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Nelson Mandela: Careful use of our collective life support systems, the rivers entrusted to us as stewards of nature

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LONDON, 16 NOVEMBER 2000 (excerpts)


Friends !


It really gives me great pleasure to be present at and participate in this occasion of the launch of the report of the World Commission on Dams.…


I am aware that the issue of dams and their benefits and impacts has become one of the battlegrounds in the sustainable development arena. The establishment of the Commission was well timed and its report will certainly be an important contribution to those debates and our understanding of them.


We are here today, in large part, to answer the questions: Who really needs the work of the World Commission on Dams? Who is their Report written for? There are some who may say it can only target a very narrow readership; a few thousand specialists in their field, at most. Yet from my brief introduction to the Report it has become clear what is at stake and how it can help all of us resolve potentially explosive

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tensions together. For it involves the careful use of our collective life support systems, the rivers entrusted to us as stewards of nature.….


It is not easy to be inside of the process, making decisions that would affect the lives of millions and for decades to come. The guidance that one could henceforth seek from the Report of a World Commission would be invaluable.



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the question remains: how do we eradicate poverty with attention to this crucial life supporting system? Some say large dams offer solutions; others say large dams create problems. The Commission, as I understand from its Report, to its credit says neither.


It simply distils the evidence of the performance of dams in the past, in which dams, on balance, have delivered significant benefits for the many. But the overall performance and impacts of dams present us with a more complex and often bleak picture, especially for the unspoken minority, and for nature. ….


We thank you for your hard work. We congratulate you on the quality of your Report. We commend you for the way you created space for dialogue, mutual understanding and ultimately mutual respect and understanding amongst the parties to the dams debate and conflicts. You have shown us the way forward for dealing with such complex issues.


I thank you.


Source: http://www.internationalrivers.org

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