We want the WWF site to be comfortable and interesting for you. We work with web analytics to become better. Cookies are used to collect analytical data. All information is completely confidential and is never passed on to third parties. Confirm your agreement with the policy regarding cookies or learn more about the technology.
Accept
What we do
Regions
Премия рунета 2017

Dams

  1. Summary

    Against the backdrop of a catastrophic decline of biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems [1] and yet another acceleration of dam construction, WWF expresses its disagreement with the creation and operation of environmentally unsafe waterworks that do not comply with the principles and criteria of best practices recognized internationally. WWF stands for (1) abandonment of hydro construction in areas with high conservation value or with an impact on such; (2) consideration of all alternatives before deciding on the construction of new dams; and (3) selecting the best options for managing existing dams and developing new ones using principles, tools and processes based on transparency and involvement of all stakeholders.

  2. WWF believes that:

    Water is the basis of life on Earth. Healthy freshwater ecosystems are a source of resources and services on which our society depends: food, water, energy, economic activity and cultural values. Ultimately, our well-being depends on how we organize utilization our rivers and water supplies. WWF seeks to achieve a state of global water resources that will ensure safety of people and nature, and freshwater ecosystems supported by free flow of rivers will be healthy and adaptable to changing circumstances, without exhaustion, providing ecosystem services for human development.

    Freshwater ecosystems are under threat. Nearly 60,000 [2] of existing large dams have already caused significant damage to the environment and society. Together with related activities such as irrigated agriculture and water supply to the population and industry, these dams played a major role in significant reduction of freshwater ecosystems biodiversity around the world [3], mainly due to changes in runoff regime and disruption of river system cohesion and coherence. In addition, fragmentation of river systems by an innumerable number of small dams in aggregate can produce a significant effect. Since the demand for services provided by dams, especially for irrigation and power generation, is increasing, the impact on freshwater ecosystems is becoming more tangible. The consequences of climate change aggravate this situation.

    Dishonest practices should be discontinued. The design and operation of many dams around the world is still based on questionable economic assumptions and does not take into account the fundamental principles of sustainable development. Public policy authorities, state planning and management must ensure that dams perform a wide range of socially significant functions, including those that protect the environment.

    Dams can perform functions important for human development such as water supply, irrigation, renewable energy production, flood and drought regulation, and stimulate economic development. As the population of the Earth grows, decisions about dams are increasingly made in the context of development, and WWF recognizes that additional projects of high-tech and environmentally safe water infrastructure will have to be implemented. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about the acceleration of dams’ construction and other water infrastructure facilities of various sizes without due consideration of social and environmental impacts.

    Mankind can reduce its need for new dams. It is extremely important that when assessing the need for dam construction, the entire range of available alternatives is considered. Transition to a responsible use of water and energy can reduce the need for new hydropower construction in several ways. Governments should give priority to measures to reduce the demand for dam services, invest in «natural infrastructure» of low-impact on ecosystems, and reconstruct and improve existing dams. Avoid using approaches that are harmful to the environment.

    Positive experience exists and should be applied. The decision-making process for strategies, plans and projects should be transparent and include all stakeholders, and management must be effective. It is necessary to collect a variety of information and tools to use in decision making, their justifications, when choosing a site, when developing and implementing projects. To ensure that public decisions are rational in the long term, they should to be accepted on the basis of an integrated assessment of opportunities and needs, basin planning and management, appropriate legislation and recognition of the importance of ecosystem services and the need to stimulate the ability of natural complexes to produce them. We will be compelled to compromise in such a way as to preserve vital freshwater systems and processes on which the population depends. By providing ecological runoff and ecosystem connectivity, it is possible to significantly reduce the damage caused to them and restore degraded rivers.

  3. WWF recommends:

    In order to ensure that the dams are not built in areas with high conservation value and do not affect them, that they are built only after full consideration of the alternatives, with the support of stakeholders and in places where hydropower construction does the least harm, and that the benefits from existing dams are increased, WWF recommends

    • Improvement of strategic decision-making processes concerning the operation of dams, their locations and associated infrastructure;

      In the process of making decisions about the construction and operation of dams:

      … full range of available alternatives should be considered. As a rule, there are several options of ways to supply the population with water, food and electricity in the required quantities. Priority should be given to measures that prevent environmental damage by regulating demand and improving resource efficiency, as well as improving existing hydro facilities and consider alternative options. Planning new infrastructure should be the last resort.

      … it is necessary to follow the principles of responsible, accountable and effective management. Strategies, plans and projects related to water infrastructure should be considered through transparent multicriteria approaches involving all stakeholders, in particular, local population that will be affected due to the implementation of the project. Special attention should be paid to indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups of the population. Having carefully studied the opinions and limitations of the parties, it will be possible to reach a consensus and a productive dialogue, understanding of risks and possible consequences, and to develop necessary measures to expand capability, prevent damage, protect from negative influence and mitigate the consequences. Governments should establish a sound legal and institutional framework to ensure that strategic environmental and social assessment, planning and implementation of projects are in line with best practices formulated in the principles of the World Commission on Dams. Taking into account the high rates that exist in such often large-scale projects, public and corporate governance should be aimed at ensuring high level of integrity and accountability.

      … you should look for opportunities to use natural alternatives to the infrastructure. The need to create new engineering infrastructure measures of protection and their costs can be minimized through the use of services provided by natural ecosystems, such as floodflow confinement in river floodplains, flood and drought control, wetland restoration and watershed management for water retention, securing basin ecosystems resilience to climate change.

      … care must be taken. Dams can be used for centuries, investments will be blocked in them for a long period of time, and their impact on society and the environment is very significant. It is necessary to be guided by the principle of reasonable precaution when planning them, take into account the uncertainty of hydrological, social and political factors arising from climate change, economic forecasts and decisions made by society and create a system of flexible management based on monitoring results.

      … it is necessary to build on sound strategic environmental and social assessments conducted using all available information and modern methods of scientific analysis, taking into account the uncertainty and adaptability of hydrological regime, current and future scenarios of climate change, cumulative impacts of all water uses and users, environmental requirements and provision of ecosystem services. Such assessments should be conducted at the level of the relevant river basin or region, in accordance with principles of inclusion and transparency. This is a prerequisite for making decisions, justifying them, choosing the right location, designing and implementing projects.

      … it is necessary to evaluate important environmental capital. Freshwater ecosystems of high ecological significance should receive a permanent level of protection from the negative impact of dams, including consequences in the upper and lower reaches. These can be areas, rivers or river sites that have high conservation value in terms of biodiversity, ecosystem services at the time of future negative changes in environmental factors, for example, climate. It is necessary to avoid the construction of dams on the main channel or large tributaries, which have great environmental significance. Specially protected areas (PAs) of regional, national and international level (for example, Ramsar sites, World Heritage sites) and indigenous territories are typical zones where it is unacceptable to build dams. Many forbidden zones do not have an official protective status therefore state bodies should ensure their allocation and protection. When assessing environmental capital, it is necessary to take into account coherence both within the river system and between areas of high conservation value.

    • Improvement of planning, financing, construction and implementation of individual projects and developments.

      When developing individual projects:

      … it is necessary to adhere to the hierarchy of minimizing negative consequences and risks. The impact of dams on the environment and society, as well as associated risks, should be avoided and minimized by an adequate choice of dam location, design, construction and operation. The consequences and risks, which cannot be avoided and minimized, should be mitigated. Compensation payments and measures [4] can be applied to residual effects and risks only in those cases when all other possibilities of prevention, minimization and mitigation of consequences of hydro construction are exhausted.

      long-term consequences must be carefully analyzed. At the moment, many projects are implemented on the basis of short-term or stationary hydrological and climatic preconditions and dubious economic assumptions. They are motivated by personal gain or political conjuncture and violate basic principles of sustainable development.

      Planned dams, environmental and social costs of construction of which exceed benefits of their services, should not be built. It is necessary to identify existing dams, whose environmental and social costs from exploitation exceed the benefits of their services, and explore possibilities of their improvement or dismantling, for example, through re-licensing. Decommissioning and dismantling of obsolete dams may be a very real possibility of restoring river ecosystems.

      … environmental flow should be a priority. Recognizing the flow as a key factor in a river basin’s health, WWF calls for the design and operation of all new and existing dams by taking into account the regime of environmental flow. Environmental flow refers to the «quantitative, qualitative and temporal flow parameters necessary to maintain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems, as well as the livelihoods and well-being of people who depend on them» [5]. In practice, the environmental flow will mimic natural hydrological regime. In addition, WWF encourages the development and operation of new and existing dams to maintain and restore connectivity of the river systems.

      … constant improvement must be carried out. Owners, employees and regulators should identify dams, the ecological and social efficiency of which can be increased as technology, science and knowledge develop. There are more and more opportunities for capital repairs, re-equipment and modernization of existing dams, which allows extending the life of reservoirs, improving quality of services provided by dams, and also reduces the need of the society in a new hydro-construction.

  4. WWF is ready to work with governments, international organizations, local communities, business and science in order to:

    … achieve a state of the world’s water resources that will ensure the safety of people and nature, and freshwater ecosystems supported by free flow of rivers will be healthy and able to adapt to changing circumstances by providing inexhaustible ecosystem services for human development. [6]

    … identify important or critically important natural assets and high-conservation value river systems and prioritize their protection from dam construction. WWF uses its significant scientific, local, regional and global resources, partners and networks to help identify, rank and protect natural freshwater capital, its ecosystem services and its dependent territorial ecosystems.

    … to stimulate the processes of strategic planning. WWF will continue to promote the development of strategies and plans for the development of water use, energy and agriculture and seek to improve their environmental performance. We work through cooperation and dialogue, develop local capacities and partnerships, develop standards and tools for decision-making, as well as we conduct monitoring and evaluations.

    … counteract dams and related strategies, plans or regulations that violate the principles of sustainable development recognized internationally. In addition, WWF will fight the degradation, reduction and elimination of existing protected areas and human rights violations, especially of indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups.

    … take measures to minimize impacts and maximize benefits from existing dams, as well as reduce the demand for new dams. WWF will continue to advocate for the need to improve operational management of environmental benefits on existing dams by creating appropriate strategies, plans and regulations. This may include an implementation of environmental releases, equipment repairs, modernization, restoration of ecosystem connectivity and dismantling of dangerous or obsolete dams.

    … take into account appropriate practices for environmental sustainability. We demand that hydropower projects, both existing and planned, met international standards and criteria for sustainable development formulated by the World Commission on Dams in the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol.

    … to stimulate an application of good practices by improving standards and regulations, targets, security policies and credit criteria. WWF calls for the use of strategic basin planning for hydropower construction [7], the use of approaches and standards for rational water use [8] and an assessment of water risks [9]. WWF supports universal adoption of Methodology for assessing the compliance of hydropower projects with the criteria of sustainable development [10] and the preservation of its integrity and independence. WWF will periodically evaluate such practices and approaches to improve their effectiveness.


[1] The Living Planet Index (TheLivingPlanetIndex, LPI) for freshwater ecosystems, which measures trends in the population sizes of thousands of vertebrate species, shows a 76% decrease in the period from 1970 to 2010.

[2] The World Dam Register of 2014 includes 58 266 dams. The main requirement for inclusion in the register is a mark of a dam crest to be no less than 15 meters.

[3] WWF’s «Living Planet» 2014 Report.

[4] WWF position on the compensation for damage to biodiversity.

[5] Brisbane Declaration, 2007.

[6] WWF Freshwater Strategy for 2015–2020.

[7] For example, an Algorithm of basin-wide assessment of sustainable development of hydropower (RapidBasin-wideHydropowerSustainabilityAssessmentTool, RSAT), or the Guiding. Principles on Sustainable Hydropower Fundamental Principles prepared by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River.

[8] For example, Standard of the Alliance for Rational Use of Water Resources.

[9] Water Risk Filter.

[10] www.hydrosustainability.org