Session FT 1.25
Ensuring dams are a platform for growth and sustainable development
UNEP Dams and Development Project (DDP)
International Committe on Large Dams (ICOLD)
International Rivers Network (IRN)
United States Army Corps of Engineers Institute of Water Resources (USACE/IWR)
The objective of the session was to further clarify the role of dams and their alternatives in water and energy resources development and management, in he context of the MDGs; further stress and agree on the need for appropriate consideration of environmental, social, economical and technical aspects in order to ensure that outcomes contribute to sustainable development; highlight the need to institutionalise sound decision making processes in the planning and management of dams aiming at public acceptance and local ownership with emphasis on the role of stakeholder participation in dealing with the alternatives, associated trade offs and risks to produce sustainable projects; and, in the context of Forum background document for Theme 1“Water for Growth and Development”, to discuss the attributes and proper mix of development and institutional/management platforms in the case of dams.
While a large effort should be done in terms of addressing the needs of the rural poor through strong support to small scale decentralized solutions, large scale approaches involving dams and reservoir were required as well because they also provided services for poverty alleviation and constituted an option where there was a need to manage significant quantities of water . There was general agreement that comprehensive assessment of needs and of the full range of options including demand side management and improved performance of existing facilities are the appropriate measures to select the best response that would benefit from both approaches.
In all cases careful planning and participatory decision making processes were needed to achieve solutions that involve minimum acceptable environmental and social impacts. While it was highlighted that strategic environmental assessments, integrated river basin planning and environmental impact assessments all contribute in this regard, stakeholder involvement was seen as a fundamental component of the decision making process enabling to address the trade-offs, risk and uncertainties inherent to infrastructure planning and management.
Policy and regulatory frameworks, including robust licensing systems, were considered fundamental elements of the institutional platform that needs to be in place to ensure sound planning and decision making. Their strengthening, together with the building of managerial capacities, were seen as important actions to ensure that resources are mobilized and time allocated to appropriately address these emerging environmental and social issues as wells as carry out meaningful informed participatory decision making processes. Raising awareness and building political will at all relevant levels in this regard was emphasized as a necessary first step.
Orientations for action
Establish appropriate planning structures at all relevant levels to deal with the comprehensive assessment of all options in the context of defining their overall and sectoral development strategies. Assessment of options should be made early in the planning cycle at policy, strategic and integrated river basin levels.
Institutionalise transparent, informed and participatory decision making processes so trade-offs, risks and uncertainties inherent to infrastructure planning and management are addressed taking into account the views and expectation of all stakeholders.
Strengthen policy, legal and regulatory frameworks and build managerial capacities to ensure that resources are mobilized and time allocated to appropriately address the emerging environmental and social issues as wells as to carry out meaningful informed participatory decision making processes. Raising awareness and building political will at all relevant levels in this regard is a necessary first step.
Local actions presented
South African Multistakeholder Initiative on the WCD
Bryan Ashe, South Africa
This local action described the origins, nature and process carried out by the South African initiative on applying the WCD recommendations to South Africa. He highlighted the multistakeholder nature of the process driven by a steering committee integrated by representatives of government, civil society, private sector and academy. The three year process involved the convening of annual Forum meetings and the elaboration of a scoping and a substantive report, the latter published and presented to the Government in March 2005. The report concluded that a large overlap was found when comparing WCD recommendations to the South African policy and legislative framework and that implementation remained the challenge. The priorities identified were addressing social issues, enhancing governance of water and energy resources development, promoting river health and sustainable livelihoods and enhancing regional governance. The way forward consisted of publishing and disseminating the report and encouraging the implementation of the recommendations.
Mekong Habitat classification project
Ute Collier, WWF
The presentation introduced WWF’s work on a habitat classification map in the Mekong River Basin, developed as a possible tool for identifying no-go areas for hydropower development. Such tool is essential regarding the importance of the basin’s hydropower potential. The Mekong River Commission’s commitment to multi-stakeholder involvement in hydropower planning in the basin and working with NGOs like WWF is thus apprecuiated. The values and services of free flowing rivers need to be given greater recognition in the basin; and a comprehensive, basin-wide, multi-stakeholder approach to dams planning is needed; and mechanisms to identify and protect rivers, river stretches and tributaries of high biodiversity and livelihood value should be established.
Optimising the role of dams for providing water for growth and development
Multipurpose dam and reservoirs have been successful in providing considerable benefits as nations pursued development and dam projects remained an integral part of our infrastructure to sustain life, reduce poverty and support economic development in all parts of the world. Thus dams were a tool for water management to ensure quantity, quality and distribution of water that were key aspects of water reliability. In the past, there have been costs (natural environment, inequitable distribution of benefits, resettlement, and inaccurate projections of demand) and as a result of inadequate planning many existing projects were not as cost effective as they could be. There have been progresses achieved in river basin monitoring and management and environmental mitigation and restoration and now better dam projects could be built through ensuring a comprehensive planning process that includes not only “multi discipline technical input” but also “stakeholder involvement”. Such planning should be accomplished on a river basin basis and include assessment of needs and of the full range of options. In this regard he pointed out that conservation measures must be applied, however, they are not “stand-alone” options; groundwater and rainwater harvesting must be pursued but its limitations have to be realised and that where there is a demand for significant quantities of water – dams and reservoirs are the most realistic option. The reallocation of storage at existing projects is a first step.
The Tennessee Valley Authoritiy
US Army Corps of Engineers
The presentation of USACE/IWR focused on the experiences of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Columbia River Systems in the USA, highlighting their impressive socio-economic progress in the two regions of the U.S. resulting from development of their water resources. Statistics on the socio economic progress of both regions after one generation were presented followed by a brief description of the characteristics of the undertakings. The different institutional and water cultural settings in the early 20th century and currently were also presented. He then referred to the so called Kuznets curve stating that as investments increase for growth, reducing environmental quality, environmental impact first increases and then declines. He concluded remarking that the key elements to socio economic growth were building a minimum level of basic infrastructure development, using multipurpose projects, finding short-term financing via government or other reliable resources, privately managing medium to long-term financing , using cross-subsidies, local decentralized planning, and integrating environmental protection and enhancement.