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Optimising hydropower development and ecosystem services in the Kafue River, Zambia

Cowx, Ian G., Lungu, Alphart, Kalonga, Mainza
Marine & freshwater research 2018 v.69 no.12 pp. 1974-1982
ecosystem services, fisheries, floodplains, rivers, seasonal variation, water power, wetlands, wildlife, Zambia
Fisheries are an important resource in Zambia, but are experiencing overexploitation and are under increasing pressure from external development activities that are compromising river ecosystem services and functioning. One such system is the Kafue Flats floodplain, which is under threat from hydropower development. This paper reviews the effect of potential hydropower development on the Kafue Flats floodplain and explores mechanisms to optimise the expansion of hydropower while maintaining the ecosystem functioning and services that the floodplain delivers. Since completion of the Kafue Gorge and Itezhi-tezhi dams, seasonal fluctuations in the height and extent of flooding have been suppressed. This situation is likely to get worse with the proposed incorporation of a hydropower scheme into Itezhi-tezhi dam, which will operate under a hydropeaking regime. This will have major ramifications for the fish communities and ecosystem functioning and is likely to result in the demise of the fishery, along with destruction of the wetlands and associated wildlife. To redress the problem, it is recommended that an environmental-flow study is conducted, as initiated by World Wildlife Fund, to protect provision of the existing ecosystem services and optimise hydropower development, thus ensuring sustainability of the aquatic resources of the Kafue Flats for future generations.