Yesterday's Technologies a Bad Match for Tomorrow's Problems
International Rivers, March 30, 2011
In a time of climate change, decentralized, adaptable and diversified
water and energy projects are best suited to respond to increasingly
variable and unpredictable weather patterns. Large dams risk becoming
uneconomic due to droughts, and unsafe due to more extreme storms. They
will also further degrade freshwater ecosystems which are already
reeling under the impacts of climate change. In spite of this, the World
Bank's new Energy Strategy calls for increased funding for large dams.
According to International Rivers, a strategy that is based on
yesterday's technologies cannot resolve tomorrow's problems.
Entitled, Energizing Sustainable Development, the new Energy Strategy
was prepared by the World Bank's management and will be discussed by a
committee of the Bank's board of directors on April 11. The strategy,
which was leaked to the public today, calls for "increasing engagement
in hydropower." It proposes a new focus on large, regional projects
particularly in Africa that "can take advantage of economies of scale."
The document states that "the energy sector will seek to increase the
average size of its projects to reinforce [World Bank Group] operational
In a critique of the Energy Strategy, Zachary Hurwitz, policy
coordinator of International Rivers, states: "Climate change is reducing
streamflow in rivers around the world, while increasing storms and
siltation due to extreme weather events. These trends make dams a risky
and inappropriate solution for the problems of climate change. The World
Bank should stay ahead of the curve and support market-ready renewable
technologies, such as wind and non-dam kinetic hydropower projects,
rather than the large dams of the past."
Sena Alouka, director of Jeunes Volontaires pour L'Environnement in
Togo, comments: "It's clear that in the current situation of economic
crisis and climate uncertainty, pushing for hydropower can be disastrous
for Africa, and can lure the continent in a no-return, debt-prone and
miserable situation. Africa has abundant alternatives, and needs to
thoroughly assess all options. Africa needs to think small, think close,
and think durable!"
Peter Bosshard, policy director of International Rivers, adds:
"Decentralized renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and small
hydro projects are best suited to expand access to electricity, reduce
poverty and strengthen resilience to climate change at the same time.
They could also avoid the serious environmental impacts of large dams.
The World Bank should support such a win-win approach rather than to
promote outdated large dams, which primarily serve the interests of the
Bank and the hydropower lobby in big, expensive, centralized projects."
• A copy of the confidential World Bank Energy Strategy is available
• For more information on hydropower and climate change, please visit
• Contact for questions on hydropower: Zachary Hurwitz, International
Rivers, +1 415 341 5264, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Contact for questions on fossil fuels: Steve Kretzmann, Oil Change
International, +1 202 497 1033; John Coequyt, Sierra Club, +1 202 669 7060.
International Rivers is an environmental and human rights organization
with staff in four continents. For over two decades, International
Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers
and the rights of communities that depend on them.
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