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Institut für Wasser- und Umweltsystemmodellierung - IWS



"Socio-environmental conflicts related to hydropower development in Brazil"

Hydropower is the most significant renewable source for electricity production worldwide. Unlike other renewable sources it is a well-developed technology and promises high economic profitability. Its highly flexible operation is a strong asset for electric systems and pumped storage plants are by now the only available way to store large amounts of electricity from intermittent sources such as wind and sun. Additionally, hydropower reservoirs can contribute to regulate water flows for fresh water supply, flood control, irrigation and navigation.

However, large scale hydropower has also in some cases been subject to severe criticism for not holding its promises. On a local and regional scale hydropower projects can lead to considerable negative socio-economic and environmental impacts. It is therefore crucial, in addition to the assessment of environmental impacts, to take the different stakeholders into account and spread benefits and costs equally. Stakeholder participation can help to integrate the needs of different groups into the project at an early stage and also to increase public acceptance of a project.
In this study the conflict potential of the planned hydropower plant São Luiz do Tapajós in Brazil was analysed. An interview scheme was developed with the aim to include the views of different groups and to develop common goals. A systemic view of interactions and conflicts based on the works of Ballreich and Glasl (2011) and Little (2001) was used to find suitable questions. In order to compare answers of different groups, a standardized interview form was applied, using the same or similar questions for all stakeholders. This turns it necessary to take the cultural, socioeconomic and educational background of all groups into consideration. The questions have to address needs at different levels of the Maslow’s hierarchy (Maslow 1987) for all involved parties.

On the basis of the interviews and further internet research a synthetic analysis of the conflict at its current state was carried out, in order to be able to propose further stakeholder participation measures and conflict management strategies.