Navigating trade-offs between dams and river conservation

  • Non-technical summary: There has been a long history of conflicts, studies, and debate over how to both protect rivers and develop them sustainably. With a pause in new developments caused by the global pandemic, anticipated further implementation of the Paris Agreement and high-level global climate and biodiversity meetings in 2021, now is an opportune moment to consider the current trajectory of development and policy options for reconciling dams with freshwater system health. Technical summary: We calculate potential loss of free-flowing rivers (FFRs) if proposed hydropower projects are built globally. Over 260,000 km of rivers, including Amazon, Congo, Irrawaddy, and Salween mainstem rivers, would lose free-flowing status if all dams were built. We propose a set of tested and proven solutions to navigate trade-offs associated with river conservation and dam development. These solution pathways are framed within the mitigation hierarchy and include (1) avoidance through either formal river protection or through exploration of alternative development options; (2) minimization of impacts through strategic or system-scale planning or re-regulation of downstream flows; (3) restoration of rivers through dam removal; and (4) mitigation of dam impacts through biodiversity offsets that include restoration and protection of FFRs. A series of examples illustrate how avoiding or reducing impacts on rivers is possible – particularly when implemented at a system scale – and can be achieved while maintaining or expanding benefits for climate resilience, water, food, and energy security. Social media summary: Policy solutions and development pathways exist to navigate trade-offs to meet climate resilience, water, food, and energy security goals while safeguarding FFRs.
Author:Michele L. Thieme, David Tickner, Günther Grill, Juan Pablo Carvallo, Marc Goichot, Joerg Hartmann, Jonathan V. Higgins, Bernhard Lehner, Mark Mulligan, Christer Nilsson, Klement Tockner, Christiane Zarfl, Jeffrey J. Opperman
Parent Title (English):Global sustainability
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
Place of publication:Cambridge
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2021/08/10
Date of first Publication:2021/08/10
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2022/05/30
Tag:ecology and biodiversity; energy; planning and design; policies; politics and governance; water security
Page Number:7
First Page:1
Last Page:7
Funding for this study was provided in part by WWF in Washington, DC and by McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 55 Geowissenschaften, Geologie / 550 Geowissenschaften
5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
9 Geschichte und Geografie / 91 Geografie, Reisen / 910 Geografie, Reisen
3 Sozialwissenschaften / 33 Wirtschaft / 333 Boden- und Energiewirtschaft / 333.7 Natürliche Ressourcen, Energie und Umwelt
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0