Teamwork is the way forward

16 May 2013

As an African Proverb states: one hand cannot collect the flour effectively. This is why as dam engineers, we aggregate our collective efforts to ensure a better contribution to our societies. Our joint efforts in Burkina Faso gave birth to our national committee and we later joined ICOLD in 1997. This was a culmination of our struggle to connect to our peers at an international level. Learning from our friends abroad will enable us to better serve our country and contribute to the progress of the dam society at large.
I was elected as ICOLD president during the Kyoto Congress in 2012 and would like to renew my gratitude to the ICOLD national committees for the confidence shown in me to lead this important worldwide professional association for a term of three years.

Leading professionals
ICOLD is an international leading professional association established in 1928 in Paris. It has progressed from a small organisation in the 1930s to a worldwide organisation with 95 national committees and more than 10,000 individual members made up of high level professionals in various fields of dams, reservoirs, science and technology.
ICOLD has always been at the forefront of the profession with state of the art innovations and guidelines for the development of dams and reservoirs. It has endeavoured to address the increasing need for water, energy and food as well as protection against floods and droughts worldwide. We have also been involved in meeting the latest challenges of climate change but the main challenges we are facing today include:
• Strengthening ICOLD's internal structure and improving efficiency to ensure the sustainability and durability of the association which is a unique tool for the profession.
• Advancing the science and technology of dams and reservoirs to provide the best and most appropriate solutions to ensure sustainable development and management of the world's water resources. The international community is faced with the complex challenge of a rapidly increasing world population with the associated increase in water, food and energy demands; plus the need to keep and improve living standards in developed countries as well as to improve the situation in less developed countries including Africa. The impact of climate change with the increased frequency of naturals hazards like seismicity, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis as well as severe droughts are key issues to address. Many new dams and reservoirs will be built in less developed countries in conditions with specific peculiarities including high evaporation rates, tropical residual and unsaturated soil conditions and high intensity flash floods, amongst others. All these challenge the profession to better understand the behaviour and laws of nature so as to harness it appropriately for the benefit of our society.
• Dissemination of the huge knowledge base accumulated in one century of work through ICOLD's technical committees, bulletins, congresses and symposia proceedings through the facilitation of easy access to this asset for professionals.
• Bridging the gap between the old and new generation for the sustainability of the profession in developed countries and developing capacity in dams and reservoir engineering in less developed countries. For this purpose ICOLD has organised and implemented a Young Engineers Forum which is progressing well. ICOLD is also developing several capacity building initiatives with increasing co-operation between national committee members.
• Co-operating with sister organisations and the international stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, in the framework of a joint effort to address water and energy security in the world through the development of dams and reservoirs. In this light, ICOLD and sister organisations like ICID, IWRA and IHA have jointly issued the World Declaration on Water Storage for a Sustainable Development. ICOLD is also part of the World Water Council's struggle for advancing the right to water and the pact for water security.
During my term, I intend to progress our commitment to addressing these challenges through the joint efforts of the board, the central office, all ICOLD national committees and the ICOLD technical committees. The challenges of the 21st century in the areas of climate change, environmental sustainability, food and energy security requires new concepts in dam construction and operation. This will help to bridge yawning gaps in economic, and social and environmental considerations.

Dramatic situation
Despite the existence of huge natural resources, Africa and other less developed countries around the world are facing a dramatic situation where access to basic services and needs like clean water, sanitation, education, modern energy to ensure safe human life and provide the mean for development, is very low. More than 2B poor people are lacking these basics services around the world.
In Africa, only 7% of feasible hydropower potential has been developed so far. Less than 10% of arable lands are under irrigation and every two or three years large parts of the continent are facing famines and thirst. Over the past few years many countries are have also been facing electricity riots with fatalities.
ICOLD is trying to help address this situation. It has issued, in collaboration with key international and African organisations like the African Union, a regional Declaration on Dams and Hydropower for Sustainable Development of Africa (2008).
In trying to progress the development of the profession in Africa, ICOLD has created the Africa Regional Club which organises dam professionals in Africa and disseminates the ICOLD knowledge base to help progress the harnessing of water and energy resources in Africa. In this context we can safely state that the controversies concerning the development of dams and reservoirs are behind us. Key international stakeholders agree today that there is a need to harness these natural resources for human security and development with well planned, well designed, safe, environmentally friendly and socially equitable dams and reservoirs.
If we are to move forward, there is no immediate alternative to the development of this naturally endowed resource. It has been established that the UN human development index is firmly correlated to the stock of water and energy infrastructures worldwide. Based on this consensus, new positive trends in the development of water and energy infrastructure are occurring today in Africa with large projects being undertaken in many countries and regions. ICOLD is committed to contributing to this important process for humanity.
In order to move forward we have to work as a team. We have to come out with innovative ideas and be committed to follow up on planned actions. Then and only then will we be able to advance the science and technology of dams and reservoirs for the sustainable utilisation and management of world water resources.

Adama Nombre, ICOLD President, is a graduate of electrical engineering from the Université de Franche Comté Belfort and of hydraulic engineering from the Ecole Inter Etats des Ingénieurs de l'Equipement Rural located in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He worked as an engineer in the Government Water Resources sector for 20 years and since 2001 have been the director of a consulting firm in dams and hydraulics engineering (IFEC) based in Burkina Faso. Email:

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