HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, announced a new freshwater policy at their Annual General Meeting in London today. The policy prohibits lending for dams that do not comply with the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams.
“HSBC’s announcement is excellent news for everyone who wants to see socially just and ecologically sustainable solutions to the world’s water and energy needs. Now its time for other financial institutions to step up to the plate and follow HSBC’s example,” says Patrick McCully, Executive Director of International Rivers.
The World Commission on Dams issued their recommendations in 2000. International Rivers and hundreds of other civil society groups around the world believe that meeting the WCD’s criteria should be the litmus test for whether or not a dam should be built.
The Commission made a comprehensive set of recommendations on water and energy planning and management. Among these are that dam developers must reach legally binding and freely negotiated agreements with communities that stand to lose their lands and other resources. The Commission also called for better environmental assessments and greatly improved planning processes that should ensure the selection of low impact water and energy projects.
Over the past five years a growing number of governments, UN agencies, and companies have endorsed the WCD’s approach. Much of the big dam industry, and the World Bank, remain strongly opposed to key parts of the WCD recommendations. HSBC is the first major private bank to endorse the WCD.
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