Dam Solutions - Dam Builders

Dam proponents and sustainability

The need for change is increasingly recognized by dam builders, operators, and investors. There have been several initiatives to put environmental sustainability on the agenda.
  • ICOLD, the International Commission on Large Dams, published its Position Paper on Dams and Environment in 1997.
  • The World Bank and regional development banks have introduced and expanded their safeguard policies, which are designed to avoid and mitigate environmental and social impacts from dams.
  • The Equator Principles, a set of voluntary environmental and social guidelines for commercial banks' investments in major projects, have been adopted by 66 banks.
  • The International Hydropower Association (IHA) published Sustainability Guidelines to "promote greater consideration of environmental, social, and economic sustainability” in new and existing hydropower projects. While the IHA disagrees on some details of the World Commission on Dams (WCD), it states that "there is clear acceptance of the Core Values".

Compliant and transparent?

These initiatives are a step in the right direction, but the process does not stop here.

Both the Equator Principles and the IHA Sustainability Guidelines are voluntary. There is as yet no independent assessment as to whether the standards, principles, and guidelines are met.
At more than 250 meters, the Tehri Dam in India is one of the world's tallest. / ©: Joerg Hartmann / WWF-Cannon
With more dams being built each year, the private and public sectors play critical roles in ensuring environmental and social sustainability.
© Joerg Hartmann / WWF-Cannon

Improving guidelines and ensuring implementation

WWF actively engages with banks and hydropower companies to ensure broad-based improvement of practices.
We encourage banks to adopt transparent lending guidelines based on the WCD recommendations to ensure that investment decisions are made responsibly. And we advise private and public sector institutions on how to improve the selection of projects and mitigate those impacts that cannot be avoided.

One example is our engagement with the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (HSAF), a two-year multi-stakeholder process to review and enhance the IHA’s Sustainability Assessment Protocol.

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