Protecting Rivers and Rights

The 10th Anniversary of the World Commission on Dams Report

Fishing by the Da River near the Son La Hydropower Project in Vietnam
Fishing by the Da River near the Son La Hydropower Project in Vietnam

Hoai ThanhThe most comprehensive guidelines for large dams that protect the rights of river-dependent communities were outlined by the World Commission on Dams (WCD) in 2000. The WCD assessed the development effectiveness of dams in an independent, participatory process, and established what has come to be regarded as the gold standard for dam building.

The WCD principles encompass basic values of human rights and sustainable development that are essential to minimizing the negative impacts of large dams on people and the environment. Certain WCD principles have also been incorporated into various international and national laws and policies. Important WCD principles include:

  • The need to assess all available options for meeting water and energy needs before proceeding with a dam project;
  • Demonstrating public acceptance and requiring free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples;
  • Fixing problems from existing dams before building new ones;
  • Managing downstream impacts and environmental flows;
  • Sharing benefits with affected people; and
  • Ensuring compliance with project agreements.

To commemorate the WCD 10th anniversary (WCD+10), International Rivers and organizations worldwide are organizing dialogues, conferences and other events to highlight the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done to protect rivers and rights. You can follow these activities here and on our Dam Standards email list.

More information: 

WCD+10 Activities

WCD+10 Publications

WCD Background