Making hydropower more sustainable?: A sustainability measurement approach led by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum
by Tira Foran (2010)
The purpose of this paper is to increase understanding about the Draft Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP). The 2009 Draft HSAP is designed to be a practical sustainability measurement tool that will be endorsed by many stakeholders, including civil society.
This paper provides an independent analysis. We compare the Draft HSAP with the World Commission on Dams decision making framework. We emphasize issues that deserve further thought and discussion.
Large hydropower dams tend to produce not just energy, but large volumes of debate. Governments and energy companies view the ability to transform fl owing water into electricity as a precious economic resource. Critics argue that large dams in the Mekong region are associated with serious and often unresolved negative impacts on ecosystems and vulnerable people (Molle et al. 2009).
In contexts where state regulation is still weak, or where clear economic incentives to improve environmental and social performance are lacking, what can be done? One approach is to begin by inviting project developers and other interested groups to assess the sustainability of hydropower development, in an objective manner. This brief introduces a protocol for hydropower assessment, supported by the International Hydropower Association (IHA).
In 2007, IHA in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) established a “Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum” (HSAF). The focus of the Forum is to review and recommend enhancements to the existing IHA Sustainability Assessment Protocol (IHA 2006). The Forum includes representatives from industry, government, and four international NGOs.2 In 2008–09, HSAF members worked together to refine the assessment methodology, with the aim of developing an objective and broadly useful tool. In August 2009 the Forum released an important Draft Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (“Draft HSAP”) (HSAF 2009a). The Draft HSAP was a product of consensus-based negotiation between Forum members.
The Forum’s work has attracted both support and useful criticism from a range of actors. The purpose of this discussion paper is to increase stakeholder understanding about the Draft HSAP. We review the HSAF’s approach to sustainability, and compare it against the World Commission on Dams (WCD) framework. We emphasize issues in the Draft Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol that deserve further thought and discussion.
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