Tuesday, 9 April 2013

WWF outlines seven sins of dam building

WWF criticizes dam projects worldwide that continue to violate fundamental sustainability criteria.

March 2013. In the WWF report, "Seven Sins of Dam Building," numerous dam projects under construction or planned are given a failing review by the conservation organization. Aside from the internationally controversial Belo Monte (Brazil) and Xayaburi (Laos) dams, European projects, such as in Austria and Turkey, are also on the list.

The ‘Seven Sins' outlined in the report include issues with dam location, neglecting biodiversity, environmental flows, social and economic factors, and risk analysis. WWF also notes that dam decisions often blindly follow "a bias to build" without considering better, cheaper, and less damaging alternatives.

Short-term thinking
"Properly planned, built, and operated dams can contribute to food and energy security, unfortunately short-term interests are too often the focus of decision-making", says Dr. Jian-hua Meng, Water Security Specialist for WWF.

"In order to guarantee acceptable levels of social and environmental sustainability, dam installations and operations should be stringently checked against sustainability criteria as formulated under the World Commission on Dams or the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol. If necessary, insufficiently performing projects must be modified or aborted," added Dr. Meng.

No sustainable outcomes can be expected when dam proponents rely on superior financial strength and political connections rather than on dialogue, transparency, and reason, says WWF. Additionally, some governments lack the capacity or independence to protect public interests. Successful and overall long-term beneficial dam projects need more than just the legal regulator's approval, according to the report.

‘Social license to operate'
"For large-scale projects, operators must also obtain the ‘social license to operate'. Acceptance of the project by the population is fundamental to sustainable management, "says WWF expert Meng.

"Negative effects, such as relocation, destruction of cultural sites, or the collapse of local fisheries are still too often dismissed as 'somebody else's problem'," Dr. Meng added.

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