Assembly of the Poor, Thailand, protesting against World Bank-funded dams

Banks and Dam Builders

Dams are a risky business – for affected people, the environment, and investors. Technical problems, opposition by affected people and corruption can derail multi-billion dollar projects. Due to the big risks, finance is the weakest link in many dam projects. Funders often decide which projects go forward, and which standards they have to meet.

Traditionally, the World Bank Group has been the most important financier of large dams.  For decades, the World Bank funded the construction of mega-dams across the world. 

In recent years, however, Chinese financial institutions have taken over this role, and have triggered a new boom in global dam building.  Other public sector national banks, including Brazilian banks, Thai banks, and Indian banks, have also financed an increasingly important share.

The private sector, including private banks, private equity firms, and export credit agencies, also finance dams.  Frequently, the public and private sectors form partnerships to pay for high-cost projects, with the support of regional development banks.

Finally, dam builders are increasingly turning to climate finance as a way to bankroll the high costs of dams.

International Rivers holds public and private funders accountable for the dam projects which they finance. We work to dry up the funding for projects which violate social and environmental standards. We make sure that funders and governments keep the promises which they have made on critical projects. And we promote stricter standards which can redirect resources from destructive dams into benign alternatives

More information: 
  • Multilateral Development Banks' Project Pipelines: A quarterly report on planned dams to watch out for at the the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and the World Bank.

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