Water Alternatives: Special Issue on the WCD+10

Guest editors: Deborah Moore, John Dore, Dipak Gyawali
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tucuruí dam in Brazil
Tucuruí dam in Brazil
Andreas Missbach
In November 2000, the World Commission on Dams published its ground-breaking report, Dams and Development, after an unprecedented multi-stakeholder process. Ten years later, Water Alternatives, an independent academic online journal, revisits the WCD and its impacts in a special issue, and explores the question: Is the WCD still relevant?

A team of editors and guest editors have selected a range of 20 papers, six viewpoints, and four book reviews that help to illustrate the evolution in the dams debate. The goal of the special issue is to examine the influence and impacts of the WCD on dam building in general, on the policies and practices of key actors and institutions, and on the development outcomes for affected communities and the environment. The papers and commentaries are from a broad cross-section of authors from the dam industry, civil society, dam financiers and governments, and academia. They reflect the current state of the global dams debate.


  • "This special issue demonstrates the need for a renewed multi-stakeholder dialogue at multiple levels." Moore et al. on the large dam controversy
  • Fisher throws cast net, Sekong River - 2008
    Fisher throws cast net, Sekong River - 2008
    © Marcus Q. Rhinelander
    "Our conservative estimate of 472 million river-dependent people living downstream of large dams along impacted river reaches lends urgency to the need for more comprehensive assessments of dam costs and benefits, as well as to the social inequities between dam beneficiaries and those potentially disadvantaged by dam projects." Richter et al. on downstream impacts
  • "The position of the hydropower industry regarding social and environmental standards for its projects is contradictory...It appears to seek gain without pain." Peter Bosshard on the HSAF process
  • "Publication of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report in 2000 was an important milestone in the debate on reservoir emissions. Before that, the issue had only been discussed by individual research papers and not addressed at the international level. The report concluded that reservoirs emit greenhouse gases, thus challenging the conventional wisdom that hydropower is a clean, carbon-neutral form of electricity." Mäkinen and Khan on greenhouse gas emissions
  • "The goal should be access to reliable and affordable electricity for Nepal's domestic and commercial consumers and not necessarily only increased revenue from hydropower export projects to state coffers." Dixit and Gyawali on Nepal's dams dialogue
  • The combination of increased public trust, earned by the state, and high-quality [multi-stakeholder platforms] to assist more informed negotiations, we see as being key to the gaining of public acceptance." Dore and Lebel on gaining public acceptance
  • Community members record their votes on whether Guatemala’s Xalala Dam should proceed
    Community members record their votes on whether Guatemala’s Xalala Dam should proceed
    Commission on Community Consultation
    "The cultural survival of hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples depends in large part on whether their right to consent to development that will change their existence is respected." Brant McGee on free, prior and informed consent
  • "Efficiency in delivered water services could be accomplished with investments in the range of US$10-25 billion annually, while obviating the need for spending hundreds of billions of dollars on more expensive hydropower and related infrastructural expansion projects." Totten et al. on non-dam alternatives for water services
  • "The Chixoy case confirms the need for an aggressive effort to build upon, rather than discard, the WCD's findings. Given that millions of people have been – and too often continue to be – displaced without adequate means to sustain a way of life, and given the profound consequences of this impoverishment, redress and remedy must be provided for historical injustices to ensure a stable and secure future." Barbara Rose Johnston on Chixoy and reparations
  • "The legal framework, including the tribal trust responsibility, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Power Act, combined with an innovative approach to negotiation that allowed for collaboration and compromise, created a space for divergent interests to come together and forge a legally and politically viable solution to a suite of social and environmental problems." Gosnell and Kelly on the Klamath dams decommissioning