Friday, September 2, 2016

Minimising societal risk key for hydropower development

The societal risks of alienating local people in areas where hydropower projects are constructed are nearly as important to consider as climate risk, according to a new study. The study – conducted by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and FutureWater – is based on the study of glaciers across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, which was presented during Stockholm World Water Week.
According to the study that is conducted to understand the impacts of climate change in the mountains and the possible downstream consequences, these hydropower projects are mostly in mountain areas, and local people often perceive that the benefits accrue to people in the plains, who get electricity, while people in the mountains bear the environmental and social costs.
“Hydropower companies need to provide direct and tangible benefits to local communities to manage this risk,” reads a media release issued today by ICIMOD.
According to theme leader for water and air at ICIMOD Aditi Mukherji, successful benefit sharing mechanisms in Nepal and India has been discussed to come to a conclusion that good and responsible governance at the local level is needed to ensure that local communities derive commensurate benefits from hydropower projects.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan region has nearly 500 GW hydropower potential but only a fraction of it has been developed. As countries in the region gear up for increased hydropower production to alleviate energy poverty, they find themselves grappling with increasing climatic and social risks.
The seminar convened by ICIMOD, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), FutureWater, and Statkraft at Stockholm World Water Week yesterday discussed these risks and the way forward, the release further reads.
"There is a need to manage risks so that the mountains and the plains derive sustainable benefits from the region’s rich hydropower potential,” the release has quoted director general of ICIMOD David Molden as saying. He also stressed on the importance of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region as a global asset.
The hydropower sector is facing major challenges as a result of climate change-induced glacier melt. Glaciers across the region are retreating, leading to changes in future hydrological regimes. At the same time, the risk of glacial lake outburst floods and landslides is increasing, putting both existing and planned hydropower plants at risk.
“Changes in hydrological regimes means that there will be more water in the near future as glaciers melt, but it will decline after 2100,” said Arthur Lutz from FutureWater, a water management research organisation, according to the release.
Martin Honsberg from the hydropower company Statkraft, added that the only feasible way to manage this risk is to be better informed about the impacts of climate change on glaciers and river regimes, which can be done by setting up long-term monitoring systems.
At World Water Week this year, ICIMOD convened various seminars and hosted a booth to draw attention to a range of water-related issues and their impact on the ecosystems and people of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, the release adds.

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