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IRN Press Release: April 15, 1997
Narmada Bachao Andolan, India
Berne Declaration, Switzerland
Tuesday, April 15, 1997
(510) 848 1155
Independent Commission to Review
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, recommend international
standards on dam construction and assess sustainable and equitable
methods of land and water management and energy production. The
review will also make recommendations on repairing the environmental
damage done by existing dams and on reparations for people whose
livelihoods have suffered because of dams.
The need for an independent review of dams was agreed last Friday
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
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), and to
recommend further studies. 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
to the workshop a detailed critique of the OED review.
Over the next 6 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.
The commissioners will be eminent figures who are acceptable to
all the different interests represented at the Gland meeting.
Once established, the review will have two years to receive submissions,
hold hearings, commission studies and publish its conclusions.
Participants at the workshop agreed that there was an immediate
need to improve the implementation of existing standards on dams,
and in particular of the World Bank’s policies and guidelines.
Participants also agreed that the World Bank’s requirement that
dam–builders eventually restore the incomes of people negatively
affected by dams was inadequate and that instead people should
be immediately better off.
Patrick McCully, Campaigns Director of International Rivers Network,
"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."
Shripad Dharmadhikary, a leading activist with India’s Narmada
Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement), said
"While we warmly welcome the willingness of the dam
industry representatives at the Gland meeting to work with dam
opponents in establishing an independent review this does in
no way mean that we will lessen the intensity of our campaigns
against dams, for justice for dam–affected people, and for the
implementation of equitable and sustainable alternatives."
Peter Bosshard, Secretary of the Switzerland advocacy group
Bern Declaration, said
"We are delighted at the call for the establishment
of an independent review, however, we are also aware that we
will need to be constantly vigilant to ensure that the review
is truly independent and that its terms of reference are as comprehensive
as agreed in Gland."