To Dam or Not to Dam – that is the Question!!!

To Dam or Not to Dam – that is the Question!!!

Amur-Heilong River at proposed Taipinggou Dam site. Photo by Taipinggou National Nature reserve

New article titled “Freshwater Ecosystems versus Hydropower Development” published in the MDPI journal “Water” shows practical directions for sustainable hydropower planning, suggesting much more tangible and straightforward ways to avoid and reduce dam impacts, than those suggested in “ESG gap analysis tool” developed by International Hydropower Association.

Hydropower development inevitably causes a multitude of negative effects on freshwater ecosystems, and to prevent and minimize possible damage, environmental impact assessments must be conducted and optimal management scenarios designed. This paper, written by RwB and WWF-russia experts, examines the impacts of both existing and proposed hydropower development on the transboundary Amur River basin shared by Russia, China, and Mongolia. It explores the effectiveness of different tools and measures to minimize damage that may be caused by hydropower. The paper demonstrates that the application of various assessment and conservation tools at the proper time and in the proper sequence is the key factor in mitigating and minimizing the environmental impacts of dams. The tools considered include basin-wide assessments of hydropower impacts, the creation of protected areas on rivers threatened by dam construction, and environmental flows. The results of this work show how the initial avoidance and mitigation of hydropower impacts at early planning stages are more productive than the application of any measures during and after dam construction, that the assessment of hydropower impacts must be performed at a basin level rather than be limited to a project implementation site, and that the full spectrum of possible development scenarios should be considered. In addition, this work demonstrates that stakeholder analysis and robust public engagement are as crucial for the success of environmental assessments as scientific research is for the protection of river basins.

Once a thoughtful Nepalese engineer challenged one of the authors  with a statement “But in order to be sustainable, the hydropower project, first of all, should be built!”. The article shows that if we are talking not at the project but at the basin-wide or energy sector level this is NOT the case. So we rephrase his motto: “To be sustainable, the hydropower project, first of all, should NOT be built in a wrong place!!!”

Citation: Simonov, E.A.; Nikitina, O.I.; Egidarev, E.G. (2019) Freshwater Ecosystems versus Hydropower Development: Environmental Assessments and Conservation Measures in the Transboundary Amur River Basin. Water. Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins 2019, 11(8), 1570.

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