Report on World Dams

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

An international group of experts says large dams have brought necessary electric power and water to the world. But they say the dams have also caused human suffering and environmental damage.

A new report by experts of the World Commission on Dams is the first major study of the world's largest dams.

The World Commission on Dams is an independent group. The twelve-member commission includes representatives from industry, dam owners, governments and environmental activists.

The World Bank and the World Conservation Union established the commission in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight. The World Bank, however, was also criticized in the study. It helps finance dam projects.

Dams provide about twenty percent of the world's electric power. They also provide flood control services and water supplies for agriculture. There are about forty-five- thousand large dams in the world. About half of the world's dams are in China and India.

The commission studied about one-hundred-twenty-five large dams. Large dams are those more than fifteen meters high. China's huge Three Gorges Dam and dams on India's Narmada River were a major part of the study.

The experts found that between forty-million and eighty-million people have been forced to move from their homes because of dams. Many people are displaced because of concerns that the dams may cause floods. Yet they rarely receive resettlement help from their governments.

The study also found that many dams are not operated well and cost too much. It says dams have led to accidents and the loss of land, forests, fish, and other wildlife. Efforts to reduce the harmful effects of dams have not been successful.

The World Commission on Dams says large dam projects should be approved only if they meet rules established by the commission. It says decisions about whether to build the structures should honor the interests of everyone involved.

Critics called for stronger rules on future dam projects. They also called for action to repair the social and environmental damage caused by dams.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn promised that the commission study would help guide its work in the future.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Voice of America Special English