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As a biodiversity hotspot, the Southern Caucasus is covered by a freshwater network of more than 43,000 rivers and 7 Ramsar Sites.
The region is a habitat for more than 70 fish species. However, irregular deployment of dams and HPPs disintegrates environmental flows at the river-basin level, affecting the integrity and the settings of biological environment, relative proportions of animal species, and the quality of water. Under these conditions, biodiversity and eco-systems themselves suffer great damage.
Renewable power energy appears pivotal in terms of mitigation of climate changes, but the sustainability of dams and HPPs at the level of inter-related river basin has not been estimated yet. Despite the fact that there is a big potential for development of HPPs in Southern Caucasus countries, it may nevertheless bear threats for biodiversity ad eco-system services.
With due understanding of problem importance, WWF implemented the regional project on Promoting Sustainable Development of Dams at River-Basin Scale in the Southern Caucasus for the Koura-Arax (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and the Black Sea (Georgia) water basins. It appeared possible to implement the project through involvement of national authorities and concerned stakeholders, studies of investors and donor institutions, as well as with the funding provided by the Foreign Relations Ministry of Norway.
The main goal of the Project was hydropower development, as well as collection of information about the distribution of currently operating SHPPs, and rare and endangered species found in the river basins, with presentation of the data in the Geographic Information System (GIS).
Maps developed on the basis of this data aim to demonstrate what river basins in Armenia have high rates of biodiversity, which in itself serves an indicator to decide if an SHPP must or must not be built in a specific river basin.
Within the frameworks of the Project, main stakeholders were acquainted with the best practices promoted in the field of construction of dams and HPPs as those striving to maintain, at the river-basin scale, the biodiversity and ecosystem services for population. Moreover, recommendations on further actions were developed during the meetings of the consulting group organized under the Project on Promoting Sustainable Development of Dams at River-Basin Scale in the Southern Caucasus.
The realized activities resulted in the analyses of river biodiversity rates and ecosystem services that were later revised and supplemented by national experts. In addition, the experts prepared the methodology of sustainable dam assessment and planning. The formed group of professionals drafted the practical steps and conceptual directions to follow during the next Project stages.