ings of the assessment. It may, if it wishes, simply file away the report into obscurity.
At a more fundamental level, these problems relate to people's ability to participate in
thedecision-makingprocess,whichisultimately“aquestionofhowmuch power theyhave
to determine the shape and operation of the project” (Nolan 2002:162). In my experience,
these crucial dynamics of power and politics generally lie outside the scope of a model. I
therefore do not wish to suggest that decision making about dams—whether to build them,
how to build them, and how to mitigate their negative impacts—is settled once we have
appropriately identified and measured the impacts of greatest concern. Indeed, these steps
probably constitute no more than a starting point. The next step, one that is murky and am-
biguous but no less important, requires an examination of the participation process itself.
Regardless of how well environmental assessments are designed and carried out, if such
scientific input does not fit into a larger system of equitable, transparent, and accountable
decision making, it is of little value. Chapter 6 addresses key social challenges such as pub-
lic participation and the implementation of a rights-based framework in decision making
about dams, particularly when people's livelihoods are at stake.