Focus Session

Hydropower & World Heritage Sites

Synergies between hydropower and World Heritage Sites.

Thursday 16 May 2019 | 14:00-15:15

Protected areas are one of the most important tools to halt the global loss of biodiversity. They also contribute to achieving multiple SDGs, such as SDG 6 (Water and sanitation) SDG 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on land).

Through their World Heritage Listing, the global community has recognised a shared international responsibility to protect these outstanding sites and manage them for the planet, and its future generations.

Hydropower projects can potentially offer clean energy, various water services, and regulate water flow. Hydropower projects have the potential to promote the sustainable development of the communities they serve, yet they inevitably alter the existing conditions of the river basins they operate in, creating both positive and negative impacts both locally and upstream and downstream of projects.

The challenge is to carefully assess these impacts on protected areas and World Heritage Sites, and to consider the best options available in order to avoid or mitigate negative impacts, while identifying solutions to meet water and energy needs.

Session objectives:

The session will address the question of how to ensure hydropower projects can be planned as to not impact negatively on protected areas and in particular World Heritage sites while meeting water and energy needs.

Panellists will review the hydropower sector’s good practice guidelines, and debate if these need to be strengthened further to ensure impacts on protected areas can be avoided or otherwise mitigated.

Subsequently, speakers will bring forward examples of successful partnerships.

The session will also discuss the commitments from industry, and debate how the hydropower sector can play a leadership role in ensuring responsible hydropower development.



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Guy Debonnet


Emmanuel de Merode

Park Director, Virunga National Park