World Commission on Dams
The World Commission on Dams (WCD) was formed in April 1997, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of the development of large dams globally. The WCD consisted of members of civil society, academia, the private sector, professional associations and one government representative.
Its members acted in an individual capacity, not representing the organizations or governments of which they were members. The commissioners were: Kader Asmal, Lakshmi Chand Jain, Judy Henderson, Göran Lindahl, Thayer Scudder, Joji Cariño, Donald Blackmore, Medha Patkar, José Goldemberg, Deborah Moore, Jan Veltrop and Achim Steiner. It was chartered to measure the impacts and effectiveness of large dam development, including the effect on dam affected communities and project developers. The ultimate outcome of the WCD was to issue a final report which was launched under the patronage of Nelson Mandela in November 2000. The WCD established the most comprehensive guidelines for dam building to date and issued ten key recommendations.
Key WCD Recommendations
- Development needs and objectives should be clearly formulated through an open and participatory process, before various project options are identified.
- A balanced and comprehensive assessment of all options should be conducted, giving social and environmental aspects the same significance as technical, economic and financial factors.
- Before a decision is taken to build a new dam, outstanding social and environmental issues from existing dams should be addressed, and the benefits from existing projects should be maximized.
- All stakeholders should have the opportunity for informed participation in decision-making processes related to large dams through stakeholder fora. Public acceptance of all key decisions should be demonstrated. Decisions affecting indigenous peoples should be taken with their free, prior and informed consent.
- The project should provide entitlements to affected people to improve their livelihoods and ensure that they receive the priority share of project benefits (beyond compensation for their losses). Affected people include communities living downstream of dams and those affected by dam-related infrastructure such as transmission lines and irrigation canals.
- Affected people should be able to negotiate mutually agreed and legally enforceable agreements to ensure the implementation of mitigation, resettlement and development entitlements.
- The project should be selected based on a basin-wide assessment of the river ecosystem and an attempt to avoid significant impacts on threatened and endangered species.
- Mechanisms to ensure compliance with regulations and negotiated agreements should be developed and budgeted for, compliance mechanisms should be established, and compliance should be subject to independent review.
- A dam should not be constructed on a shared river if other riparian States raise an objection that is upheld by an independent panel.
Organisation seeking to measure the degree of compliance of individual projects with WCD principles can use the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, recommended as the most practical currently available evaluation tool.
- "Dam commission concludes hearings". Indian Express. December 13, 1998. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- International Rivers, The World Commission on Dams Framework - a Brief Introduction, February 29, 2008
- "17517IIED: Watered Down? A review of social and environmental safeguards for large dam projects - IIED Publications Database". pubs.iied.org. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
- Dams and Development: a new framework for decision-making (Final Report, November 2000)
- World Commission on Dams at UNEP
- World Commission on Dams