08 Nov Ivan Zavadsky
Sustainable Hydropower in the Danube River Basin
Aware of the fact that hydropower plants offer an additional reduction potential for greenhouse gases but recognizing as well their negative impacts on the riverine ecology, in 2013 the ICPDR adopted Guiding Principles on integrating environmental aspects in the use of hydropower. The Guiding Principles (GPs) are not legally binding but serving as a guidance for national application. The GPs comprise general principles, which respect the principles of sustainability, taking into account environmental, social and economic factors in an equally balanced way. On technical upgrade of existing hydropower plants, the GPs link the increase of energy production with ecological criteria for the protection and improvement of the water status. A strategic planning approach is recommended for the development of new hydropower stations; this approach should be based on a two level assessment (including lists of recommended criteria), the national/regional assessment followed by the project specific assessment. While the assessment on national/regional level is more of general nature, classifying the appropriateness of river stretches for potential hydropower use, the project specific assessment provides a more detailed and in-depth assessment of the benefits and impacts of a concrete project in order to assess whether a project is appropriately tailored to a specific location. The development of hydropower should be accompanied by an improvement of the present aquatic ecology, through clear ecological requirements for new facilities, or for existing facilities through their technical upgrading. The GPs also provide an overview on the most important and common mitigation measures, applied in relation to sustainable hydropower development. Mitigation measures such as enabling fish migration, ensuring ecological flow, ensuring sediment transport or mitigating effects of artificial flow and/or water level fluctuation (hydropeaking) were identified as key measures in the Danube basin for the improvement and maintenance of the ecological status.