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BP 4.37 - Safety of Dams

These policies were prepared for use by World Bank staff and are not necessarily a complete treatment of the subject.
BP 4.37
October, 2001
Note: OP/BP 4.37, Safety of Dams, were revised on April 2013 to take into account the recommendations in “Investment Lending Reform: Modernizing and Consolidating Operational Policies and Procedures” (R2012-0204 [IDA/R2012-0248]), which were approved by the Executive Directors on October 25, 2012. As a result of these recommendations, OP/BP 10.00, Investment Project Financing, have been revised, among other things, to incorporate OP/BP 13.05, Supervision, (which have consequently been retired). OP/BP 4.37 have consequently been updated to reflect these changes.

Other Bank policies that may apply to projects that involve dams include the following: OP/BP 4.01, Environmental Assessment; OP /BP 4.04, Natural Habitats; OP/BP 4.11, Physical Cultural Resources; OP /BP 4.10, Indigenous Peoples; OP /BP 4.12, Involuntary Resettlement; and OP/BP 7.50, Projects on International Waterways.
Questions on dam safety should be addressed to the Safeguard Policies Helpdesk in OPCS (

Revised April 2013

Project Processing

1. When the Bank1 begins processing a project that includes a dam, the processing team includes individuals who have relevant experience in dam engineering and in preparation and supervision of previous Bank-funded projects that have included dams. If such individuals are not available within the Region, the task team (TT) consults the Safeguard Policies Helpdesk in OPCS for referral to appropriate specialists inside or outside the Bank.

2. Bank projects involving dams are processed according to the procedures set forth in BP 10.00, Investment Project Financing.

3. As soon as a project involving a dam is identified, the TT discusses with the borrower the Bank's policy on dam safety (OP 4.37).


4. The TT ensures that the borrower's terms of reference (TOR) for technical services to investigate the site and design the dam, supervise new or remedial construction, advise on initial reservoir filling and start-up operations, and perform inspections and safety assessments, as well as the qualifications of the professionals (e.g., engineers, geologists, or hydrologists) to be employed by the borrower, are adequate to the complexity of the particular dam.

5. If an independent panel of experts (the Panel) is required, the TT advises borrower staff, as necessary, on the preparation of TOR. The TT reviews and clears the TOR and the Panel members proposed by the borrower. Once the Panel is in place, TT staff normally attend Panel meetings as observers.
6. The TT reviews all reports relating to dam safety prepared by the borrower, the Panel, the independent specialists who assess an existing dam or a dam under construction, and the professionals hired by the borrower to design, construct, fill, and start up the dam.
7. The TT monitors the borrower's preparation of the plans for construction supervision and quality assurance, instrumentation, operation and maintenance, and emergency preparedness (see OP 4.37, para. 4(b) and BP 4.37, Annex A).
8. The appraisal team reviews all project information relevant to dam safety, including cost estimates; construction schedules; procurement procedures; technical assistance arrangements; environmental assessments; and the plans for construction supervision and quality assurance, instrumentation, operation and maintenance, and emergency preparedness. The team also reviews the project proposal, technical aspects, inspection reports, Panel reports, and all other borrower action plans relating to dam safety. If a Panel has been required, the team verifies that the borrower has taken the Panel's recommendations into consideration and, if necessary, assists the borrower in identifying sources for dam safety training or technical assistance.
9. For small dams, generic dam safety measures designed by qualified engineers are usually adequate. The task team will agree on appropriate safety measures with the Borrower, will ensure the involvement of qualified engineers, and will confirm that the environmental assessment (EA) for the project has determined that there would be no risk or negligible risk of significant adverse impacts due to potential failure of the structure to local communities and assets, including assets to be financed as part of the proposed project. Based on such determination potential adverse impacts would be addressed through OP/BP 4.01, Environmental Assessment and not OP/BP 4.37, and measures will be included in the Environmental Management Plan or Environmental and Social Management Framework, as applicable, in accordance with OP/BP 4.01, Environmental Assessment.
10. The TT and the assigned Bank lawyer ensure that the legal agreements between the Bank and the borrower require the borrower

(a) if a Panel has been required, to convene Panel meetings periodically during project implementation and retain the Panel through the start-up of a new dam;

(b) to implement the required plans (see Annex A) and raise to the required standard any that have not been adequately developed; and

(c) after filling and start-up of a new dam, to have periodic dam safety inspections performed by independent qualified professionals who have not been involved with the investigation, design, construction, or operation of the dam.

11. During implementation, the TT monitors all activities relating to the dam safety provisions in the Loan Agreement, using technical staff and, as appropriate, consultants to assess the borrower's performance. If performance in regard to dam safety is found to be unsatisfactory, the TT promptly informs the borrower that the deficiencies must be remedied.
12. During the latter stages of project implementation, the TT discusses post-project operational procedures with the borrower, stressing the importance of ensuring that written instructions for flood operations and emergency preparedness are retained at the dam at all times. The TT also points out that the advent of new technology or new information (e.g., from floods, seismic events, or discovery of new regional or local geologic features) may in the future require the borrower to modify the technical criteria for evaluating dam safety; the TT urges the borrower to make such modifications and then apply the revised criteria to the project dam and, as necessary, to other dams under the borrower's jurisdiction.
13. To ensure that completed dams are inspected and maintained satisfactorily, Regional staff may carry out supervision beyond the closing date of the project, either during work on follow-up projects or during specially scheduled supervision missions.

  1. "Bank" includes IBRD and IDA, and "loans" includes IDA credits and IDA grants.

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