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One of the world's largest dams - the Itaipu hydroelectric plant in Brazil. The future of such projects is called in question by a new report

Source: Julio Etchart, Still Pictures

Water will play a leading role in the agenda of the new millennium. The World Water Forum held in The Hague in March 2000 led to the adoption of 'water visions' for different regions of the world, helping to define the water agenda for the 21st century. About 6 000 people participated in the global forum but thousands more had been involved in regional preparatory meetings. It is hoped that mass participation in these events will keep issues of water quality and quantity at the forefront of the environment agenda so that the new regional visions can be successfully implemented.

Over the previous decades, large dams had emerged as one of the most significant and visible tools for the management of water resources. In November 2000, the World Commission on Dams released its report Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making which stated that over the past 50 years, dams have fragmented and transformed the world's rivers, displacing 40-80 million people in different parts of the world (WCD 2000). The report questions the value of many dams in meeting water and energy development needs when compared with alternatives. It thus represents a significant change of view of the value of dams, and may pave the way for different approaches to water development in the future.