Press release from WWF for the Third World Water Forum
Press Release Not for release until 00.01 hrs GMT 17 March 2003
DON'T BANK ON DAMS ALONE, URGES WWF
Kyoto, Japan - As the 3rd World Water Forum opens in Japan, WWF, the conservation organization, has warned that investors are risking some of the US$40 billion that is invested annually in dam projects that carry serious, hidden, long-term environmental, social, and economic costs.
According to a WWF guide for investors in dams being released this week, many investors are failing to carry out comprehensive assessments that would enable them to determine the long-term financial viability and public acceptability of a proposed dam, before they agree to fund it. The guide underlines that dams are often seen as an easy solution to a range of issues such as water shortages, or growth in energy supply. However, without a proper analysis of energy and water needs, and the impacts of the dam, investors risk putting their money into a project that is not viable in the long term and risk their reputation.
"Investors can no longer afford to shut their ears and eyes to the long term impacts of water management projects around the world," said Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF's Living Waters Programme. "If we are to solve the problems of the millions without access to water for drinking and sanitation, we must think beyond the age-old solutions of dams, dikes and water transfer between river basins. WWF expects the World Water Forum to provide clear guidance on how we can service the world without simply resorting to expensive and socially and environmentally damaging infrastructure based projects."
According to the WWF guide, the financial pitfalls associated with building dams include exaggerated projections of benefits, time and cost overruns, geological instability, sovereign risk and corruption, maintenance and decommissioning costs, and cost recovery and dam beneficiaries. Many of these could be reduced or even avoided if investors followed the guidelines of the World Commission on Dams, doing thorough assessments that examine both the need for the dam, its impacts, and alternatives, before they agree to finance it.
According to WWF, following these guidelines would also help to ensure that freshwater ecosystems deliver goods and services for millions of people. For example, two-fifths of the world's fish are freshwater species - and of these, 20 per cent are threatened, endangered, or have become extinct in recent decades. The freshwater fisheries of the Mekong River and tributaries alone are estimated to have a market value of nearly US$1 billion per year. However, water and energy infrastructure such as dams are threatening these freshwater resources, including the 73 million people living on and around the Mekong River who depend on fish and other resources in the river system for most of the protein in their diets.
"WWF urges financiers of water infrastructure to make conservation of ecosystems the centrepiece of any investment. Unless we change the way we do business, we will destroy nature, the very raw materials that make any kind of development possible," said Jamie Pittock.
For further information:
Doug Walker, Communications Manager, WWF Dams Initiative, +44 790 1687998, DWalker@wwf.org.uk
Mitzi Borromeo, Press Officer, WWF International, +41 70 4773553, MBorromeo@wwfint.org
NOTE TO EDITORS:
" The World Commission on Dams (WCD), established by the World Bank and IUCN (The World Conservation Union) in 1998, conducted a comprehensive review of the performance and impacts of large dams and, issued a report (Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making) with recommendations for a new framework for decision-makers.
" The following documents are available on http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/freshwater/index.cfm :
An Investor's Guide to Dams, WWF's Challenge to Financial Institutions, WWF Dams Initiative factsheet.