IHA guide promotes biodiversity conservation in hydropower development

IHA biodiversity guide

To help project developers and operators conserve river system biodiversity while generating renewable energy, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) has published a new How-to Guide on Hydropower Biodiversity and Invasive Species. 

Biodiversity in rivers can be harmed by the pressure of human activities, including hydropower development. Avoiding or mitigating these impacts responsibly is an essential step toward a more sustainable hydropower sector.

“The construction of a hydropower project will inevitably bring change to the local ecosystem in which it is built,” said Alain Kilajian, senior sustainability specialist at IHA. “Those who use this guide will be able to ensure that biodiversity impacts arising from developments are managed responsibly and that there remains healthy, functional and viable aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in areas affected by development. This will help to ensure that global carbon emissions are reduced while conserving crucial biodiversity.”

The guide details methodologies and technologies developers and operators can use – throughout development and operation — for basin-level planning, identifying project boundaries and areas of influence, understanding the distribution and value of biodiversity, mitigation and compensation measures, and monitoring and reporting.

“Direct biodiversity impacts from dams and their reservoirs are often hard to mitigate or compensate. Good site selection, avoiding impacts wherever possible, is the best approach to long term sustainability,” said Jamie Skinner, principal researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and co-author of the guide.

Drawing from internationally accepted definitions of good practice presented in the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, the guide emphasizes that early identification of potential biodiversity impacts, including threats from invasive species, can drastically improve their management.

“Invasive alien species can cause problems with the operation of hydropower plants and their management can incur significant costs; they are also recognized as one of the main threats to indigenous species. This guide will help the environmental managers of hydropower plants to assess the risks and plan for invasive species management,” said Peter-John Meynell, an independent consultant and co-author of the guide.

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