Manibeli Declaration

Thursday, September 1, 1994

Calling for a Moratorium on World Bank Funding of Large Dams


  1. The World Bank is the greatest single source of funds for large dam construction, having provided more than U.S.$50 billion (1992 dollars) for construction of more than 500 large dams in 92 countries. Despite this enormous investment, no independent analysis or evidence exists to demonstrate that the financial, social and environmental costs were justified by the benefits realized;

  2. Since 1948, the World Bank has financed large dam projects which have forcibly displaced on the order of ten million people from their homes and lands. The Bank’s own 1994 "Resettlement and Development" review admits that the vast majority of women, men and children evicted by Bank–funded projects never regained their former incomes nor received any direct benefits from the dams for which they were forced to sacrifice their homes and lands. The Bank has consistently failed to implement and enforce its own policy on forced resettlement, first established in 1980, and despite several policy reviews the Bank has no plans to fundamentally change its approach to forced resettlement;

  3. The World Bank is planning to fund over the next three years 18 large dam projects which will forcibly displace another 450,000 people, without any credible guarantee that its policy on resettlement will be enforced. Meanwhile the Bank has no plans to properly compensate and rehabilitate the millions displaced by past Bank–funded dam projects, including populations displaced since 1980 in violation of the Bank’s policy;

  4. World Bank–funded large dams have had extensive negative environmental impacts, destroying forests, wetlands, fisheries, and habitat for threatened and endangered species, and increasing the spread of waterborne diseases;

  5. The environmental and social costs of World Bank–funded large dams, in terms of people forced from their homes, destruction of forests and fisheries, and spread of waterborne diseases, have fallen disproportionately on women, indigenous communities, tribal peoples and the poorest and most marginalized sectors of the population. This is in direct contradiction to the World Bank’s often–stated "overarching objective of alleviating poverty";

  6. The World Bank has prioritized lending for large dams which provide electricity to transnational industry and to urban elites, and irrigation water supply for export–oriented agriculture, neglecting the most pressing needs of the rural poor and other disadvantaged groups. The Bank has provided $8.3 billion (1992 dollars) for large dams through the International Development Association (IDA), the ’soft‘ credit window which is supposed to aid the poorest populations in developing countries;

  7. The World Bank has tolerated and thus contributed to gross violations of human rights by governments in the process of implementing Bank–funded large dams, including arbitrary arrests, beatings, rapes, and shootings of peaceful demonstrators. Many Bank–funded large dams projects cannot be implemented without gross violations of human rights because affected communities inevitably resist the imposition of projects so harmful to their interests;

  8. The World Bank plans, designs, funds, and monitors the construction of large dams in a secretive and unaccountable manner, imposing projects without meaningful consultation or participation by the communities affected, often denying access to information even to local governments in the areas affected;

  9. The World Bank has consistently ignored cost–effective and environmentally and socially sound alternatives to large dams, including wind, solar and biomass energy sources, energy demand management, irrigation rehabilitation, efficiency improvements and rainwater harvesting, and non–structural flood management. The Bank has even convinced governments to accept loans for large dams when more cost–effective and less destructive alternative plans existed, as may be the case again with the Arun III project in Nepal;

  10. The economic analyses on which the World Bank bases its decisions to fund large dams fail to apply the lessons learned from the poor record of past Bank–funded dams, underestimating the potential for delays and cost overruns. Project appraisals are typically based on unrealistically optimistic assumptions about project performance, and fail to account for the direct and indirect costs of negative environmental and social impacts. The Bank’s own 1992 portfolio review admits that project appraisals are treated as "marketing devices which fail to establish that projects are in the public interest;

  11. The primary beneficiaries of procurement contracts for World Bank–funded large dams have been consultants, manufacturers and contractors based in the donor countries, who profit while citizens of the borrowing countries are burdened by debt and the destructive economic, environmental and social impacts of the large dams themselves. The Bank has consistently failed to build local capacity and expertise, promoting dependency instead;

  12. World Bank–funded large dams have flooded cultural monuments, religious and sacred sites, and national parks and other wildlife sanctuaries;

  13. In its lending for large dams the World Bank has tolerated and condoned theft of funds supplied by the Bank, often by corrupt military and undemocratic regimes, and has often made additional loans to cover cost overruns brought on by what the Bank refers to as "rent seeking behavior&quot. Examples include Yacyretá Dam in Argentina and Chixoy in Guatemala;

  14. The World Bank has consistently violated its policy on environmental assessment, and has allowed environmental assessments to be produced by project promoters and used to justify prior decisions to proceed with destructive large dam projects;

  15. The World Bank has never addressed in policy, research, or project planning documents, the decommissioning of large dams after their useful lifetime has expired due to reservoir sedimentation and physical deterioration;

  16. The World Bank has never properly assessed its record of funding large dams and has no mechanism for measuring the actual long–term costs and benefits of the large dams it funds;

  17. Throughout its involvement in the Sardar Sarovar Dam in the Narmada Valley, a worldwide symbol of destructive development, the World Bank has consistently ignored its own policy guidelines regarding resettlement and environmental assessment, and attempted to cover up the conclusions of the severely critical official independent review, the Morse Report. With the ongoing forcible evictions and flooding of tribal lands, the Bank bears direct legal and moral responsibility for the human rights abuses taking place in the Narmada Valley.

THEREFORE, the undersigned organizations:

– CONCLUDE that the World Bank has to date been unwilling and incapable of reforming its lending for large dams; and

– CALL for an immediate moratorium on all World Bank funding of large dams including all projects currently in the funding pipeline, until:

  1. The World Bank establishes a fund to provide reparations to the people forcibly evicted from their homes and lands by Bank–funded large dams without adequate compensation and rehabilitation. The fund should be administered by a transparent and accountable institution completely independent of the Bank and should provide funds to communities affected by Bank–funded large dams to prepare reparations claims;

  2. The World Bank strengthens its policies and operational practices to guarantee that no large dam projects which require forced resettlement will be funded in countries that do not have policies and legal frameworks in place to assure restoration of the living standards of displaced peoples. Furthermore, communities to be displaced must be involved throughout the identification, design, implementation and monitoring of the projects, and give their informed consent before the project can be implemented;

  3. The World Bank commissions, reviews, and implements the recommendations of an independent comprehensive review of all Bank–funded large dam projects to establish the actual costs, including direct and indirect economic, environmental and social costs, and the actually realized benefits of each project. The review should evaluate the degree to which project appraisals erred in estimating costs and benefits, identify specific violations of Bank policies and staff responsible, and address opportunity costs of not supporting project alternatives. The review must be conducted by individuals completely independent of the Bank without any stake in the outcome of the review;

  4. The World Bank cancels the debt owed for large dam projects in which the economic, environmental and social costs are found to outweigh the realized benefits;

  5. The World Bank develops new project appraisal techniques to assure that estimates of the costs and benefits, and risks and impacts, of large dams under consideration are rigorously based on the actual experience with past Bank–funded large dams;

  6. The World Bank requires that any large dam under consideration be a necessary part of a locally–approved comprehensive river basin management plan, and that the project be a last resort after all less damaging and costly alternatives for flood management, transportation, water supply, irrigation and power supply are exhausted;

  7. The World Bank makes all information on large dam projects, including past and current projects and projects under consideration, freely available to the public;

  8. The World Bank requires independent monitoring and evaluation of preparation of large dam projects, as well as systematic monitoring and auditing of project implementation, by persons outside the Bank and with no stake in the outcome of the project;

  9. A formal decision is taken by the Bank to permanently halt all funding of large dams through the International Development Association (IDA), funding which is inconsistent with the IDA–10 donor’s agreement.