Amongst the criticisms the World Commission on Dams’ (WCD’s) final report has received, one stands out from the rest — the suggestion that the report may be interpreted as anti-development.

It is a criticism that has hit home hard with WCD. And its former chairman Kader Asmal is quick to differ. ‘If implementing the WCD recommendations leads to fewer dams being built, the argument appears to run,’ he said. ‘But the report is clear in recognising the large, unmet demand for water and energy, and in noting that this demand will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. And it notes that in more than one place when the different portions for water and energy development have been assessed, a large dam may prove to be the best option.’ Asmal said the report should not be interpreted as anti-development. He believes that WCD has moved beyond outmoded and often simplistic notions of what development really is, and deliberately placed itself in the forefront of thinking on how to determine, and then reach, the goals that societies set for themselves.

…As industry warns ‘compromises will cost lives’ the-british-dam-society hosted a post-WCD meeting at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London, UK on 1 February 2001. An official statement from ICE prior to the meeting said that many civil engineers believe the rapidly expanding population, particularly in China, India and southeast Asia, may be left to starve because of a ‘culture of compromise’ and the slow rate of decision making over dam construction. Mike Casebourne, ICE chief executive, said: ‘Unless we can agree on how to build good dams, people will starve and suffer social deprivation. We need political commitment combined with technical expertise to ensure the report is used as a best practice guide for the maintenance and development of projects in the future.’ For a full report on the meeting see the March issue of IWP&DC.

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