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News WWF calls on the hydropower sector to reduce impact of dams on nature and people in the Dinaric Arc

WWF is gathering international stakeholders today in Dubrovnik to explore ways of enhancing the sustainability of hydropower in the countries of the Dinaric Arc . Key players from the water, energy and environmental sectors in the region as well as global experts and representatives from major international financing institutions will discuss new approaches to hydropower, based on state-of-the-art science and best practices implemented throughout the world.

The conference - organised with the support of the World Bank, the Global Water Partnership and the International Hydropower Association - will explore ideas on developing and operating hydropower schemes with a minimum impact on nature and people, while answering to development and economic needs.

WWF proposes a range of measures to enhance the sustainability of hydropower development. These go from careful strategic planning that spares precious natural areas to adopting environmental standards, and from ensuring minimum flows which limit impacts on nature and biodiversity to the adequate design and operation of water infrastructure. The conference aims at helping decision-makers in the Dinaric Arc countries to make informed choices and triggering similar approaches in the region in order to improve the environmental performance of water infrastructure.

"Hydropower emits no CO2 and this makes it a highly attractive alternative energy source in a context of ever increasing climate change and scarcity of conventional energy sources in the region - but it often results in negative impacts on other key water uses like agriculture and fisheries, as well as on fragile freshwater ecosystems and the people that depend on them," said Paolo Lombardi, Director of the WWF Mediterranean Programme. "It is crucial that all voices be heard to find the best possible solutions for a sustainable use of precious freshwater resources - that is why WWF is bringing stakeholders together today."

Hydropower accounts for more than 40 per cent of electricity consumption in the Dinaric Arc region. In many countries it still represents the majority of power supply and is the near-exclusive source of electricity in countries such as Albania and Montenegro which rely on it for up to 90 per cent of their energy output.

In Montenegro, Lake Skadar - a key area for biodiversity in the Balkans - is threatened by four dams planned on the Morača River. According to a study by WWF, its partner Green Home and independent experts, the dams could strongly affect the water levels in the lake hence putting a strain on its rich fish population and negatively impacting hundreds of local families who make a living from fisheries.

Meanwhile, the natural water flow of Croatia's Neretva delta is disturbed by hydropower infrastructure built upstream. This contributes to saltwater intrusion which damages agriculture. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, biodiversity hotspot Hutovo Blato is also threatened by an unnatural distribution of water - which in turn could negatively impact agricultural and tourism activities, key sources of income for the area.

"Dinaric Arc countries are on the road to EU accession, hence implementing a more sustainable management of water resources, notably based on the EU Water Framework Directive, represents a major opportunity for them to align with EU requirements," said Angela Klauschen, Freshwater Policy Officer at WWF Mediterranean.

WWF calls for an open dialogue between all stakeholders in the region to share best practices and benefit from pioneering approaches that can make hydropower more sustainable - including new initiatives such as the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (HSAF), a global collaboration of representatives from different sectors aiming to develop a broadly endorsed sustainability assessment tool to measure and guide performance in the hydropower sector.

For more information: Chantal MENARD, Communications Officer, WWF Mediterranean Programme Tel: +39 346 235 7481 Email:

Notes to editors
WWF work on freshwater conservation
Since 2001, WWF strives to address conservation issues facing freshwater ecosystems, with the aim of minimizing the impacts of dams, by promoting integrated river basin management, the implementation of the principles laid down by the World Commission on Dams, and the adoption of sustainability standards for the siting, design and operation of dams. WWF focuses in particular on the Neretva river and the Cetina basin in Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia, and Lake Skadar and tributaries (such as Moraca river) in Montenegro and Albania. However, the sustainability principles apply equally to all rivers in the region and beyond.
Integrated River Basin Management
"Coordinating conservation, management and development of water, land and related resources across sectors within a given river basin, in order to maximize the economic and social benefits derived from water resources, in an equitable manner while preserving and, where necessary, restoring freshwater ecosystems."
From Integrated Water Resources Management, Global Water Partnership, Technical Advisory Committee Background Papers, No. 4, 2000.)

EU Water Framework Directive
The December 2000 Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most important legislative tool for sustainable water management and for freshwater protection across the EU. It obliges Member States to meet a holistic ecological objective, i.e. to achieve good status (ecological, chemical and hydromorphological) for all waters using the river basin as the main water management unit.
WWF Mediterranean Freshwater Programme
For more information on WWF's work to conserve freshwater ecosystems across the Mediterranean, see:
Conference website

Contact information Chantal MENARD, Communications Officer, WWF Mediterranean Programme Office, Via Po 25/C 00198 - Roma, Italy (email:
Phone: +39 06 844 97 417 ; mobile: +39 338 45 97 244; fax: +39 06 841 38 66 ; Skype: chantalmenard
News type Inbrief
File link n/a
Source of information WWF Mediterranean Programme Office
Keyword(s) hydropower sector, dams
Geographical coverage Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro
News date 07/10/2009
Working language(s) ENGLISH