While dams can generate electricity, irrigate farm land and can control some floods, dams can also degrade ecosystems, displace communities, flood productive forests and farmland, and create unsustainable debt burdens. Strict social and environmental standards are needed to identify water and energy projects that best address the needs of society, the environment, and the economy.
The most comprehensive guidelines for water and energy projects were created by the World Commission on Dams (WCD) in 2000. The WCD assessed the development effectiveness of dams in an independent, participatory process, and established an innovative framework for decision-making.
The WCD framework covers key aspects of dam planning and construction, including the need to fully assess all available options for meeting water and energy needs, gaining public acceptance, protecting healthy rivers, and addressing outstanding issues of existing dams before building new ones.
International Rivers has for decades worked to strengthen social and environmental safeguards at the World Bank Group and other financial institutions. We promote effective standards for new dam financiers from China and other countries, and defend existing safeguards and standards from weakening due to efforts of the dam industry.