A review of the use of scientific knowledge in environmental impact assessment reports for dam construction.

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper

Author: Memory Kamoyo; [2020]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: It is estimated that 3,700 major dams are either planned or under construction, notably in developing countries. Dams can pose a threat to fish diversity, as one of the biggest impacts of damming is habitat fragmentation. Damming causes the isolation of small fish habitats, which reduces genetic diversity and expose fish species to vulnerability of local extinction, hence habitat fragmentation is one of the causes of biological loss. There are tools, which are used to balance between development and biodiversity conservation. One of the tools, which is commonly used, is environmental impact assessment (EIA). EIA uses both science and political knowledge. Science knowledge is important in EIA process as it is required to generate reliable baseline information, impact prediction and effective proposed mitigation. However, no studies have investigated the extent of the use of science knowledge in EIA for hydropower dams in Southern Africa. The purpose of this study is to examine the usage of scientific knowledge in environmental impact statements (EIS), focusing on EISs of dam construction on the impact of habitat fragmentation in fish. Ten EISs were collected from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe. These countries were chosen because they are the hotspots for hydropower planning. I conducted EIS quality   review to answer the research purpose. I adopted and used EIS quality review package, which was developed by Lee and Colley (1991), to assess the content and quality of EISs. The results show that the use of science knowledge varies from one EIS to the other, and from one area of review to the other. The baseline and mitigation areas of EISs aligned with the scientific consensus the best, while the identification, prediction and evaluation of impacts area is generally unsatisfactory. Overall, six EISs out of ten EISs use science in a satisfactory way, and four EISs are unsatisfactory, meaning they attempted or completely omitted methods for assessing the ecological concept of fragmentation. I recommend a comprehensive study to review the use biodiversity concepts and methods in EISs for all the dams in southern Africa.

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