The World Wildlife Foundation is calling on governments to develop and utilise renewable energy in order to reduce dependency on hydropower dams, noting that only 37 percent of the world’s longest rivers remain free-flowing.
The call was made in a report released yesterday by WWF and environmental organisation The Nature Conservancy. According to the report, renewable energy can solve the world’s climate and energy challenges without sacrificing free-flowing rivers and the diverse benefits they provide.
The joint report follows a TNC study showing only 37 percent of the world’s longest rivers remain free-flowing, while the rest are impacted by connectivity losses through the building of dams and reservoirs.
Marc Goichot, water lead for WWF Greater Mekong, said free-flowing rivers play an important role in diversity.
“The Mekong, Irrawaddy and Salween rivers are critical for the food security, livelihoods and homes of millions of people, and are home to iconic species like giant catfish and Irrawaddy dolphins,” Mr Goichot said in the report. “By investing in solar and wind power now, we can provide power and income to those millions of people at a lower overall cost, and without the dangerous side effects of large scale dams like the proposed Sambor and Stung Treng dams.”
According to the report, utilising renewable energy will allow those who have agreed to commit to the Paris Climate Agreement to follow through on their promise.
“The potential utility-scale, low-impact wind and solar – on converted lands, such as agricultural and degraded land and rooftops – represents the equivalent of 17 times the renewable energy targets that countries have committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement,” the report said.
“Governments should also reassess their existing hydropower plans by factoring in the full value of rivers – including the ecosystem services they provide – and considering lower impact alternatives,” it added. “Meanwhile, developers and financiers should support more comprehensive planning to develop a pipeline of lower-risk projects.”
Jeff Opperman, lead author of the report and WWF’s freshwater scientist, said in the report that through solar and wind energy, the future will be more promising for the next generation.
“We can not only envision a future where electricity systems are accessible, affordable and powering economies with a mix of renewable energy, we can now build that future,” Mr Opperman said. “By accelerating the renewable energy revolution, we can secure a brighter future for people and nature with power systems that are low carbon, low cost and low impact.”
Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the Environment Ministry, yesterday said the government is already setting up its second solar farm grid.
“The government approved two more solar projects to be built in the provinces of Pursat and Kampong Chhnang,” Mr Pheaktra said. “Furthermore during a previous meeting, the government decided to approve an additional 20 megawatt solar project in Kampong Speu province.”
“Once all the planned and approved projects are complete, the government will be able to have grids that can produce energy equalling to 210 megawatts,” he added. “That would be 12 percent of the national energy mix, exceeding Asean’s average of 10 percent.”