In a recently published study, researchers from Politecnico di Milano in collaboration with UC Berkeley showed how strategic development of dam sites makes it possible to increase hydro-electric production while at the same time limiting impacts on fluvial eco-systems.
The research group from Politecnico, coordinated by DEIB professor Andrea Castelletti and consisting of Rafael Schmitt and Simone Bizzi studied the 3S basin (Se Kaong, Se San and Sre Pok rivers) a tributary of the Mekong River and the most important source of sand for the Mekong Delta.
The current hydropower development strategy will exploit 50 % of the basin's hydropower potential and reduce sand transport in the basin by 90 % compared to natural conditions. The study demonstrated that the current development strategy will nearly fully disconnect the tributary system from the delta, instead there would have existed a decision space for dam construction with a much more limited impact on the ecosystem and similar hydropower production. The researchers found that a applying a strategic planning approach for where to built dams would have allowed to develop 70 % of the basins energy potential while only trapping 20 % of its sand.
These results are relevant to open a discussion for the construction of 3700 dams that are planned worldwide. Applying efficient valorization tools which allow finding compromise solutions between energy demand and the necessity to protect the environment in which we live.
More information under: https://www.nature.com/natsustain/