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Accepted Paper:

WCD 2.0: Towards a bottom-up approach to hydropower governance  


Sergio Villamayor-Tomas (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

In this position paper we take issue with the new wave of hydropower dam construction in the Global South since the publication of the World Commission on Dams report and propose a new assessment framework that builds on the governance capacity of local communities among other aspects.

Paper long abstract:

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) established the most comprehensive guidelines for dam building in 2000. The resulting report described a then innovative framework for planning water projects that was intended to protect dam-affected people and the environment, and ensure that the benefits from dams are more equitably distributed; however, many countries including Brazil and China did not adopt the recommendations of the WCD. Thus, twenty years after, the sustainability of large dams is still in question.

More importantly, the report did not consider the agency of local communities in finding alternatives. There is now growing evidence that communities are not just victims, but many take positive actions to change their situation. In this position paper we frame dam building policy within a broader water and energy governance framework that puts said agency and local community projects at the center of assessments. We build the framework based on a series of empirical and conceptual accounts including a preliminary assessment of the few countries that have followed or adapted the WCD´s recommendations and/or successfully applied participatory processes; an overview of environmental justice conflicts and community alternatives associated to hydropower dam building; an ad hoc revision of challenges and opportunities of small hydropower dam projects; an overview of new trends in hydropower funding; and recent conceptual contributions in the study of water-food-energy governance.

Panel P12
The World Commission on Dams +20 years - revisiting dams, decision-making and development