US Congress tells government to oppose large dams

It also seeks compensation and redress to people who suffer violation of human rights, including forced displacement, resulting from loan, grant, strategy or policy of international financial institutions

 
By Soma Basu
Published: Monday 17 August 2015

In a landmark decision, the United States Congress has instructed the US government and its agencies to oppose any financial or policy support to large dams.

The resolution, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, passed on January 13, reads: “The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director of each international financial institution that it is the policy of the United States to oppose any loan, grant, strategy or policy of such institution to support the construction of any large hydroelectric dam (as defined in Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making, by World Commission on Dams (November 2000).”  

It may be noted that US is the biggest financial contributor to World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs) and has the biggest vote share in World Bank and other boards. Several large dams across the globe are funded by such IFIs.

The World Commission on Dams endorses the definition of large dams by the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), established in 1928, which says that a large dam is a dam with a height of 15 m or more from the foundation. If dams are between 5-15m high and have a reservoir volume of more than 3 million cube metre, they are also classified as large dams. Using this definition, there are over 45,000 large dams around the world.

The resolution also says the secretary of the treasury shall instruct the US executive director of each international financial institution to seek to ensure that each such institution responds to the findings and recommendations of its accountability mechanisms by providing just compensation or other appropriate redress to individuals and communities that suffer violation of human rights, including forced displacement, resulting from any loan, grant, strategy or policy of such institution.

Redress for those affected by Chixoy dam?


United States executive directors of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank would now have to take steps to support implementation of the April 19, 2010 Reparations Plan for Damages Suffered by the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam in Guatemala.

The project, financed by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, was built on the Chixoy River in the early 1980s. The project forcibly displaced more than 3,500 Maya community members. More than 6,000 families living in the area also suffered loss of land and livelihoods. When community members opposed relocation and sought better compensation, they were massacred, tortured and kidnapped. More than 400 Maya indigenous people were killed in such massacres.
 


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National register of large dams 2013

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