Review of "Damming Evidence" - June 11, 2003

Review of "Damming Evidence: Canada and the World Commission on Dams," by the NGO Working Group on Export Development Canada, a project of the Halifax Initiative.  

The last sentence of this new report sums up the authors' position well: "Canada has led in the promotion of hydroelectricity worldwide. It must now lead in the implementation of the World Commission on Dams."

The Canadian government and the nation's dam-building industry, both of which contributed to the World Commission on Dams (WCD) process, have continued to promote destructive dam projects around the world and ignore the recommendations of the WCD on those projects. And like other major players in the dam industry these days, they are gearing up for a broader push to put more dams on more rivers, both nationally and in developing countries.

Foreign dam projects are a lucrative business in Canada (as is exporting hydropower south: Canada is now the second-biggest exporter of hydroelectricity in the world). The report details the dam exploits of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Export Development Corp., national agencies which have financed feasibility studies and other work to pave the way for large dams around the world. The report describes more than a dozen projects that have gotten major support from these agencies, from Belize's Chalillo Dam (where funding for feasibility studies are expected to result in up to C$12 million in contracts to Canadian businesses) to China's Three Gorges Dam (for which EDC has provided C$189 million in loans for Canadian-built equipment).

A helpful chart compares the WCD recommendations with the policies in place for building dams in Canada and those for Canadian involvement in dams in other countries. Those for projects outside Canada are the most vague and therefore the weakest, the report reveals.

"The Canadian dam building industry and the Canadian government are avoiding their responsibilities by ignoring the WCD recommendations," the report states. It calls for a moratorium on support for large dams by Canadian agencies until Canada takes steps to incorporate the WCD guidelines into national policies.

By Lori Pottinger, Editor, World Rivers Review, International Rivers Network