International Rivers and others say that the WCD guidelines are comprehensive and were established with a more participatory process, calling them “the international best practice guidelines in the water and energy sector”.
“The WCD recommends an approach in which social, environmental and economic interests are given equal weight, projects are selected through a balanced assessment of all available options, and affected people have a right to participate in project development,” says Peter Bosshard, Policy Director at International Rivers.
Bosshard is concerned that the World Bank may have a different agenda and finds that its current approach to hydropower remains questionable. He doesn’t believe that the bank is acting as an unbiased advisor on dam projects, but rather promoting them and lobbying for weaker environmental licensing processes in vulnerable areas like the Amazon in order to push them through.
He points to the Nam Theun 2 Project in Laos for example, asserting that legal agreements and social environmental commitments have been broken:
"The people displaced by the reservoir have received better houses, but the more than 120,000 people affected by the project still don’t know how they are supposed to feed their families.
"Similarly, the Bank treated displacement mainly as a matter of compensation in Uganda’s Bujagali Dam, and did not ensure that affected people can restore their long-term livelihoods.
"Coastal communities in Pakistan are still waiting for compensation of the damages caused by a World Bank drainage project that ignored all their warnings. The Tonga people in Zambia are still impoverished 50 years after they were forced off their lands by the Kariba Dam. Guatemalan farmers are still seeking justice for the murder of hundreds of family members who stood in the way of the Chixoy Dam."
(Photos: International Rivers)