Nexus Blog

AFRICA 2019 Conference // Session Outcome on Nexus Securities for Populations affected by Multi-purpose Dams

By Luca Ferrini and Dr Miroslav Marence. The Nexus Dialogue in the Niger basin delivered an important presentation and conference paper to the AFRICA 2019 Conference in Windhoek, Namibia, on 3rd April 2019. The Dialogue was invited to present its experience by the IHE-Delft led project on Sustainable Hydropower. The paper, written by Luca Ferrini (GIZ Niger) and Dr Nora Van Cauwenbergh (IHE-Delft) has the title: When can local knowledge reduce vulnerability? Insights from multipurpose infrastructure in the Niger basin.

The conference session was promoted within the framework of a thematic research programme on Sustainable Hydropower and Multipurpose Storage to meet Water, Food, and Energy Development Goals: A Program for Collaborative Research and Innovation, supported by the Programmatic Cooperation between the Directorate-General for International Cooperation of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IHE Delft in the period 2016 – 2020. The activities are focused in the Irrawaddy Basin of Myanmar, Zambezi Basin of Southern Africa, and Magdalena Basin of Colombia. The project invited two external case studies to complete the session content with complementary crucial social impacts (i.e. provision of nexus securities to project-affected populations – Niger Basin) and environmental impacts (e.g. sediment management – case study from Switzerland).

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Storage to stabilize water availability is essential to sustain water, food and energy production, reduce hazards, and adapt to climate change. Regulation of water resources using dams and reservoirs played a major role in the socio-economic development of northern countries during the 20th century, but practices of the time often led to undesired environmental and social impacts. More dams and reservoirs are planned for for the next decades, and there is a concern that such impacts could be repeated. Analysis of, and debate on, the approaches to sustainable multipurpose storage, definition of environmental flows, sedimentary management, ecology continuity, and socio -economic, among others, is needed. Targeted development outcomes include improved catchment management for water, food, and energy security that is socially and environmentally sustainable, contributing to Agenda 2030.

Session structure

  • 16-01 Stähly: Increase of hydraulic habitat diversity downstream of dams with sediment replenishment and artificial flooding
  • 16-02 Luca Ferrini: When can local knowledge reduce vulnerability? Insights from multipurpose infrastructure in the Niger basin
  • 16-03 M.M. Uamusse: Hydro plants in remote areas of Mozambique: The impact of rural electrification provided by mini grids
  • 16-04 G. Santos: Holistic methodologies for the estimation of environmental flows in Colombia from a comparative perspective
  • 16-05 Su Su Hlaing: Assessment of environmental flows in the Myitnge river basin, Myanmar

Session outcomes summary

Sediment management is a topic that concerns operation (reduction of operational reservoir volume), and must be included in the design of new dams. We should strive to the continuous sediment extraction and reducing the influence on the downstream part of river

Involving local knowledge from the earliest stages of dam conception, design and operation has significant benefits for reducing vulnerability to climate change, particularly for nature based societies. Bodies of knowledge based on local experience on the project site can significantly enhance water, food and energy security for the local populations and facilitate local ownership of the project, improved displacement and strengthened adaptation capacity.

Environmental flow has to satisfy different criteria and is mostly defined on the project level, with specifics of the country, species involved and conditions in the river, but also has to consider the project’s water use. Including all affected stakeholders in the definition of the environmental flow will reduce tensions and also improve the project acceptance.

With regards to size and scale the small and mini hydro also can achieve significant sucesses, particulary in rural areas. Benifits at willage level have direct impact on poverty. Higher relative costs of production and low generated capacity have to be considered. Also these structures have to be developed and operated based on principles of sustainability, considering environmental, social and economic factors.

Further reading

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