Press Release - Thursday, June 12, 2003


For immediate release

Canada refuses to take responsibility for large dam disasters by ignoring World Commission recommendations

Ottawa, June 12, 2003 - Canada should implement the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD), rather than continuing to support such environmental and human rights debacles as China's Three Gorges dam and Colombia's Urra dam, argues a new report, released today by the NGO Working Group on the EDC.

The report, "Damming Evidence: Canada and the World Commission on Dams", is released on the occasion of the completion of the second stage of submergence of China's Three Gorges Dam, and the International Commission on Large Dams' meeting in Montreal, June 16-20, 2003.

"Canada is deeply implicated in the destruction of human and ecological habitat around the world, because of its care-less dam industry. The Canadian government put public money into the World Commission on Dams - yet has completely ignored its recommendations. This is money down the drain, " said Fraser Reilly-King, Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on EDC.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) gave $100,000 to support the WCD process. Numerous Canadian companies also contributed. Other governments, such as South Africa, Germany, and Pakistan have held nation-wide multi-stakeholder meetings to discuss the policy implications of the recommendations for their countries.

"Canada has a reputation as a real leader on environmental issues", said Karen Campbell, interim executive director of West Coast Environmental Law Association in Vancouver. "But when it comes to projects outside Canada, we have turned a blind eye to the debacles consistently created by large dams. Canada continues to trade values for profit when it comes to large dams."

Although subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, CIDA is not required to conduct comprehensive studies for projects outside Canada, including large dams, that would otherwise require such studies if built within Canada. The Export Development Canada (EDC), the first public financial institution to back the Three Gorges Dam has standards far below that recommended by the World Commission on Dams. The United States export credit agencies and the World Bank would not back Three Gorges as it was not seen by them to be economically or environmentally viable.

The WCD report, released in November 2000 and written by industry, government, project-affected people and civil society representatives, establishes internationally acceptable criteria, guidelines and standards for making decisions around large dams, water and energy projects that avoid many of the negative impacts Canadian-funded projects have helped produce. The process and the report itself emphasize meaningful participation, transparency, equity and accountability.

"Damming Evidence: Canada and the World Commission on Dams" calls on EDC and CIDA to place a moratorium on all types of support for large dams until they have implemented the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams. The Report is available on-line.
For further information, contact:
Fraser Reilly-King
Coordinator, NGO Working Group on EDC
Tel: (613) 266-8100
Karen Campbell
Interim Executive Director, WCELA