Hydropower plants are good as they provide renewable electricity, but there are a lot of reason like disappearing rivers, affecting locals, affecting biodiversity and nature loosing stability are the major once.
There’s a lot of threats from all kind of, there’s waste issues and all kinds of stuff, but the main hydropower at the moment. There are thousands of hydropower plants in a lot of countries, specially in Europe. Some large hydropower plants but thousands of small plants and these are invading into the most remote mountain areas, protected areas and they’re really causing a huge uprising from local people. The role of the government is quite mixed, a lot of people like to blame the government for the whole phenomenon because many of these hydropower plants are built in the name of fulfilling renewable energy targets, green energy and so on. The situation is much more shady.
Like the government in EU did indeed set up the framework, set up targets for renewable energy, and it definitely allows hydro plants to be counted as renewable energy. It allows the hydropower plants to be subsidized in certain ways, but definitely it would be wrong to hold the EU responsible for everything because it’s each country that actually makes the decision how to meet it’s goals and it’s each country that makes the decision which forms of energy to, which forms of renewable energy to subsidize and if whether to subsidize them at all. So at the moment most of the opportunities for changing the situation are actually on a national level because it’s up to the countries to decide for themselves which technologies they fulfill the renewable energy targets. All the countries can also increase their energy efficiency a lot and hardly any of them are working on that and all the countries can decide for themselves whether to subsidize renewable energy and if so which forms to subsidize.
In countries like Switzerland, a lot of locals help initiate their protection from dams, from any kind of pollution. A lot of small rivers were destroyed, that’s something you probably can never get back. At the same time there are a lot of countries with underdeveloped infrastructure which are reducing the effects taken by developed countries in some cases even growing overlapping.
There are a huge range of things to be done like working on a scientific expertise which is also crucial because one of the issues in the region is that there’s a really a lack of baseline data about how valuable the areas are. So you have very small percentage of the rivers which are actually protected by law but really a huge percentage of the rivers in the region which are good quality, really valuable and the whole region is a biodiversity hotspot.
What we already lost with the existing hydropower plants, how they could even be, how the existing plants could be improved a bit to decrease their impact and most importantly how to stop the new ones. At a time when we’ve lost over 80% of our freshwater species and we’re spending millions of euros trying to restore rivers all over the world, it’s far cheaper to keep wild, wild than it is to restore wilderness.
To keep rivers free-flowing, to keep them wild and not make the mistakes we’ve made elsewhere because it’ll be much more expensive in the long run. We need to start celebrating the value of these free-flowing, wild rivers. That we find new value that people can take from them so that there is an economy around a free-flowing, wild river that supports local people. The short-term nature of the investment can be scary in long term. We’re taking from the river now without realising that we’re going to have a much bigger cost in the long run. Cost in repairing rivers to protect people from flooding, costs for putting rivers back in their channels after the hydropower’s had their damage on them. There’s so many pressures for us to develop rivers for short-term economic gain that we need science to tell us what the long-term impacts of that are going to be so that we can have a good argument about what the right thing to do is.
Rivers should be free-flowing is what rivers are. On one scale, we’re losing some of the last and most intact free-flowing river systems. Rivers should be treated as a treasure. Expansions of hydropower can lead to a massive ecological disaster in the sense as people, whether they’re for or against these dams, recognise what the long-term consequences of such a massive expansion of hydropower over the landscape will bring. It will bring tremendous costs, unforeseen disasters and potentially even accidents in terms of dams breaking from earthquakes and what not.