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Experts row over future of big dams

POWERFUL PRO-DAM interest groups were this week distancing themselves from a report by the World Commission on Dams, released today.

The International Commission on Large Dams, the International Hydropower Association and the International Commission on Irrigation & Drainage have written an open letter defending large dam construction.

The three organisations wrote the letter last week fearing the fall out from the WCD report, Dams and development - a new framework for decision making, published today.

The WCD was founded in 1997 by the World Bank and the International Union for Conservation to carry out an independent review of arguments for and against dam construction. It is headed by 11 commissioners, including former ICOLD president Jan Veltrop.

Over the last two years it has gathered information from a forum of 50 consultants, including dam designers, contractors, owners and operators, banks, human rights organisations, environmental scientists, green lobby groups and governments.

ICOLD, IHA and ICID have all contributed information. The report is intended as a framework document for future decision making on dam projects.

But in their joint letter the three bodies say they are worried the report will not represent their views fairly.

'The impression may be given that the forum members have endorsed the report, but in fact only the commissioners and the secretariat of the WCD have been involved in preparing it and the forum members have not been given the opportunity to see or review any of the drafts, ' the letter says.

'While we commend a study of this magnitude on the environmental, social and economic aspects of water resources development projects, the lack of transparency in the preparation of the final report gives us cause for concern.'

The letter deflects possible criticisms by pointing out that global demographic pressures in the next 25 years will demand a doubling of food and electricity production and water supply.

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