that led to the birth of the WCD. Over the past
three decades, with increasing frequency and
intensity, questions have been raised about the
economic viability and the social, cultural, and
environmental costs of large dams.
It is important
to note that, most often, in the absence of local
mobilisation and social movements, information
about planned dams is hard to come by and many
poorly planned and implemented projects escape
negative impacts, protests and mobilisations have
multiplied the world over. These protests have
matured into sustained social movements that
have effectively slowed down or stalled further
work on proposed or ongoing dams. Among the
more notable examples are the Bakun Dam in
Malaysia, the Maan, Tehri, and Maheshwar Dams
in India, and the Lesotho Highland Stage II Dam in Lesotho.
the Arun III in Nepal, national mobilisation and
intensive global campaigns have led to the cancel-
lation of these projects. On the Koel-Karo and the
Suvarnarekha Rivers in India, projects have been
shelved after ground had been broken and signifi-
cant infrastructure work had been completed. Even
in the industrialised world—whether in the United
States, Europe, or Japan—public opposition and
the growing evidence of the adverse economic and
ecological impacts have led to a rethinking of large
dams as an option for irrigation and energy.
Additionally, social movements and their support-
ers have criticised the role of multilateral funding
agencies such as the World Bank in the legitima-
tion and construction of large dams.
the movement against dams on India’s Narmada
River. Domestic dissent to this project caused the
World Bank to appoint an independent commis-
sion to assess these dams and subsequently an
independent Inspection Panel to assess conten-
The struggle against the Sardar
Sarovar Project (SSP) in the Narmada Valley
achieved several other global landmarks. It nudged
the World Bank to review its central commitment
to large dams, and its policies related to indigenous
peoples and resettlement. It marked the first time
that the Japanese government withdrew its direct
and indirect support to a development project for
environmental and human rights reasons.
and transnational network of dam-affected people
and their supporters that a world Commission on Dams came to existence.