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An Analysis of Nam Theun 2 Compliance with World Commission on Dams Guidelines
 World Commission on Dams: Nam Theun 2 Compliance

March 2005

An Analysis of Nam Theun 2 Compliance
with World Commission on Dams Guidelines

Updated March 2005


By International Rivers Network & Environmental Defense

  Executive Summary
Full Analysis
This comprehensive analysis shows that Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project in Laos fails to comply with six of the seven WCD Strategic Priorities. Read the Executive Summary of the analysis. (PDF)

...from the introduction of the analysis:

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) was an independent body sponsored by the World Bank and IUCN, chaired by South African cabinet minister Kader Asmal, and including representatives from both the dam industry and anti–dam people’s movements. The WCD’s mandate was to review the development effectiveness of large dams and assess alternatives; develop a framework for assessing options and decision–making processes for water and energy services; and develop internationally acceptable criteria and guidelines for planning, designing, construction, operation, monitoring, and decommissioning of dams.

Despite their many differences in background and political perspective, the twelve WCD Commissioners managed to agree on a final report, Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision–Making, which was released in London in November 2000.

The WCD report found that:

  • large dams have forced 40 to 80 million people from their homes and lands, with impacts including extreme economic hardship, community disintegration, and an increase in mental and physical health problems. Indigenous, tribal and peasant communities have been particularly hard hit. People living downstream of dams have also suffered from increased diseases and the loss of natural resources upon which their livelihoods depend;

  • large dams have caused great environmental damage, including the extinction of many fish and other aquatic species, significant losses of forest, wetland and farmland, and the release of greenhouse gases; and

  • the benefits of large dams have gone largely to groups that do not bear the social and environmental costs. The poor and other vulnerable groups, such as indigenous peoples, have primarily borne the costs.

Based on these findings, the Commission proposes criteria and guidelines for future planning of energy and water projects. The Commission’s guidelines are a "comprehensive and integrated framework for decision–making on the provision of water and energy services." The aim is to "provide a framework that emphasizes a structured process incorporating the full range of social, environmental, technical, economic and financial criteria and standards."

The WCD report emphasizes that this framework is a process, rather than a checklist for dam construction. The process is based on the recognition of the rights of all affected groups, together with an assessment of the significant involuntary risks imposed upon all those affected by the project. The WCD concludes that "only decision–making processes based on the pursuit of negotiated outcomes, conducted in an open and transparent manner and inclusive of all legitimate actors involved in the issue, are likely to resolve the many and complex issues surrounding dams."

Despite being one of the two sponsors of the WCD and having publicly supported the WCD process, the World Bank's response to the report has been lukewarm at best.

Available in Executive Summary in PDF format
Read the Full Analysis in PDF format

Additional Information

For further information, please contact:

    Aviva Imhof, International Rivers Network
    E–mail: aviva@irn.org
    Phone: +1 510–848–1155