The Future of Large Dams by Thayer Scudder
Dam review 5 years on: lessons not learned
Five years on from the widely acclaimed World Commission on Dams (WCD) report, Dams and development:
A new framework for decision-making, and after a decade during which big dam building has been in steady decline, the World Bank and the dam industry are now pushing for a revitalisation of large hydropower projects and the side-lining of the report. This has been accompanied by a number of contentious Bank-supported dam projects such as Nam Theun 2 in Lao PDR (see Update 46); Allain Duhangan in India (see Update 43); and renewed interest in dams in Uganda and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the legacies of earlier dam projects are still being felt, such as the Chixoy dam in Guatemala; and the Lesotho Highlands project (see Update 41).
The Bank is currently considering a request by Pakistan for $10 billion in assistance for hydropower projects. Pakistani civil society is concerned about the planned Kala Bagh dam on the Indus Delta which has already suffered significant livelihood and biodiversity loss as a result of previous dam construction. According to NGO Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI), two controversial studies are being carried out under the supervision of the World Bank. A workshop organised by PDI and ActionAid Pakistan in Karachi identified serious flaws in the draft reports of both studies, in particular with regards to the intrusion of sea water, and environmental degradation that would result.
In April the Ugandan government announced its approval for Aga Khan Industrial Promotion Services to build the Bujagali Dam. The dam has been a source of embarrassment for the Bank since it removed its support for the project in 2003 following a corruption investigation and the withdrawal of the main sponsor, US-based AES Corporation. The IFC was to be the major lender for the project and it is not clear if it will give its support to the new sponsor. Local groups working on Bujagali have raised questions about resettlement, environmental impacts and cultural resources, pointing out that this project will do nothing to help the 95 per cent of Uganda's population who are not connected to the national grid.
A new report on Guatemala's Chixoy dam documents the full extent of social injustices and human rights violations resulting from the World Bank/Inter-American Development Bank-funded project. The report recommends legally binding reparations for the 4,000 people affected by the 22-year old dam. In 1982 more than four hundred Maya Achí men, women and children were tortured, raped and killed by the Guatemalan army after they opposed relocation (see Update 43). The report was commissioned by the Peasant Association Río Negro 13 of March Maya Achí, International Rivers Network (IRN), Reform of the World Bank Italy, and Rights Action Guatemala.
Thayer Scudder, one of the 12 commissioners of the WCD and a consultant on resettlement projects to the World Bank since 1964, explores the failures of large dams in his new book The future of large dams: dealing with social, environmental, institutional and political costs. He argues that, despite the Bank's role as a standard-setter for large hydro projects, its ability to deal seriously with resettlement is insufficient. He states that the WCD recommendations are superior to the Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies, and criticises the Bank for failing to require an overarching policy for large hydropower projects.
A conference to mark the fifth anniversary of the release of the WCD report will take place in Berlin, in November, organised by IRN, Urgewald and the Heinrich Boell Foundation. It will be attended by experts, government representatives and activists and aims to showcase the broad public support for the WCD report, and highlight models for the implementation of the WCD guidelines.
The Future of Large Dams Dealing with Social, Environmental, Institutional and Political Costs
"The author is the undisputed world leader in this subject. The treatment is authoritative and magisterial" --Robert Goodland * The definitive work on large dams--the world’s single most controversial, divisive and expensive development issue--essential reading * Unmatched coverage of all aspects of large dams and development including economics, politics, environmental risk, energy, agriculture, and human displacement and resettlement
Viewed by some as symbols of progress and a necessary evil and by others as inherently flawed and destructive of ecosystems and societies, large dams remain the most contentious development issue on earth. Building on the work of the now defunct World Commission on Dams, Thayer Scudder, the world’s leading authority on large dams, weighs in on the debate with unprecedented authority.
Armed with a vast array of case studies and statistical data from Asia, including China and India, North America, Africa, and Latin America, Scudder charts the "middle way" forward by examining all aspects of the costs, benefits, and risks to ecosystems, societies and economies of large dam development projects. Employing the World Commission on Dams’ Seven Strategic Priorities, Scudder analyzes the structure of the decision-making process for water resource and energy development and the planning, implementation, and governance of assets when a large dam is selected as the best development option. He also assesses state-of-the-art procedures for addressing environmental, institutional, political, and social issues and tackles the highly contentious issue of dam-induced resettlement, illuminated by a statistical analysis of 50 cases.
Thayer Scudder is Anthropology Professor Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology and former Commissioner of the World Commission on Dams.
The Large Dams Dispute and the Future of Large Dams * Theories on the Resettlement Process * A Comparative Survey of 50 Cases of Dam-Induced Resettlement How River Basin Communities Can Benefit from Resettlement * Sri Lanka’s Mahaweli Development Project * Further Case Studies * Addressing Downstream and Upper Catchments: Environmental and Social Impacts * Institutional Arrangements The Future of Large Dams and the Way Forward * Bibliography, Index
"In The Future of Large Dams [the author] speaks up for the millions of people who are directly affected by large dams and reservoirs, many of whom are 'poor, uneducated, relatively powerless rural residents'. Scudder…writes with great authority, having been one of the 12 commissioners of the World Commission on Dams. This role has given him a remarkable insight into the global politics of large dams and their consequences. His position on large dams has changed from strong support to anger and despair over the poor treatment of people who live near dams. He now believes that most of the really large dams impose unacceptable environmental and social costs…The book's personal tone makes it enjoyable to read, but this is also a scholarly book that has numerous footnotes and references. The story that Scudder tells is rather depressing, but he does try to find a way forwards. In the final chapter, he lists seven sets of recommendations on how to make decisions about the possible construction of large dams in the future…the book is a valuable reminder fo the dangers of destroying sustainable rural societies largely to support unsustainable cities or large industries. Hopefully Scudder's book will help to lessen the damage caused by the building and maintenance of large dams."--Nature
"This classic work by a world authroity reflects 50 years of research and thinking about large dams worldwide. No one concerned with the human costs of development can afford not to read this book."--Resettlement News
"This thorough analysis of the social impactsof large dams in developing countries serves as an extension of the report of the World Commission on Dams (WCD). Scudder was on of the 12 WCD commissioners, but brought to that study and to his new book the insights of 50 years of observation, analysis, and advising in this field. The book was written primarily for policy makers responsible for global water and energy planning but is also a rich source for researchers."--Journal of the American Water Resources Association
"This thorough analysis of the social impacts of large dams in developing countries serves as an extension of the World Commission on Dams' report (Dams and Development, Earthscan, 2000)…This most recent publication was written primarily for policymakers responsible for global water and energy planning, but it is also a rich source for researchers….While criticizing past and current practices for the planning and evaluation of dams, Scudder has practical recommendations centering on adherence to the World Commission on Dams' 'seven strategic priorities,' which include gaining broad public acceptance, considering an extensive range of alternatives, and sharing benefits from dam operations in equitable ways."--Environment
432 pp., 6" x 9 1/4", March 2005
Published by Earthscan Publications Ltd.
For related titles, see the Water and Sanitation section in the Development and Third World Studies catalog For related titles, see the Water section in the Environment & Conservation catalog.