in these zones would then receive some form of compensation.

Dr. Gujja says there is a need to think about international mechanisms and institutions that can compensate for a country’s energy needs if the country has to stop constructing dams in the larger interest of world heritage conservation.

WWF would also like to see the World Commission on Dams initiating an ‘International River Fund’ to support projects to conserve and rehabilitate major river systems of the world. This fund could work to protect the world’s last free flowing rivers by helping countries financially and technically to achieve their energy and water requirements while improving the ecosystem.

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