It is a great honour and pleasure to be able to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the international-commission-on-large-dams (icold) with the readers of International Water Power & Dam Construction.

ICOLD was established in Paris on 6 July 1928, after three years of gestation promoted by a variety of organisations encouraged by the French civil engineering community. From its creation until 1967, it operated as an autonomous body within the World Power Conference, and in that same year it became an international, independent non-governmental organisation.

Ever since then the organisation has operated with a strong and permanent structure, which has been adapting and adjusting to the way science has evolved and the technical breakthroughs that have been made. With a view to achieving its aims and working for the benefit of society, ICOLD ensures that its knowledge is readily available to help the progression of humanity through civil engineering, as well as improve the quality of life for people all over the world. So we should all feel proud of our contribution to the sustainable development of water and energy resources, and be satisfied with the countless benefits that dams and reservoirs have provided throughout all these years.

Five pillars

The ICOLD organisation is based upon five pillars:

• The national committees.

• The executive committee.

• The officers.

• The secretary general and the central office.

• The technical, administrative, and special (ad hoc) committees.

The national committees are our central pillar and our purpose. One of our main tasks is to support, encourage and promote the activities of these national committees in order to ensure that we are forever present in the different regions and countries of the world.

ICOLD is a great team, with 88 member states and more than 10,000 individual members. We have over 500 international experts who take part in the tasks undertaken by the 24 technical committees, which have edited more than 140 publications during this period. ICOLD Bulletins reflect the state of the art in dam engineering, with respect to dam safety; new types of dams such as RCC dams; dam construction and operation; and environmental and social effects (downstream effects, sedimentation, water quality, etc). While other bulletins deal with emerging issues such as risk assessment; dam performance monitoring; reanalysing older dams and spillways; new aspects in environmental impacts and mitigation; the role of dams in integrated basin management and in integrated water resources management; plus the effects of ageing and decommissioning of dams. To facilitate the wider distribution of such information the bulletins from one to 100 can be downloaded free of charge from the ICOLD website at

ICOLD also provides an international forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience, with the celebration of an international congress every three years. There have been 22 up to 2008; plus numerous other international symposiums and workshops.

All these ICOLD achievements have only been possible thanks to the commitment and dedication of many civil engineers, hydrologists, hydromechanical engineers, biologists, environmentalists and many other professionals who have been working constantly over the past 80 years. These include:

• The 21 presidents.

• The 122 vice-presidents.

• The ten secretaries general at the central office in Paris.

Now, in 2008 we hold them firmly in our memories and give our thanks to each and every one of them. We acknowledge and pay a great tribute to those who have admirably devoted their time to the government of our organisation since it was founded. All those honourable engineers and experts of great prestige have contributed to the progress of ICOLD, and to disseminating the organisation’s activities all over the world. It is to these people that we are dedicating the commemoration of the 80th anniversary.

Water for life

ICOLD is one of the world’s leading professional organisations, dedicated to advancing the art and science of dam engineering and promoting the wise and sustainable development and management of the world’s water and hydro power resources. We are now assisting nations to prepare to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Water is essential for human life and sustainable development but in the final decades of the 20th century, major water problems arose worldwide, leading to very serious water crises and water poverty situations. We are currently in the International Decade for Action of the UN’s Water for Life Focus from 2005 to 2015, and fundamentally in the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The challenge facing humanity in this period is to reach eight fundamental goals, with 12 targets, and 48 indicators. Resolving the water crisis and dealing with water poverty is a feature of each one of the goals, but it is specifically referred to in Goal 7 that refers to ‘ensuring environmental sustainability’. The aim is to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation. MDG targets also relate to providing accessible electricity to the poor.

The developed countries have a large and varied stock of dams, electricity and hydro power infrastructures. Constructing new infrastructure is vital for the socio-economic development of emergent and developing countries in order to have sufficient supplies of water and energy. However, experience has shown us that water, energy, dam and reservoir infrastructures can, in some cases, have a major social and environmental impact. It has become necessary to consider them within the framework of integrated water resource management. All the feasible options should be considered as part of this holistic approach. Attention to the social and environmental aspects of dams and reservoirs must be a priority concern that guides all ICOLD activities; in the same way as concern for safety is invariably a top priority. We now aim to find a way to balance the need for the development of water resources, with conserving the environment in a sustainable way, so that the actions taken now will not be detrimental to future generations.

The activities that we are going to carry out during this commemoration of the 80th anniversary are not going to revolve exclusively around celebrating 80 years of ICOLD. We are also going to demonstrate the role of dams, reservoirs, and storage in water and hydro power development and management. We will also be promoting new dams and reservoirs for sustainable development, and for adapting to global changes such as population increase, urbanisation, economic development and climate change.

As we look to the future, the planning process for dams must carefully document the proposed benefits as well as the concerns and impacts associated with projects. The concerns and adverse impacts of dams can be minimised or eliminated by careful planning, design and construction that incorporates public involvement and input in all stages of this process. When the appropriate mitigation measures are identified early on they can be efficiently and effectively incorporated into the design, construction and operation of the project.

ICOLD will continue to provide leading engineers and scientists with a forum to exchange and transfer knowledge, experience and technology related to the development and management of the world’s water and energy resources. This process is very useful in passing information from those with long-term experience to those who have major construction programmes ahead in their future. It is also important to ensure that existing dams remain safe, and are operated in the most efficient and economic way.

ICOLD’s intent is to ensure that the dams and associated structures required for water and hydro power resource development and management around the world are safe, economical, environmentally responsible, socially acceptable and are operated and maintained for sustained reliability. Dams and reservoirs can be compatible with the social and natural environment of the region. The challenge for the future will be the utilisation of dams and reservoirs for the wise management of the world’s water resources as part of each nation’s social and economic development goals. ICOLD is looking forward to working with all countries and other international organisations to meet this challenge. It hopes to carry on working for many years on the important tasks it has to perform, in a responsible and committed way.


On 24 November 2008 ICOLD will celebrate its 80th anniversary with a special commemoration and a conference on Water and Energy, in the Palais of the Decuverte in Paris.

This meeting is officially sponsored by the French Ministry for Environment, Energy and Sustainable Development, and we wait the attendance of other Ministers, CEOs of leading companies in the field of water and energy, and major dam builders in the world. Most of the leading countries where dams are built will be represented. I invite you to attend this special celebration of the 80th anniversary, and I hope for your active collaboration. Participation is free but you must register at

For those that attend the celebration and wish to take advantage of their stay in Paris, ICOLD is working alongside another international conference. Resolving the Water and Energy Nexus will be held at the UNESCO central office in Paris on 26-28 November 2008.

We look forward to seeing you in Paris.

Luis Berga
ICOLD, President