ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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World Commission on Dams: Biased?

The report of the World Commission on Dams has ignored, deliberately, a number of critical issues of development. It has relied on a bunch of ill-prepared reports instead of systematic studies.

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) traces its roots back to the origins of the dams debate. Two other related factors painted the backdrop to its conception. The first is the accelerating shift in accepted notions of the appropriate relationship between the state and its citizens. The second is the increased recognition of the negative environmental and social outcomes experienced with large dams. Suspicion and mistrust between the proponents and critics of large dams threatened to dominate and undermine the discussions needed to reach agreements on ways to improve access to water and energy services. The need of both dams’ proponents and opponents to negotiate a new, agreed basis for assessing options and for planning, deciding, implementing and operating them, created conditions for setting up the WCD and giving it a mandate. In response to these, World Bank and World Conservation Union (IUCN), a global union of more than 800 governments, government agencies and NGOs sponsored a meeting between the champions and critics of large dams in Gland, Switzerland in April 1997.

The Gland workshop brought together a range of opinion to discuss the implications of the World Bank/OED Review of 50 Bank-funded dams, and found sufficient common ground to set in motion the process that led to the formation of WCD. The workshop identified key issues relating to the social, environmental, technical and financial aspects of dams that had to be addressed in reviewing the role of dams and their alternatives for sustainable development.The WCD was finally announced in February 1998 under the chairmanship of Kader Asmal, (the then minister for water affairs and forestry and later, minister of education in South Africa) assisted by 12 members. L C Jain and Medha Patkar were the members from  India.

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