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Protocol promises to reduce conflicts in the construction of dams
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The International Hydroelectric Association (IHA), in partnership with land developers, governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations – such as the WWF and The Nature Conservancy – has launched a tool to reduce conflicts in the construction of large dams. The document was presented last Thursday (06/16), at the entity’s global congress, which took place in Foz do Iguaçu.

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol was drafted following three years of studies. It allows for an evaluation of projects from an environmental, social and financial perspective.

In Brazil, Itaipu Binacional and Odebrecht expressed interest in adopting the tool. “Itaipu effectively participated in the discussions that led to the draft of this document. We believe that it will aid our continuous process in the quest for sustainability”, stated Itaipu’s executive technical director, Mr. Antonio Otélo Cardoso, representing the company at the launch.

Among the issues evaluated in a project are its benefits, infrastructure safety, financial viability, public health, cultural heritage, work conditions, indigenous populations, biodiversity, erosion and sedimentation, water quality and reservoir management, among others.  

According to David Harrison, a specialist in hydropower from the NGO The Nature Conservancy, with time, and depending on its dissemination in the global hydropower sector, the protocol may become a certification. The IHA will be setting up a supervisory council and train independent auditors.

“As an organization interested in nature and the conservation of natural resources, The Nature Conservancy took part in the project with the goal of preserving clean water sources. Hydroelectricity is, without a doubt, one of the most viable renewable energies, but it cannot jeopardize these water sources. And the protocol is an excellent tool to guarantee this”, affirmed the NGO’s representative, David Harrison.

Talking of the formulation of the document, WWF representative Joerg Hartmann believes one of the leading benefits of the protocol lies in the possibility of avoiding conflicts and adverse affects on communities and the environment with regards to planning and constructing hydroelectric power plants. 

“To the communities, the protocol is a mechanism that ensures their demands are taken seriously right from the outset of the development and not after crucial decisions are made by governments and companies. For companies, this is a tool that will help prevent involvement with ‘white elephants’, which will provoke unnecessary conflicts and future losses”, stated Hartmann.

To Pedro Bara Neto, infrastructure coordinator for Iniciativa Amazônia Viva, part of the WWF network, new hydroelectric power plant developments for the Amazon region may benefit through the application of the IHA Sustainability Protocol. “There is no magic in conservation, especially in a rich and complex region like the Amazon, but this protocol will provide better opportunities for dialogue and support for well-informed decisions based on scientific facts”, Bara Neto stated.