Dialogue aims to reduce impacts from dam building in Dinaric Arc
The conference in Dubrovnik, organised by WWF with the support of the World Bank, the Global Water Partnership and the International Hydropower Association, will look at hydropower possibilities and proposals for the eastern Adriatic hinterland area which includes parts of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
Key players from the water, energy and environmental sectors in the region as well as global experts and representatives from major international financing institutions will discuss new approaches to hydropower, based on state-of-the-art science and best practices implemented throughout the world.
“Hydropower emits no CO2 and this makes it a highly attractive alternative energy source in a context of ever increasing climate change and scarcity of conventional energy sources in the region – but it often results in negative impacts on other key water uses like agriculture and fisheries, as well as on fragile freshwater ecosystems and the people that depend on them,” said Paolo Lombardi, Director of the WWF Mediterranean Programme.
“It is crucial that all voices be heard to find the best possible solutions for a sustainable use of precious freshwater resources – that is why WWF is bringing stakeholders together today.”
WWF will propose a range of measures to enhance the sustainability of hydropower development. These go from careful strategic planning that spares precious natural areas to adopting environmental standards, and from ensuring minimum flows which limit impacts on nature and biodiversity to the adequate design and operation of water infrastructure. The conference aims at helping decision-makers in the Dinaric Arc countries to make informed choices and triggering similar approaches in the region in order to improve the environmental performance of water infrastructure.
Hydropower accounts for more than 40 per cent of electricity consumption in the Dinaric Arc region. In many countries it still represents the majority of power supply and is the near-exclusive source of electricity in countries such as Albania and Montenegro which rely on it for up to 90 per cent of their energy output.
In Montenegro, Lake Skadar – a key area for biodiversity in the Balkans – is threatened by four dams planned on the Morača River. According to a study by WWF, its partner Green Home and independent experts, the dams could strongly affect the water levels in the lake hence putting a strain on its rich fish population and negatively impacting hundreds of local families who make a living from fisheries.
Meanwhile, hydropower infrastructure has disturbed the natural water flow into Croatia’s Neretva delta, contributing to saltwater intrusion which is damaging agriculture in the delta. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, biodiversity hotspot Hutovo Blato is also threatened by an unnatural distribution of water - which in turn could negatively impact agricultural and tourism activities, key sources of income for the area.
“Dinaric Arc countries are on the road to EU accession, hence implementing a more sustainable management of water resources, notably based on the EU Water Framework Directive, represents a major opportunity for them to align with EU requirements,” said Angela Klauschen, Freshwater Policy Officer at WWF Mediterranean.
WWF calls for an open dialogue between all stakeholders in the region to share best practices and benefit from pioneering approaches that can make hydropower more sustainable – including new initiatives such as the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (HSAF), a global collaboration of representatives from different sectors aiming to develop a broadly endorsed sustainability assessment tool to measure and guide performance in the hydropower sector.