Roundtable Discussion on ‘Hydropower Environmental Impact Mitigation’ – EU Green Week

08 June 2021

Besfort Kosova, researcher and project manager at BGF, was part of the ‘Hydropower: How to avoid potential pollution by innovation’ roundtable discussion held within the framework of EU Green Week, organized by Hydropower Europe. The objective of this roundtable was to make a contribution to improving the quality and the continuity of European rivers and to shed light on interdisciplinary experiences through a gathering of NGO representatives, academia, major utilities, policy-makers and the wider audience including consumers and future entrepreneurs working on a transition towards a clean energy society.

Throughout the discussion, the participants underlined the gravity of environmental degradation caused by the installation of hydropower from design, construction, operation, refurbishment and finally decommissioning, and the main challenge of handling harmful environmental and socio-economic impacts, which may be seen as a ‘pollution’ in a wider sense. They emphasized that small hydropower plants, especially on national parks, are causing more harm than benefit in the WB6 countries and bear no real impact on energy/balancing aspect of the energy system, but merely are causing harm to the local biodiversity, river continuity and sediment dynamics, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, land-use and landscape and posing social tensions due to water scarcity and water diversion.

Participating parties highlighted good practices and approaches to contribute to the avoidance of terrestrial and aquatic pollution and help mitigation of harmful impacts.

In this regard, on behalf of BGF, Mr. Kosova presented a series of recommendations, where the need for enforcement in the moratorium and ban on new development of hydropower projects in National Parks and protected areas was underlined. Mr. Kosova stressed the importance of the official integration of community approval in the licensing procedure, and the evaluation of compliance to environmental criteria and standards to be conducted. In addition to these, Mr. Kosova added ‘The improvement of the efficiency of existing hydropower projects should be of high priority and hydropower plants should be developed only in suitable locations, outside national parks and where environmental damage can be minimal. Alignment of strategies and policy decisions with the real potential and situation in the ground including the interests of the communities.

Discussions concluded on the note that only through the provision of technologies and new engineering formats that limit the pollution and the impact of hydropower plants is of utmost importance in order to ensure sustainability of the rivers and create as small of environmental impact as possible by hydropower plants, both in aquatic habitats as well as on impacts on land.