On December 8th and 9th in the city of La Paz, the Bolivian Ministry of the Environment and Water with support from WWF Bolivia, held a successful international training workshop on the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP), a tool for assessing the social, environmental and financial impacts of hydropower plants.
The Ministry’s ability to summon the participation of multisector stakeholders to come together and discuss hydropower priorities was a deciding factor for the workshop’s advancement. The level of participation by representatives from national and departmental government energy and environmental institutions, academia, scientific and civil society organizations, and water resources experts, exceeded the expectations of the organizers, evidencing the country’s interest in pursuing this issue.
Joerg Hartmann, workshop facilitator and certified trainer, believes the protocol is a valuable tool for improving the management and planning of existing and potential projects: “With the knowledge gained in hydropower management and assessment, we have developed a set of best practices to guide future ventures.” When the protocol is used for the selection of priority sites during the planning stage, it becomes a highly effective tool for mitigating impacts of the dams.
Bolivia holds 6% of hydropower potential of Latin America, and only 1.2% of this potential is developed; mayor concentration of hydropower opportunities lies in the Bolivian Amazon. In recent years, Bolivia bridged the gap for energy planning, by prioritizing the development of hydropower projects to meet the country’s energy demand.
“More than 20 large hydropower sites have begun construction in the Amazon Basin, and 275 additional sites are being planned in the whole Amazon Basin. Environment and social impacts of dams are big, so we must to address this infrastructure planning with integrated approaches to make hydropower in the Amazon more sustainable”, stated Damian Fleming, WWF Living Amazon Initiative´s Green Hydropower Strategy coordinator and Head of Programmes for Brazil and Amazon at WWF UK.
The workshop generated various opportunities for Bolivia to advance to more sustainable hydropower development. The Vice-Ministry of Environment clearly expressed an interest in leading technical and political actions for the implementation of the Protocol. A window of opportunity emerged with the National Energy Development Company (ENDE) to initiate a dialogue on how to use and apply various tools to improve decision-making processes related to hydropower projects. Following the workshop, a technical team was established with participation of the Vice-Ministry of Environment, ENDE and the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy to analyze and define next steps for the implementation of the Protocol in Bolivia.
The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol provides a set of criteria as guidelines to secure sustainable performance of hydropower supply. This first workshop stages the scenario for key stakeholder participation, posing the debate on hydropower challenges in the country.
Damian Fleming, from WWF UK, closed the workshop noting the importance of the applying best practices, including the protocol, in the planning, implementation and operation of hydropower projects.
Photo: © WWF-Bolivia