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CIPRA's point of view: Water on!

lake

Artificial lake in the Alps: rising energy demand does not justify the damming of the last ecologically intact waters. © chrchr_75 / flickr.com

Austria's checklist for the building of hydroelectric power plants is technically sound, offering transparency for building permits, but no protection for ecologically intact waters.
The "Austrian Water Catalogue", presented at the end of January, is intended to aid each individual power station project in determining whether it is suitable in terms of energy management, ecological aspects and water management. In future the authorities will use this "checklist" for licensing procedures. The catalogue does not however contain a map indicating ecologically valuable or sensitive sections of rivers. There is however a need for protected zones in order to ensure the long-term protection for the last waters against the hunger for energy, as only ten per cent of the rivers in the Alps remain ecologically intact. In its compact, "Water management in climate change", CIPRA is requesting the Alpine states to define a common strategy for water management in order to identify waters that may under no circumstances be developed and to stop the endless building of power stations.
The water catalogue will not result in large cuts, states the Austrian Environment Minister, Nikolaus Berlakovich. He refers to the Austrian Energy Strategy 2020, which plans an expansion of hydro power. The rising demand for renewable energies is however no justification to dam the last untouched Alpine rivers. The yield is not worthy: throughout the Alps, 75% of all hydroelectric power plants together generate just 4% of the electricity produced from water power.
Sources and further information: www.cipra.org/en/alpmedia/dossiers/23/, www.umweltdachverband.at/presse (de), http://derstandard.at/1326504188961 (de), www.lebensministerium.at/wasser (de)