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ICOLD Symposium on
"Benefits and Concerns about Dams"


Dresden, September 13, 2001

3rd Session – WCD Report – Views from Individual Countries (Cont.)


Session Chairman: J. Giesecke

J. Giesecke
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to our next session. We are running half an hour behind schedule but I think all of you will be ready to stay a little bit longer, so we will come to an end at 6 p.m.
The foregoing sessions have demonstrated that the Final Report of the World Commission on Dams has been discussed with very interesting results. The Report was commented by multilateral organisations, governments and NGOs. This was followed by presentations by ICOLD representatives and reports from individual countries, by speakers from the United States, Germany and China. They set out their different responses in an informative manner during the first part. This means that we have so far been able to attain our objective which was formulated as follows: "The Symposium on 'Benefits and Concerns about Dams' will provide the opportunity to openly discuss the importance and value of dams in an objective, factual way to allay unjustified reservations towards dams but also to hear critical opinions." We can expect that this will also be the guideline of the papers presented in the second afternoon session which includes four distinguished representatives of the national ICOLD committees of Turkey, India, Nepal and Spain. The names and institutions of these speakers and the subject matters of their papers are shown here on the screen.
Presentation by M. Turfan


J. Giesecke:
Thank you very much, Mr. Turfan, for your excellent report about the position of Turkey on the WCD Report. Let us now proceed to the second contribution of this session, given by two speakers, firstly Mr. Gopalakrishnan and secondly Mr. Navalawala. May I ask you for your presentation, please.
Presentation by M. Gopalakrishnan

J. Giesecke:
It is a pity that we have to observe the 20-minutes time limit for each contribution and I regret it very much that we do not have the time left to hear in full the supplementing contribution by Mr. Navalawala. We are running half an hour late now, so I can give you just 5 minutes for your contribution Mr. Navalawala.
Presentation by Mr. Navalawala

J. Giesecke:
Many thanks to both of the speakers. The next speaker is Dr. Karmacharya.
Dr. Karmacharya, please tell us about the Nepalese view of the WCD Report.
Presentation by J.L. Karmacharya

J. Giesecke:
Thank you very much for your excellent contribution and for the significant statements, Mr.Karmacharya. Let us now go on to the last contribution, which will be given by Prof. L. Berga. We will now hear his presentation on benefits and concerns about dams in Spain. Would you please be so kind, Mr. Berga.
Presentation by L. Berga

J. Giesecke:
Thank you very much, Prof. Berga, for the conclusive statements of your contribution.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now almost seven minutes to 6 p.m., but I think we should still have a short discussion. So, the floor is open for questions!

Contribution from the floor:
My name is Patrick McCully, I work for a human rights and environmental organisation in the United States, called International Rivers Network. I would like to thank ICOLD for holding this unique symposium, I think this is the first time that ICOLD held an symposium to which they invited some of their opponents, some of the critics of dams. However, I think it would have been better to have more critics of dams here.
The preface for this symposium says that the point of this symposium is for the ICOLD members to hear opposite viewpoints. I think we have had 16 speakers of which only two were representing the critics of dams and these were squeezed into one session and I think the last eight or nine speakers we have heard it hasreally been ICOLD speaking to itself, it has been really a monologue rather than a dialogue and I think we all know that when somebody speaks to himself this is normally a sign of insanity and I really hope that is not a sign of what ICOLD is and of its mental state and where it is going. So I would like to talk about some challenges and opportunities for ICOLD, and I think a big challenge would be for ICOLD to organise another session like this at their meeting next year but to invite some more people to talk about criticisms of dams, to actually listen to what are the arguments against dams, to listen to some of the people that have been directly affected by dams, to listen to the arguments of some of the people who are working on the alternatives to dams. We have heard time and again here today there are no alternatives, the only alternative is drought and thirst and if we didn't have dams we would all be miserable and dead. There is a lot of people that work on alternatives. We could have heard from some of the people in India that are doing a great work in areas like Rajasthan and Surashtra on water harvesting, on bringing drinking water to these incredibly arid areas; we heard about the women that have to walk so far to get water, what a terrible struggle this is for existence. But there are alternatives to dams and if ICOLD heard about those alternatives, perhaps there than could be more of an open debate, more open attitude for ICOLD to see: okay there are other ways of getting the water, the power and the food that we all need. There is a lot of challenges to ICOLD; one we also heard about is the issue of people should be better off after a dam is built. This has been said several times, but we have seen time and again that this does not happen, people are left much worse off; so I think it would be great if ICOLD could say how will they implement this, how will they guarantee people are better off, and if people are worse off after a dam was built, what will they do about that situation. We have heard a delegate from South Africa saying some measures are being taken there to enact the WCD recommendations on reparations for people who have suffered from dams in the past. We also heard Mr. Berga and Mr. Karmacharya, I am grateful that they presented some of the positions anti-dam groups have given; one of these positions is that there should be a moratorium on new dam building until the problems of the past can be rectified. If the dam industry is going to have credibility that we can build dams in a socially, environmentally, economically responsible way, than they need to show that in the past they could rectify the problems that have been caused. Thank you.

J. Gieseke:
Thank you very much, the next contribution, please.

Contribution from the floor:
Mr. Chairman, my name is Fitzpatrick. I have been a former chairman of the Australian National Committee and I do not wish to comment on today's proceedings but I would like to ask a question. I would like to ask that, in addition to the hardcopy of today's proceedings being distributed, a softcopy be also distributed to supplement the hardcopy. By this I mean that a video of today's proceedings, questions and comments also be distributed to the National Committees. The National Committees would find this valuable and visual medium a valuable means of briefing the various stakeholders on the world-wide consideration that has been given to the impact of dams. Passion and emotion are not easily conveyed in hardcopy versions of symposium proceedings, feelings are and have been an important component of what we have experienced here today and it has been an extremely valuable and important one in ICOLD's deliberations and I suggest that it can be better understood if heard and seen by those not here today. I therefore ask that consideration be given to this suggestion. We indicated earlier today that only a minority of us here have read the documents that have been under discussion – a video may well reverse this trend. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

J. Giesecke
Many thanks. Next one, please. Would you please be so kind as to give your name and institution.

Contribution from the floor:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Jeremy Bird from the World Commission on Dams Secretariat, Cape Town. I would just like to respond to a point that was made by Mr. Karmacharya and also this morning by Prof. Lafitte about the follow-up activities with the Dams and Development Unit, and thereby focus a little bit on the future and on the controversies and conflicts we will return to when we leave this forum tomorrow and go back to our countries. At the meeting in February in Cape Town, there was general agreement to a follow-up process and the outlines of a work programme for that process was established; the mandate was given to a six-people liaison group to take that process forward, including the World Bank, IUCN, the government representatives, representatives of the affected people, industry and advocacy NGOs. Since February, a series of discussions on proposals have taken place, both, on the composition of the Steering Committee and on the work programme. Four elements were discussed for this work programme, firstly, to continue the dissemination and translation of the report, secondly, promote dialogue to determine locally appropriate solutions – and I think one of the examples of that we heard of today was from Paul Roberts -, thirdly, networking and information on what processes are happening around the world in response to the report, and finally, to showcase good practice and examples, many of which we are hearing about. In terms of governance and the issue of Steering Committee composition, this is something which is going to be taken up at the first meeting of the Steering Committee in Frankfurt on Sunday. So that will respond in part to the point raised by Prof. Lafitte and some of the representatives of IHA recently to Prof. Töpfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme who are the host organisations for this new unit. As I said, there is a Steering Committee meeting on Sunday which will determine the composition of the Steering Committee for the Unit, the detailed work programme and a number of other, operational issues. If the green light is given on Sunday, then I think the process will move forward, starting in October and bilaterals have indicated that they are prepared to fund this process. As was mentioned in the speech held by Prof. Asmal and also here again today, the guidelines are put forward as advisory tools; it is not the role of the DDU to determine what actions will be taken by each country.
My final point than is a question to each of you, individually, and I would like to ask you whether you would be prepared after this to follow the lead taken by (???) to establish local multi-stakeholder processes to determine locally appropriate solutions, because we feel that the DDU will be there to help bring different groups together. Thank you very much.

J. Giesecke:
Thank you. The next comment from the floor, please, Prof. Heigerth.

Contribution from the floor:
Heigerth, Technische Universität Graz, Austria. A remark in addition to Mr. Berga's report. The WCD report deals with two large fields, one is the social aspects, which means resettlement, and the other is the environmental and ecological questions. Concerning this, Mr. Berga pointed to the European Directives, and the main and also most dangerous one is the so-called Water Framework Directive which is now under discussion and can also negatively affect the water resource utilisation. Therefore it is allowed to make a remark that within the so-called "European Club" of ICOLD a new working group has been established to discuss (....)
(Problems with the tape)

Contribution from the floor:
Failer/Lahmeyer:
(...) a lot of nice and interesting speeches, and I am sure that 95% of the audience –not to say 100% of the audience – 95% of the audience will definitely agree to what we have heard. On the other hand we know that we have problems: dams and hydropower etc. is not accepted by the public. It does not help us if we hydropower and dam people just agree here in this forum. We have to address the public. We have to convince people, to convince financial institutions, convince governments, and my opinion is: We have a very good product - but our mistake is: we do not know how to sell it. I think it is one of the duties of ICOLD and of the National Committees to do a little bit more of public relations work. We have just heard that when the WCD Report was issued, 1,500 articles were published against dams but I didn't see a single article in the newspapers in favour of dams. I think it is a certain shortcoming that dams and hydropower are under such a strong criticism. I think public relations work to change that is the duty of the National Committees and of ICOLD.

J. Giesecke:
Thank you. I can assure you that we will keep in mind your recommendations and it must be said that this Symposium here was the first step to have a discussion not only with ICOLD representatives but also with representatives of the governments and of non-governmental organisations. I am convinced that we have reached a very good result because – as I already quoted at the beginning of our last session here – it was our aim to have a level for discussion not only with amicable but also with confronting arguments. You can be sure that we will publish all the results, including all contributions to our discussions. There is no doubt that we will keep in mind your recommendation:it is our duty to address the public, you are completely right.
The next contribution please, I suppose this next one will be the last one to the discussion.

Contribution from the floor:
I am Herbert Kunz, I am working for the GTZ in Pakistan on hydropower projects. My question to Mr. Turfan is not directly related to my work. Mr. Turfan, you stated that Turkey is an arid country and there is no doubt to that, you are right. But I think Syria and Iraq are also arid countries. I think you will agree to this. What I cannot understand is how you could term discussions on transboundary rivers as "unnecessary discussions". Now my question: how do you think you can solve the problems concerning this issue other than by the way of discussions?

Answer by Mr. Turfan:
Thank you. If we consider the amount of water that these countries are receiving, the richest one is the Iraq and the poorest one is Syria. We are just in between. But what I am criticising about the report is that this is a problem which should be solved within these three countries. Thank you.

J. Giesecke:
Now we will really hear the last contribution from the floor.

Contribution from the floor:
My name is Rodney Bridle from the United Kingdom. I would like to congratulate Mr. Karmacharya on coining an excellent phrase which I think could be our slogan for making dams popular: "Dams with a human face". That is what we need to produce. We must make sure there is plenty of humanity in the process of implementing dams, we must remember that our elected representatives set the policies for development but it is people like us who are responsible for developing them. It should be our faces that people see as representing the dams and we should enter into dialogue with everybody, particularly affected persons to gain their acceptance of dam projects. We should remember that the WCD recommendations about this connection which provides a very good opportunity to have a human face in dam implementation expect that we set up a forum chaired by the project promoter, that is the government or whoever it happens to be, in which the affected persons are represented, an environmentalist represents the future – we may have some discussions about that -, and there is a facilitator to facilitate the discussions between us. And the objective of all this is to gain acceptance of dam projects; we are the ones who are implementing dam projects and we are the ones who must get our faces trusted and give full and proper information to the public. Thank you.

J. Giesecke:
Thank you very much. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we should come to an end. I renounce giving a summary because we are short of time and I therefore would like to ask our President, Mr. Varma, to make his closing remarks.