Environmental Sustainability of Water Projects

University dissertation from Institutionen för anläggning och miljö

Abstract: The thesis focuses on the environmental sustainability ofwater projects. The concept is analysed from the theoreticaland the implementation viewpoints The evolution of the conceptof sustainable development is presented, with an in-depthdiscussion on the present status of the environmentalsustainability of water projects. Several case studies areanalysed on different important aspects of environmentalsustainability. These case studies include the analysis ofissues like the role of institutions, effectiveness of legalframeworks, participation of stakeholders, contributions ofwater development projects to regional development,consideration of environmental and social issues, and impactsof social and environmental movements.The impacts of the Ataturk dam, within the SoutheasternAnatolia (GAP) Project, Turkey, are analysed in terms ofplanning, policy making, institutional arrangements,infrastructural development, and human resources development.Its economic, social and environmental impacts during theconstruction phase and the first seven years of operation arereviewed.The role of large dams in poverty alleviation andsocio-economic development are analysed, especially in terms ofresettlement. The current global thinking on involuntaryresettlement is reviewed, as are the experiences onresettlement of the people affected by water projects. Anassessment of the participatory process that was formulated forthe resettlement of the people affected by the construction ofthe Birecik dam, GAP Project, Turkey, is presented.Institutional arrangements for integrated river basinmanagement in Latin America is analysed, with special emphasison the Brazilian and the Mexican experiences of watermanagement at the river basin level. Brazil and Mexico werechosen since they are by far the most advanced in this area,compared to all the other Latin American countries.It is concluded that economic, social and environmentaldimensions should be considered concurrently within the goalsof water development. Social considerations are essentialbecause poverty is both a cause and an effect of environmentaldegradation, and societies festering with poverty and socialtensions will not have the means, or inclination, to makesustainable development a priority issue. There are noblueprints for a transition to sustainability, but there arepolicy reforms that could reduce environmental degradation,income disparity and persistent poverty. The water sector isnot an exception to this conclusion.There is now considerable discussion on the operationalfeasibility of the sustainable development concept. It issuggested that sustainable development should be considered tobe a journey and not a destination. The world is nothomogeneous, and thus there cannot be one unique path tosustainable development that would be equally valid andapplicable for all countries of the world, and for alldevelopment sectors. Each country will have to base its waterdevelopment agendas depending on their own social, economic,cultural and environmental conditions, available managerial,technical and administrative capacities and societalexpectations and aspirations. For developing countries, as longas water development policies, programmes and projects cancontribute to socio-economic development, reduction in povertyand income disparity, and environmental conservation, they arewell on course in their long journey to sustainabledevelopment. Definitional debates as to what constitutessustainable water development are likely to beunproductive.

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