Strategic Environmental Assessment as a Tool to Develop Power in Transboundary Water Basin Settings

Strategic Environmental Assessment as a Tool to Develop Power in Transboundary Water Basin Settings

Jakob J. Granit (Stockholm International Water Institute, Sweden), R. Michael King (SNC-Lavalin Inc., Canada) and Raymond Noël (Newaygo Consultants Inc., Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/jsesd.2011100101
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Abstract

This paper proposes a generic consultative process for undertaking Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) in a transboundary river basin context to bring up front environmental and social issues of major development programs into the transboundary planning, project development and investment finance processes. The paper demonstrates through an analysis of two case studies from the Nile Basin in East and North Africa how an SEA approach with a focus on hydropower development is a transparent pre-investment tool that allows for consensus building in support of transboundary and regional strategic decision making and integration. Further, it demonstrates how an SEA can guide public and private sector investors seeking to develop the power sector in general and hydropower options in particular by allowing for a first level understanding of challenges and opportunities of power development and the development scenarios preferred by riparian governments.
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Introduction

Transboundary Waters and Power Development

Globally there are many transboundary river basins with potential for additional water storage for productive use and to mitigate against climate change induced floods and droughts. There are an estimated 261 river basins globally that cross international boundaries. These international river basins cover about 45% of the earth’s surface (Wolf et al., 1999). Several basins, in particular in developing regions, have significant hydropower generation potential. In Africa only 7% of the technical and economic hydropower potential is exploited compared to 22% in Asia, 69% in North America and 75% in Europe (International Hydropower Association, 2009).

With water resources and hydropower generation site assets unevenly distributed between states that share a transboundary water resources system cooperation becomes a necessity (Granit & Löfgren, 2009). Co-management of water resources and electricity networks would in the Middle East increase the possibilities for each individual country to get access to a larger set of cost-effective energy sources through an integrated and regional approach (Granit & Löfgren, 2009). The World Bank (2009) supports this argument and claims that challenges to integration posed by long distances, small economies and geography can be overcome by connective infrastructure and market integration reducing barriers to cooperation. Hydraulic infrastructure such as multipurpose water storage, water transfer schemes and electricity transmission networks are examples of connecting frameworks that to be realized demand a strong level of cooperation (Granit, 2010). Sharing benefits from water use such as electricity generated from hydropower can therefore promote regional integration bringing stability and providing opportunities for economic growth for both small and larger economies (Granit, 2011).

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