Hydropower ’can benefit the poor’
Monday, March 6, 2006
Chris Van Gass, Cape Town
Hydropower has the potential to contribute to reducing Africa’s energy poverty, says a report published today. The report, Meeting Africa’s Energy Needs — the costs and benefits of hydropower, details two case studies from Zambia and Kenya that show how hydropower can deliver benefits with minimal effect.
The report, by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Oxfam and WaterAid, coincides with the opening in Johannesburg of an African ministerial conference on hydropower. It calls for a greater emphasis on providing benefits for the poor and reducing damage to ecosystems in future energy policies.
Dr Ute Collier, dams and hydropower manager for WWF and report author, said the importance of sustainable development needed to be made clear to ministers at the conference.
More than 500-million people have no access to regular energy supply in Africa. This means no refrigeration for medicines or food, as well as no effective lighting. Improving this situation is vital if the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015 is to be achieved.
The report also warns that Africa has a legacy of environmental and social problems linked to existing hydropower plants. Large hydropower plants rarely serve the needs of the very poorest people, says the report, which urges a cautious approach.
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