Wetlands and hydropower


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Wetlands and energy issues are addressed in Resolution XI.10 adopted a year ago at COP11 in Bucharest. The Annex to this Resolution provides a comprehensive framework to address wetland implications of policies, plans and activities in the energy sector. During COP11, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) participated actively in several side events, and it has now just released “Guiding Principles on Sustainable Hydropower Development in the Danube Basin” (download PDF here) that were elaborated with lead support from Austria, Romania, and Slovenia with the contribution of many experts in different fields from all Danube basin countries and the European Commission.

The recently renovated hydropower plant Freudenau on the Danube near Vienna respects the Guiding Principles elaborated by ICPDR. It incorporates a specially created, natural river arm, where water flow can be regulated to suit best migratory fish, and a special sluice for Danube tourist cruise and other ships.

The General Principles underline that hydropower development needs to respect the principles of sustainability and be part of a holistic approach, that it has to recognise the multifunctional use of hydropower infrastructure (incl. e.g. flood control, water supply), to weigh public interests in a transparent, structured and reproducible way with the involvement and the participation of citizen and citizen groups. The General Principles address also issues of upgrading existing hydropower plants and the need for a strategic planning approach. They recommend as a first step to identify river stretches where hydropower development is forbidden by national legislation, and to assess as a second step, the suitability of all other river stretches with a specific matrix provided. Mitigation measures, the need to ensure fish migration and ecological water flows, the need to avoid ecologically damaging hydropeaking (artificial water level fluctuations) and to manage sedimentation processes, maintaining groundwater conditions and restoring specific wetland habitats and riparian zones are also addressed.

These Guiding Principles for Hydropower Development provide indeed an innovative policy and planning tool that can inspire wetland and river basin managers also in other parts of the world. A significant contribution for the implementation of the aspects linked to hydropower listed in Ramsar’s Resolution on Wetlands and energy issues.

Photo and report by Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe

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