The construction of large dams has been a controversial issue in the debate on
energy supplies and water resources management. To bridge the differences
between various interests, the WOrld Commission on Dams (WCD) was
established in 1998. The Commission has reviewed global experience of the
social benefits of large dams (15m or higher and with a reservoir volume of more
than 3 million m³), and has made recommendations on decision-making
processes and basic principles for planning and carrying out such projects.

In Norway, electricity production has been the main purpose of dam-building.
Almost 100 per cent of our electricity supplies are hydropower based, and we
have developed a good administrative system for this during the past 100 years.
Norway has contributed to the WCD's work both in financial terms (a totl of NOK 8
million from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been channelled through the World
Bank) and has also provided technical assistance.

General comments
The Commission's report is extremely interesting and useful, and will be a
valuable contribution to the further debate about large dams. The Knowledge
Base that the Commission developed during its review of the performance of
large dams will be valuable to anyone working on these issues.

The recommendations in the report can be used to refuce unintentional adverse
effects on dam-building projects, and particularily their social, environmental and
cultural impacts. Norway would urge the importance of taking these aspects into
account during dam-building projects, and not merely considering the economic

However, future decisions on dam building will still have to be based on an
assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of building large dams and of
the alternatives. One weakness of the report is that it gives little weight to the
description of the socio-economic and welfare advantages of a dam for the
population it is intended to serve. It would also be interesting to see a more
thorough discussion of the alternatives to building dams and of what the
economic costs and environmental and social consequences of such alternatives
would be.

For example, the report cites greenhouse gas emissions associated with dams
and their reservoirs as a negative consequence for such projects. However,
alternative sources of energy and their consequences are not discussed. This
means that the report emerges as somewhat unbalanced, since it describes
greenhouse gas emissions from reservoirs as a problem without at the same time
considering the positive environmental aspects of renewable hydropower
compared for example with the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels.
In Norway, the need for a comprehensive assessment of policy choices relating to
dam-building and alternatives to dam-building is met by the system of white
papers on energy policy and other documents addressed to the Storting
(Parliament), together with open political discussions at local, regional and
national level. This approach may be more fruitful than carrying out this type of
assessment for every proposed dam-building project, as the commission appears
to be suggesting.

Norway would, however, like to point out that every river is unique, so that various
options must be evaluated in each specific case. There will also be large
variations between countires in institutional capacity, the need for dams, and the
level of economic and social development.

The decision-making process
Norway agrees that people who will be directly affected by a dam-building project
should be drawn into the decision-making process, and would particularily like to
emphasize the importance of avoiding land-use changes that are so detrimental
to the culture of indiginous people and the natural resource base on which they
depend, that their way of life is threatened. In this connection, we refer to ILO
convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent
COuntries, and especially to Article 27 of the UN International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, and to the obligation states have under these agreements to
consult indigenous peoples and ensure that they are able to participate in the
process that affect them.

In Norway, the system for dam-building projects are based on broad public
participation at several stages of the process. When individual projects are being
considered, the Norwegian environmental impct assessment system ensures that
alternative solutions and the social and environmental consequenses are
evaluated. The Commission's report identifies these as important points that must
be given weight in the decision-making process. The licensing procedure involves
weighing up the various factors for a particular project. The Government or the
Storting (national assembly) takes the final decision on all dam-building projects,
which ensures that the advantages and disadvantages are assessed at the
highest political level.

The Commission recommends a desicion-making process which emphasizes
negotiations between the developer and local communities that are directly
affected (e.g. local population who will be displaced by a reservoir) and that gives
indiginous and tribal peoples the right of veto over development projects. Norway
supports the intentions behind this point, i.e. that adversely affected local
populations must be given much more influence over decisions than has so far
been the case in many countries.

However, in our opinion the Commission has gone rather too far in the direction
of consensus-based decision -making systems. The Commission's model might
reduce the influence of public-sector bodies on the decision-making process, and
this is unlikely to be a constructive way of dealing with major infrastructure
projects, which frequently involve conflicts of interest.
A dam may be built to serve several purposes, for example flood control,
irrigation, hydropower production, drinking water supplies, etc., and a number of
conflicting interests will generally be involved. The decision-making process can
be very time consuming and costly and can often end in disagreement. Norway
consideres that in such cases, as in other cases involving major infrastructure
development, the superior competent authority should make a final decision
which, taking into account all relevant considerations, will be the best solution for
the community as a whole.

The intentions behind the report are good, but there is a need for legislation and
licensing systems that make it possible for the authorities to take decissions that
are important to achieve national goals and safeguard considerations of national
importance. The aim should be to evaluate all relevant considerations before a
decision is made on a dam-building project, and to ensure that all those affected
receive an equitable share of the benefits from the project. A decision to build a
dam should not be taken until all affected parties have had an opportunity to
express their views on social, cultural and environmental matters relating to the
plans and the environmental impact assessment.

Equitable sharing of the benefits/compensations for losses
Norway agrees with the Commission as regards to its recommendations for the
equitable sharing of the benefits from dam-building projects. Norway has
introduced conditions relating to licence fees and obligatory sales of power to the
municipalities where hydropower facilities are built, in order to ensure that the
local population receives a share of the economic benefits. In addition, industrial
development funds are established to help local business and industry.

Norway considers it important to develop satisfactory legislation, especially as
regards the displacement of people by dams, and that agreements on
compensation must be drawn up before permission is given to build dams.

Addressing existing dams
The Commission points out that more should be done to address the
environmental and social impacts of dams. Norway will put special emphasis on
this is the future. Norwegian legislation provides the authority to require follow-up
measures. The possibility of revising licensing conditions means that projects can
be followed up and adjusted to meet changed needs or changes in attitudes to

Norway as a pertner in development cooperation
The Commission points out that in many countires, inadequate legislation and
licensing systems are a serious obstacle to sustainable and equitable utilization of
water resources. Similarily, the most serious problems associated with dam-
building have often arisen because of lack of public participation in decision-
making processes, together with inequitable distribution of the benefits and a lack
of compensation for negative consequences.
Norway supports these views and the main principles set out in the Commission's
report on public participation in and trancparency relating to planning processes.
However, as discussed above, Norway has a somewhat divergent opinion on how
the decision-making process should be organized. In Norway's view, it is
extremely important to establish adequate legislation and a licensing system for
dam-building, and to develop national or regional plans for the utilization of water
resources. In this connection we would like to empasize the sovereign rights of
states within the framework of international law to make decisions on the use of
their own natural resources based on national priorities.

As a partner in development cooperation with other countries, Norway will give
priority to sharing Norwegian experience of hydropower development and will
contribute to the development of necessary technical expertise and institutions.
Furthermore, Norway will support public participation in decision-making
processes to ensure that all interests are identified and taken into consideration.

                                  Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 2001

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