Resources: Dams

More than 40,000 large dams now regulate the world's rivers: some have been built to generate hydroelectricity, others to provide irrigation water, and others as part of flood control programmes. These large-scale construction projects have invariably caused considerable human suffering and environmental damage.

20 results
The case of Merowe Dam
Nicholas Hildyard

30 April 2008

The Merowe/Hamadab Dam on the River Nile in Sudan, which was completed in 2009, is the largest hydroproject in Africa. The major contracts were awarded to three European companies: Lahmeyer International, Alstom and ABB. Implementation to date has been characterised by human rights abuses, forced resettlement, illegality and a failure to abide by international standards. The companies consistently failed to use their influence to halt the dam's implementation until issues surrounding its impacts were resolved.

Report of Fact Finding Mission to Iraq, 29 March 2007
The Corner House and Kurdish Human Rights Project

25 April 2007

In March 2007, the export credit agencies (ECAs) of Austria, Germany and Switzerland approved financial guarantees for the proposed Ilisu Dam on the River Tigris in the Kurdish region of Southeast Turkey. They stated that Turkey had provided the two downstream countries, Syria and Iraq, with the information these countries had sought about the Dam, and that Iraq had agreed to the project. Neither claim is true, according to Iraq's Minister of Water. By approving funding before Iraq and Syria had been consulted, the ECAs could be in violation of international law.

Litigation and Standards
Nicholas Hildyard

3 December 2005

International finance institutions promise that the projects they back will comply with international environmental and social standards -- but these standards are frequently flouted. NGOs can document such violations so as to bring concerns to decision-makers, the wider public and the courts.

The Case for Strengthened Standards
Nicholas Hildyard, The Corner House, UK; and Eliah Gilfenbaum, Environmental Defense, USA

27 September 2005

This paper documents new subsidies that ECAs may give for large dams; evaluates the accompanying standards that ECAs may require for dam projects; and identifies future ECA actions if funding for dams is not to have negative environmental and social impacts.

How export credit agencies are offering new subsidies for destructive projects under the guise of environmental protection
ECA-Watch

27 September 2005

Northern governments may grant more export credits for large dams by classifying them as "renewable energy". This report details the negative impacts of five large dams and one water privatisation scheme financed with export credits.

Activism, Expertise, Commons
Larry Lohmann

27 September 2005

Seeing social or technical change as the application of new "theory" to "practice" is one of the hazards of 21st-century middle-class life. Middle-class activists could take a leaf from both expert elites and grassroots movements, who both tend to know better.

Conflict and the politics of infrastructure development
Nicholas Hildyard

28 May 2005

Infrastructure development is the point at which many conflicts, both past and future, over resources and decision-making meet. Several projects proposed or being implemented in Turkey illustrate these points.

Joint Report of Fact-Finding Mission to Syria and Iraq
Kurdish Human Rights Project, Ilisu Dam Campaign, The Corner House

30 July 2002

In 2001, a delegation from three UK NGOs went to Syria and Iraq to conduct research and interviews on the potential downstream impacts of the proposed Ilisu Dam, scheduled for construction in southeast Turkey. The Fact-Finding Mission concluded that the Dam (and the wider GAP project of more dams and power plants) poses a real threat to future water supplies in Syria and Iraq. It urges the international community to press Turkey to halt further GAP projects until an agreement has been reached with Syria and Iraq that secures sustainable development of the Euphrates and Tigris.

(Or, rather: What went Right? For Whom?)
Nicholas Hildyard

10 July 2002

In July 2000, 19 corporations and individuals were being prosecuted in the Lesotho courts for bribing a top official in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (a scheme intended to divert water from Lesotho to South Africa). This presentation explores the daily institutional practices that actively encourage the flouting of guidelines and anti-corruption regulations. It sheds light on the institutionalised racism that assumes the Third World to be inherently corrupt and corruptible, a view that underwrites bribery.

The Corner House, Ilisu Dam Campaign, Kurdish Human Rights Project, Friends of the Earth, Berne Declaration, Campaign An Eye on SACE, Pacific Environment, World Economy, Ecology and Development (WEED)

1 September 2001

This Review evaluates the extent to which the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) and Resettlement Action Plan for the Ilisu Dam and related hydroelectric projects demonstrate compliance with international guidelines, legal obligations and export credit agency conditions on resettlement of those who would have to move because of the Dam.

Philip Williams & Associates

31 August 2001

Before granting export credits to the companies that want to build the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris river in Southeast Turkey, the governments of several European countries and the USA required a full consideration of the environmental consequences of constructing and operating the dam. This review examines the environmental impact assessment’s analysis of the dam’s downstream impacts, and concludes that, if built, the Ilisu dam could cause major disruptions to water flow to Syria and Iraq, the two countries that share the Tigris with Turkey.

2000 Balfour Beatty annus horribilis
The Ilisu Dam Campaign

31 May 2001

This report raises concerns over Balfour Beatty's management of major "reputational risks" that could severely damage the company's standing. It includes a motion tabled at the annual shareholders’ meeting questioning the company’s involvement in the proposed Ilisu Dam and urging Balfour Beatty to adopt the guidelines of the World Commission on Dams.

The Final Report of a Fact-Finding Mission to the Ilisu Dam Region
Ilisu Dam Campaign; the Kurdish Human Rights Project; The Corner House; World Economy, Ecology and Development; Eye on SACE Campaign and Pacific Environment Research Center

16 October 2000

The companies that want to build the controversial Ilisu Dam on the River Tigris in the Kurdish region of Southeast Turkey have sought financial backing from the export credit agencies (ECAs) of their countries. In January 1999, the ECAs attached four conditions to be met before they would issue export credits. During 9-16 October 2000, an international Fact Finding Mission of Non-Governmental Organisations from the UK, USA, Germany and Italy went to the region of the proposed dam to assess the Turkish government's progress meeting the four conditions.

An Ilisu Dam Campaign Briefing on the ‘Ilisu Dam’s Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) -- Achieving International Best Practice’
The Ilisu Dam Campaign and The Corner House

6 September 2000

International groups campaigning against the controversial Ilisu Dam in Turkey obtained a copy of an assessment, commissioned by the export credit agencies considering financial support for the project, of the Turkish Government’s proposed resettlement plan. The assessment highlights serious problems with resettlement and reveals that two to three times more people may be affected than previously estimated -- possibly as many as 70,000 people, mainly ethnic Kurds.

The Record of Twelve European Dam Building Companies
Chris Lang, Nick Hildyard, Kate Geary and Matthew Grainger

28 February 2000

European dam builders, suppliers and consultants continue to promote and export their technologies to the countries of the South. In doing so, they tend to ignore, misrepresent or downplay many of the negative environmental, social and economic impacts of large dams that have discredited the dam building industry in Europe. This report presents the track record of the major European companies involved in large dams, detailed by company and by dams in Turkey, Lesotho, Paraguay/Argentina/Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, India, Malaysia and China.

Nicholas Hildyard

18 January 2000

This presentation challenges four myths about large dams: they provide a cheap and economic source of energy;  are an environmentally-benign source of energy; are uncontroversial in Europe; and result from impartial decision-making processes. It poses several detailed questions for the World Commission on Dams.

Kurdish Human Rights Project

2 November 1999

A report based on a five-day NGO fact finding mission in September 1999 to areas potentially affected by the proposed Ilisu Dam, documents a wide range of human rights and environmental concerns.

The Flawed Economics of Large Hydroelectric Dams
Nicholas Hildyard

28 August 1998

8. Popular opposition and changing macro-economic policies have disproved the claim that large-scale hydrolectric dams provide a cheap, reliable and economic source of power.

Larry Lohmann

31 March 1998

All development projects follow a three-act dramatic plotline, as development agencies try to impose plans, meet local opposition, and improvise freely in an attempt to overcome resistance.

ABB’s Hydropower Strategy under Review
Nicholas Hildyard

25 February 1998

Swedish-Swiss engineering company Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) has supplied generators for hydroelectric dams around the world, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s hydropower capacity. This analysis provides financial reasons why ABB should not continue to be involved in the hydropower sector. It forecasts a shrinking market because of substantial and growing opposition to large dams and insufficient private and public finance to build them. Its findings were circulated to ABB shareholders and financial journalists. In March 2000, ABB decided to sell its hydropower division, mentioning shareholders’ sensitivity to the significant environmental, human rights and social impacts of large-scale dams.