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ICOLD Symposium on
"Benefits and Concerns about Dams"

Dresden, September 13, 2001

2nd Session – WCD Report – Views from Individual Countries

Session Chairman: T. Strobl

T. Strobl:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen:
We would now like to proceed with our Symposium on Benefits and Concerns about Dams and I am pleased to announce the first speaker of this afternoon. This will be Mr. Blohm. Mr. Blohm also leads the team that developed ICOLD's response to the WCD report and I think it is very interesting to hear his comments and statements. Please, Mr. Blohm.

Presentation by H. Blohm

T. Strobl:
Thank you very much, Mr. Blohm. We will now come to the second contribution of this first afternoon section. The next speaker will be Mr. Walz.

Presentation by A. Walz

T. Strobl:
Thank you very much, Mr. Walz. I personally was delighted that you mentioned Rottach dam as I personally was involved in this dam a few years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, now the view of the comments from individual countries turns to Germany. Prof. Bode will present the experience made on some dams in Germany.
Mr. Bode, may we now have your presentation, please.

Presentation by Mr. Bode

T. Strobl:
Thank you very much, Mr. Bode, for your presentation. Ladies and gentlemen, let us now make a big jump to the east; it is a pleasure for me to announce Mr. Zhang from China who will present the Chinese view of the WCD report. Mr. Zhang, may I ask you for your presentation.

Presentation by Mr. Zhang Jin Sheng

T. Strobl:
Mr. Zhang, thank you, too, for this very interesting view on dams in China.
I think, as we have expected, there are different views about dams and the WCD report and that is the reason why we have now the possibility to discuss the papers presented in this first session during the afternoon. I suggest we take 10 minutes for discussion. So, the first speaker from the floor, please state your name and the institution you are coming from.

Contribution from the floor:
I am Paul Roberts from South Africa. South Africa recently held a symposium on the WCD report, which was co-organised and attended by members of the Dam Engineering Fraternity of Southern Africa, environmental and social NGOs and affected people of past projects. The viewpoints of the various role players were heard at the symposium. The process will be taken further by an elected representative steering committee. A major dam in the pipeline, which will serve a metropolitan area in South Africa, was evaluated against the WCD report and it was found that generally the planning process met or exceeded the criteria of the WCD. At the symposium it was recognised that several historical water projects will have to be revisited with a view to making some corrections, particularly on the issue of resettlement and compensation. In South Africa there is a qualified support for the WCD guidelines. In South Africa we are implementing the National Water Act of 1998 which was piloted through parliament by Prof. Asmal and I served for some five years under him. Not surprisingly, the WCD report contains elements of the National Water Act in respect of things like environmental sustainability, public participation, social equity and meeting of international obligations. The current Minister of Water Affairs in South Africa has accepted the WCD guidelines in principle but has indicated that they must not retard priority social and economic water developments in such a water-stressed country.

(T. Strobl: I would like to ask you to shorten your statement, maybe there are some other questions).
Yes, I will end up now. Our way ahead is to examine our procedures for the planning and implementation of water projects, which include dams, in the light of the WCD guidelines but to modify these in the light of local and regional circumstances. Thank you.

Contribution from the floor:
I am Biji Parmar from India, former Secretary to the government of Gujarat (?). One has to look at what was the basis of the WCD report. How many dams have been studied by them out of about 45,000 large dams in the world? So, the knowledge base which has been used in the WCD report has been, I would say an arms-length study which has gone into making their mind characterised with the anti-dam activities and that has resulted in the WCD report, and I would urge this body that it is to be set into the cold store. Thank you.

T. Strobl:
Any comments from the desk? Are there questions, please?

Contribution from the floor:
I am Deuk Koo Koh from Korea. I would like to ask Mr. Walz for a comment and advise. I have been far from the position of the USSD which was presented today by Mr. Walz. Some cases of decommissioning of dams in the United States have increased the environmentalists and sensational journalism to tackle the activities for water resources development in Korea. The cases have become the strong arms of the environmentalists and the journalists against a national policy to develop water resources in the future and finally to bring about the cancellation of important dam projects in Korea last year. Also the WCD report was misinterpreted to the public by them, saying that there will no more new dam building in the future and so we had to quit new dam building projects in Korea, too. So I would like to ask, are there other countries facing similar situation like the one in Korea? My question is: doesn't the USSD have any plan to present more accurately the stance of the United States on the dam buildings and management? And also I would like to ask: doesn't ICOLD have any plan to present more strongly its position on the WCD report than WCD did in London last year. I would appreciate your kind advise or comments.

Answer by Mr. Walz:
On behalf of the US committee, I will try to answer this very multi-portioned question. The answer with regard to the USSD is that we in the USSD provide guidelines to our members, we do not establish policy for any development in the US with regard to dams and the environment; we only provide guidance. Having said that, we have numerous recent examples in the United States where we have formed the development in very close co-operation with stakeholders, environmentally concerned groups, NGOs etc. We find that this probably increases the cost to develop the project but it is an insignificant increase in the United States. I am not sure that this experience is easily transported to any other country. So, the short answer, I think, is: yes, we do develop in many ways following the guidelines offered by WCD although they are not precisely the same, they are very similar; we have two that were just done in southern California that do fundamentally follow the criteria proposed by the WCD.

T. Strobl:
Thank you. There is still time left for one very important question, but this is, I think the last one for the discussion in this session.

Contribution from the floor:
Papageorgiou from Greece. I had the opportunity in the morning session to present a brief comment on the WCD Report. Now, my comment refers to the statistics Mr. Blohm showed us on how many committees read the report of WCD, in a sort of way that he appeared to be disappointed about the lack of consideration given to the report. In my opinion, the reason is that this 400-pages report requires, particularly for working engineers, quite an effort. So I sent to you a brief comment but I avoided making statements basing on the executive summary which rather beautifies and puts aside some very important issues. So it took quite an effort and I think you should have given a later deadline if you wanted to have more committees to send you comments on the full WCD Report. As you may have seen a posteriori from the comments of Dr. Asmal and from the comments of Achim Steiner published in Hydropower and Dam Construction, they try to justify a posteriori...

T. Strobl:
Sorry to interrupt you, but that is a recommendation to ICOLD.

Answer by Mr. Blohm:
It certainly does require a lot of effort, a lot of time to evaluate and review the report; we appreciate that. The deadlines were established in order to make sure that the comments were returned to the media and into the industry as quickly as possible. I do not think that there is any limitation now on receiving additional comments on the WCD Report.

T. Strobl:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am sorry to interrupt the discussion but I have to look for the time. We do not have the time to summarise some results now. As the next session will continue at 4 p.m. sharply, I ask you to be back at 4 p.m. My thanks go out to the speakers, and to all of you for your questions and statements. Thank you very much.