Large dams at the nexus of energy, climate, food and water

Dams can be good, but are often disappointing

Dams in rivers can be good. They can provide carbon-low energy, water for irrigation, and ecological flows of water. They can dampen fluctuations in rainfall. Still, many dams in hindsight are bad investments, even without considering their negative impacts. They can help adapt to climate change. However, climate change may also render them inefficient. In addition, these negative impacts are often underestimated and may occur in downstream countries. Tensions can rise, and SDGs may not be achieved. Is there a way to prevent these disappointments?

Environmental Assessment can help, and financing institutions can promote

Some experiences with Environmental Assessment (EA) linked to strategic basin planning suggest that there is a way to improve better governance of large dam development. EA is about organizing an accountable, transparent and participative planning process, based on fact-checked information. For example, governments can use basin plans to justify the need for dams and assess their contribution to SDGs. In LMCs, EA for basin plans is increasingly required.

Aim of the meeting and speakers

The meeting will discuss the potential of environmental assessment for justification of large dam development, leaving the option of rejection open. Financing institutions are beginning to stimulate it. But can we do more? Could activists liaise with benevolent government officials to experiment with early transparency and participation? Individual financiers have little power. Consortia of financiers perhaps? Review and adjust the hydropower protocol?

In this session, three key actors present their views on the situation [TO BE INVITED]:

  • FMO: Mr Pimhein Kool is senior environmental and social specialist at the Dutch public-private development bank FMO.
  • Both Ends :Ms Daniëlle Hirsch is Director at the Dutch NGO Both Ends, and has among other things water management and international economic relations in her portfolio.
  • IHE Delft: Ms Susanne Schmeier is senior Lecturer in Water Law and Diplomacy.  Her research and advisory activities focus among others on the legal and institutional dimensions of water resources management at both the national and the transboundary level.
  • European Investment Bank: Mr Bartholomew Judd, Environmental Specialist - Environmental, Climate and Social Office (ECSO)


Facilitator: Sibout Nooteboom, NCEA