The Nov. 16 release in London of the final report of the World Commision on Dams was greeted with expressions of support from a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the dam construction markets. Construction contractors and engineers as well as antidam activists hailed the report's insistence on openness, transparency and comprehensive inclusiveness in dam planning as holding promise for breaking the long deadlock over where, when and whether to build dam projects.
The World Commission on Dams was established in the spring of 1998 by the World Bank and IUCN, the World Conservation Union. The commission's mandate was to research the issues in the dam debates and to "develop internationally acceptable criteria, guidelines and standards, where appropriate, for the planning, design, appraisal, construction, operation, monitoring and decommissioning of dams." The 12 commissioners included dam builders, planners and operating officials as well as environmental and social activists opposed to many specific dam projects. Professor Kader Asmal, South Africas minister of education and former minister of water affairs and forestry, is the chairman.
The commission's work "represents a major stride for sustainable development," says Axel Wenblad, vice president of environmental affairs of Stockholm-based Skanska Group, a major hydropower constructor. "The World Commission on Dams report vindicates much of what dam critics have long argued," says Patrick McCully, campaigns director of the International Rivers Network, Berkeley, Calif. "If the builders and funders of dams follow the recommendations of the WCD, the era of destructive dams should come to an end."