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International Hydropower Association announces new commitment to World Heritage sites and protected areas

Monday, 6 September 2021
access_time 2 min read
Lake Turkana was included on the World Heritage List in Danger in 2018 as a result of the potential impacts on its values by hydropower developments on the Omo river in neighboring Ethiopia. © Doron | Doron

The new commitment was announced by Eddie Rich, CEO of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) during a workshop on “No-Go in World Heritage and other protected areas: success stories in leveraging the private sector and remaining challenges” at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France.

The commitment stipulates that no new hydropower projects should be developed in World Heritage sites. It also proposes a “Duty of care commitment”, to implement high standards of performance and transparency when affecting protected areas as well as candidate protected areas and corridors between protected areas, through a systematic application of the Hydropower Sustainability Tools or certification against the Hydropower Sustainability Standard. The duty of care commitment also applies to hydropower projects, which are planned outside World Heritage sites, but which could potentially negatively impact their values.

“The new IHA commitment is a major step forward in addressing the increasing number of threats related to the impacts of hydropower projects on World Heritage sites,” said Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “The new commitment is in line with the established position of the World Heritage Committee, which in its Decision 40 COM 7 considered that the construction of dams with large reservoirs within the boundaries of properties is incompatible with their World Heritage status. We also look forward to continuing our dialogue with IHA in order to ensure that through the implementation of the ‘Duty of care commitment’, impacts of hydropower projects outside World Heritage sites, but situated within the watershed, can also be avoided.”

The commitment follows two years of discussion as part of a working group on hydropower and protected areas and in which the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, IUCN, WWF,  the Nature Conservancy and various IHA members and experts were involved. The new commitment will engage all members of IHA, which include the world's leading hydropower developers, operators and manufacturers, as well as organizations involved in research, policy, planning and financing. The commitment will be presented during the International Hydropower Congress, which is currently taking place from 7 to 24 September 2021.

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre thanks the on-going support of the Government of Flanders in promoting No-Go commitments in World Heritage sites.