Friday, January 17, 2014

US Congress Takes Landmark Decision for Rivers and Rights

Peter Bosshard
International Rivers
(Photograph: Alamy)
Kariba dam, hydroelectric dam on the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe. The World Bank is eager to re-engage in large dam projects around the world, and other financiers are following in its wake. The US Congress has now poured cold water on these plans. In a landmark decision it has instructed the US government to oppose the construction of large dams through international financial institutions, and called for justice for the victims of human rights abuses as a result of their projects.
The new instructions were sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, and are part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the budget compromise which was approved by the US Senate and House this week. In the section on multilateral financial institutions, the act says:

“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,’’ World Commission on Dams (November 2000)).”

(Like the dam industry, the World Commission on Dams basically defines dams as large if they are at least 15 meters high. You can find the language on p. 1361 of the voluminous act.)

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