SHAASAN Webinars

SHAASAN Webinar 3 – Sustainable Hydropower in Africa hosted by Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia) and University of Eldoret (Kenya)


The third SHAASAN webinar of 2021 was held on 14 December and introduced the challenges of developing sustainable hydropower in Africa. The event was chaired by Amare Mezgebu (Bahir Dar Univeristy, Ethiopia) and included an introduction to the SHAASAN from Hector Vera-Alcaraz, a biologist based in Paraguay and the head of the SHAASAN. This was followed by some great presentations from speakers from across Africa. See below for more information on the speakers, presentation topics and for a recording of webinar.



Meet the speakers:

Robin Petersen:

Robin Petersen is currently employed as the Freshwater Ecologist: Scientific Services in the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa. He has worked at Scientific Services in the KNP since 2012 as a freshwater ecologist focusing on a broad range of research topics. These include, integrated bio- monitoring of freshwater ecosystems, understanding cues and barriers to the natural migration of various fish species. Also, understanding and working within an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) framework. Mr Petersen has an MSc degree in Geohydrology from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

Presentation title: A simple and effective perspective of improving river connectivity in Kruger National Park

Abstract: South African National Parks (SANParks) are pioneering in its efforts to create Free- Flowing catchments in the Kruger National Park by removing a selected number of redundant dams and structures within its water courses. Within the Kruger Park’s policy of adaptive management, we recognise these are barriers to natural migration patterns, especially for breeding fish and impact on stream flow and natural aquatic system processes. The Shingwedzi River catchment  5 170 Km 2 and its major tributaries, the ephemeral Bububu, Mphongolo, Phugwane and Sisha rivers flow from west to east through the park eventually joining the Olifants River, downstream of the Masingir Dam in Mozambique. To date nine redundant dams and weirs have been removed in the catchment with largest dam, the Kanniedood dam recently demolished in 2018. The dam has had major ecological and physical effects on the Shingwedzi river system as fish species richness declined throughout the river. In 1988, eleven years after completion of the dam, 19 fish species were no longer found downstream and 13 species were absent upstream. However, after completion of a fishway in 1992, some improvement was noted. Although, the number of fish species in the river at present is still lower than before the dam was built indicating that the construction of the dam possibly caused the irreversible local extinction of species. SANParks are embarking on research and monitoring initiatives to evaluate and study the ecological benefits of removing the Kanniedood Dam on river connectivity, natural flow regimes, sediment and nutrient dynamics and the possible re-colonisation of locally extinct species.


Gordon O’Brien:

Dr. Gordon O’Brien is a professional (Pri.Sci.Nat) scientist and rated researcher (C2) from the University of Mpumalanga and Rivers of Life Programme in South Africa. His career vision is to undertake evidence based research on water resources and their response to multiple stressors for a sustainable future. He has 18 years of experience in water resource management and protection, ecological risk assessments, aquatic ecology, Ichthyology and fisheries, environmental flow assessments and ecotoxicology. Gordon has worked in 16 African countries and collaborates with >10 international universities and institutes. Gordon has published numerous peer reviewed papers and book chapters in international journals.

Presentation title: Sustainable hydropower, e-flows and fish in Africa

Abstract: The hydropower sector in central Africa is expanding rapidly with socio-ecological implications. Limited policies are available to support the sustainable development of this sector. Environmental flows (e-flows) practices can contribute to sustainable management of hydropower developments and contribute to our understanding of the effect of multiple stressors on social and ecological systems associated with water resource developments. This paper defines and explains the role of e-flows and associated e-flow determination methods and how they can be used to support the sustainable development of the hydropower sector in Africa. This paper presents e-flow determination case studies for hydropower in Africa, lessons learnt and resulting good-practice guidance for the sustainable development of the sector.


Mengiste Abate:

Mengiste Abate Meshesha was born in 1976 and graduated with B.Sc degree in Hydraulic Engineering (in 2000), M.Sc degree in Water Science and Engineering, specialization; Hydraulic Engineering and River Basin Development (in 2005) and PhD degree in Integrated Water Resources Management focused in Morphological changes of Rivers (in 2017) at Arba Minch University (Ethiopia), UNESCO-IHE in The Netherlands and Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia) respectively. After graduation, he worked in the Bureau of Public Works and Urban Development, Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia in the position of hydraulic engineer (2001-2005), in the Bureau of Water Resources Development, Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia and worked for two years. In 2007, he joined Bahir Dar University in the rank of lecturer and now serving the university at a rank of Assistant Professor. In addition to giving lectures and advising post graduate students (Hydraulic Structures, Hydropower Engineering, Hydraulics, Water Resources Development, Sediment Transport), he served the university in different administrative positions.

Presentation title: The status and future prospects of sustainable hydropower development in Ethiopia – A review

Abstract: More than 88 % of the electricity of Ethiopia is largely dominated by Hydropower. The country has up to 45,000 MW exploitable hydropower resources of which less than 14% exploited so far. Hydropower project development has started since 1932 with an installed capacity of 6 MW and steadily grew up to 6,543 MW and this will raise to 11,418 MW after the commissioning of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The existing large hydropower projects gave much emphasis for the positive aspects of the artificial lake which will bring economic activities but little suggestion on mitigation measures for negative aspects; for instance fish blockage. For the future prospect, 300 technical potential hydropower feasible sites (> 40 MW) have been identified. Therefore, the future sustainable hydropower development of Ethiopia is immense and this implies that great attention shall be given for the maximization of the social, economic and environmental benefits of the country by suggesting structural and non-structural measures.


Frank Masese:

Dr. Masese is an aquatic ecologist whose research interests straddle the terrestrial-aquatic domain as he seeks to understand how land use and landscape variables shape the diversity and composition of aquatic communities (mainly invertebrates and fishes) and processes that maintain them (nutrient cycling, organic matter processing and primary production). His research draws on multiple disciplines to understand and mitigate environmental problems and inform river ecosystems management and biodiversity conservation for sustainability. Currently, Dr. Masese is a senior lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Eldoret. Dr. Masese holds a PhD (2015) in freshwater ecosystems from Wageningen University, the Netherlands. He was also a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2019) at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin, Germany.

Presentation title:Current status and the future of fish passage in Kenya

Abstract: River systems have been integral to the socio-economic development of many countries in Africa. As sources of many ecosystem goods and services depended upon by millions of people in rural areas, African rivers face multiple stressors that threaten their ecological integrity and the sustainability of their fisheries. The capacity of rivers to sustainably meet human needs for water, fisheries and other ecosystem goods and services has been compromised by human activities at both the catchment and local/ reach scales. In this paper, I will discuss threats to fishes in Kenyan rivers, including land-use change, water pollution, construction of dams, changes in flow regimes of rivers and overharvesting of migrating populations.  I will also discuss the importance of maintaining the natural flow regimes of rivers for fish passage in Kenya, especially given the growing urbanization and loading of organic matter and nutrients from the increasing human population and livestock.   I will also discuss the future of fish passage in Kenya and some management options necessary for conserving biodiversity and maintaining fish populations and the overall health of streams and rivers.



SHAASAN Webinar 2 – Sustainable Hydropower in Asia hosted by the Institute of Hydroecology MWR & CAS (China) and University of Southampton (UK)

The second webinar from SHAASAN was held on 14 September (2021) and introduced the challenges of developing sustainable hydropower in Asia. Following an introduction to the SHAASAN from Paul Kemp, a Professor of Ecological Engineering at the University of Southampton (UK), there were presentations from speakers based in Cambodia, China and Vietnam. See below for information on the speakers, the presentation topics and for a recording of the webinar.


Meet the speakers:

Jianbo Chang:

Dr. Jianbo Chang, a Professor and Head of the Institute of Hydroecology at Wuhan University, has more than 30 years of experience in researches on the mitigations of negative effects of dams. As an expert in ecological restoration and conservation, he had contributed to the designation of the Eco-environmental Monitoring Network of Three Gorges Project, the planning of Follow-up Works of the Three Gorges, and the programming of the National Nature Reserve for Endemic and Endangered Fishes of the Upper Yangtze. He had organized workshops of fish passages on behalf of FAO twice in 2009 and 2013 in China.

Presentation title: Researches and construction of fish passage in China

Abstract: In China, from the middle of the 1970s to the early 1980s, there was a nationwide debate on building a passage in the Gezhouba Dam to help some fish species swimming upstream for spawning. With the discovering of a new spawning ground of Chinese sturgeon nearby the dam, the debate was summarized as the fish passage is not necessary, which caused a neglection in related studies lasting for over 30 years. The situation was changed by the young generation with increasing interest in the field. It can be expected that fish passages could play a key role in sustainable hydropower development.


Peng Bun Ngor:

Peng Bun Ngor has been involved in inland fisheries research in Lower Mekong Basin since 1998 with Mekong River Commission and Cambodian Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute as a Deputy Director. He is about to start a new position as a Dean of Fisheries Faculty, Royal University of Agriculture, Phnom Penh.

Presentation title: Fish assemblage response to flow change in the Lower Mekong Basin

Abstract: This presentation assessed flow seasonality and predictability in three sites located in three rivers displaying a gradient in flow alterations caused by upstream dams and investigated how fish assemblages responded seasonally and inter-annually to this gradient. We found that dams disturbed natural flow seasonality and predictability. While the river displaying the lower seasonality–predictability was characterized by a distinct seasonal variation in assemblage composition with high species turnover, rivers with stronger flow seasonality–predictability exhibited broadly similar seasonal patterns in fish assemblage composition with low species turnover and regular annual peaks of fish migration. These results challenge the expectation of higher species turnover in systems displaying higher flow seasonality and predictability and may be partly due to the strong adaptation of fish assemblages to these specific systems. These findings also suggest that hydropower-related pulsed flows that can mimic as far as possible natural pulsed flows are critical to reduce downstream effects on aquatic organisms.


Guangqui Jin: 

Guangqui Jin is a Professor, doctoral supervisor and Vice Dean of Dayu College of Hohai University. In 2015, he was selected as one of the “Six Talents Summit” programs of Jiangsu Province and his research interest lies in the study of the ecology of hyporheic and coastal zones. Among the 60 academic publications to date, his paper published in Advances in Water Resources was selected as “China’s 100 Most Influential International Academic Papers” in 2010.

Presentation title: Ecological effects of lakes and wetlands under hydrologic processes

Abstract: Hydrological cycle of Poyang and Dongting Lake has profoundly changed in recent years due to climate change and human activities. The water level of Poyang and Dongting Lake declined and the dry season is prolonged, which seriously affected the local ecological environment, such as zoobenthos collapse. Based on the long-term field observations, the results determined that the structure and distribution characteristics of plankton and zoobenthos strongly varied with hydrological conditions. This study also summarised the response patterns of wetland vegetation and migratory birds to the dynamic hydrological conditions. The future research should discuss the influence of hydrological law on ecology in a finer time scale.


An Vi Vu:

An Vi Vu is a vice Head of the Fisheries Ecology and Aquatic Resources Division, Research Institute for Aquaculture No.2 in Vietnam. He undertakes research into ecology of freshwater fishes, impacts of anthropogenic activities on aquatic ecosystems, and mitigation measures to protect and conserve river fishes in the Mekong Basin. Fishes and fisheries are important for Mekong people, his research aims to improve management and conservation of fisheries resources for the benefit of all.

Presentation title: Diversity in migration patterns of Mekong fishes

Abstract: Fishes often migrate to feed, reproduce, and seek refuge from predators and prevailing environmental conditions, and as a result migration tactics may vary within and between species. This presentation examines the diversity in life-history tactics of some Mekong fish species by otolith microchemistry. Some Mekong fish species showed facultative migration strategies with up to four migration tactics within a species. Both migrant and resident contingents were found co-existing within the same species. Management, conservation, and mitigation strategies to maintain connectivity in the large tropical rivers, such as fishway design, should consider the diversity of migration tactics at the individual level for better outcomes.



SHAASAN Webinar 1 – Sustainable Hydropower in South America hosted by the University of Concepción (Chile) and University of Southampton (UK)

This event took place on 14 July (2021) with Prof. Paul Kemp introducing SHAASAN – the Sustainable Hydropower for Africa, Asia and South America Network, which aims to improve the sustainability of hydropower by protecting the fisheries on which low-income fishing communities in developing nations depend for food security. This first webinar focused on hydropower development within a South American context, with speakers from Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Brazil.


Meet the speakers:

Oscar Link:

Oscar is a Civil Engineer and holds a PhD in Engineering. He has over 20 years of experience working as a Hydraulic Engineer with a focus on rivers. He is Professor at Universidad de Concepción in Chile and conducts fundamental and applied research on sustainability of hydropower related with reservoir sedimentation, river morphology, riverine connectivity and fishways design, in an effort to compatibilize clean energy production with species conservation.

Presentation title: Techniques for sustainable hydropower development in Chile: from projects planning to technical fishways

Abstract: The Chilean hydrography presents an outstanding available hydropower for clean energy production, but at the same time, Chilean rivers host endemic freshwater fish species in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Challenging aspects for fish conservation in scenarios of hydropower development deals with their small body size, swimming capacity and life cycles. I will present techniques to mitigate the main negative impacts of planned hydropower projects in Chile.


Luz Jiménez-Segura and Scott Winton:

Luz is a Biologist with a Masters in Ecology, Management and Conservation of Wild Fauna from the Federal University of Minas Gerais; a Doctor of Science from the University of Antioquia; Senior Researcher at Colciencias; and Professor at the University of Antioquia. Since 2000, she is leader of the ichthyofauna research group, the academic platform from which she has directed 25 investigations on Andean river ecology, dynamics of freshwater fish and its impact on the governance of artisanal fishing in Colombia. Research that has allowed it to support the training of undergraduate and postgraduate students, in addition to supporting processes of governance of fishing and organizing fishing communities in Andean River basins. She had led research with the public and private sectors to resolve environmental conflicts generated by the mining-energy industry in some Andes Basins and, accompanies the Colombian business sector and environmental authorities in making decisions on issues related to the environment.

Scott is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). His research focus is on the ecology, biogeochemistry and conservation of freshwater aquatic ecosystems, including topics such as greenhouse gas emission, nutrient cycling and transport as facilitated by large-bodied animals. He holds a PhD in Environmental Science and Policy from the Duke University Wetland Center in the Nicholas School of the Environment (North Carolina, USA).

Presentation title: Sustainable Hydropower in the Andes River Ecosystems SHARE

Abstract: In order to understand how the reservoirs in Andean rivers modify water conditions, in addition to the functioning of the ecosystem and the ecosystem services that provide a fundamental input in the planning of hydroelectric development in Colombia, the initiative “Sustainable Hydropower in Andean River Ecosystems” was born. ” – SHARE. A proposal made up of a multidisciplinary group of researchers who, with the support of the National Environmental Licensing Authority – ANLA and Empresas Públicas de Medellín – EPM (one of the most important energy generating companies in Colombia), contribute to the understanding of associated questions How do reservoirs change the quality of water in tropical Andean rivers? And if there are changes in the structure of the aquatic communities in the Andean rivers with reservoirs? In addition, SHARE seeks to generate inputs that contribute to decision-making associated with watershed management by the environmental and energy sector in the Andean countries.

SHARE has been carrying out a series of tasks that range from reviewing and compiling the information available in the ANLA databases to complementing some information gaps with field days, added to the collection of new information that allows evaluating the role that reservoirs exert on climate change (greenhouse gases). In addition to this, and taking as a precedent that the construction of reservoirs is a global phenomenon, we have been disseminating this initiative to different actors (academics, environmental authorities and energy generating companies) who have focused their work efforts in Latin America so that link to our initiative with the purpose of generating sustainable hydroelectric energy proposals in the different Andean river ecosystems. This presentation will show the progress in the development of activities that allow meeting the objectives of this initiative that integrates the generator sector, the academic sector and the environmental authority. This research is co-founded by University of ETH Zurich, University of Antioquia, ANLA, The Nature Conservancy, Empresas Públicas de Medellín and University of Saint Gallen-Centro Latinoamericano Suizo.


Raquel Fontes:

Raquel is a freshwater fisheries biologist with 15 years of experience working as an environmental analyst at Cemig Group, energy generating company in Brazil. She coordinates Peixe Vivo Program that foresees the creation and expansion of more effective measures to improve fish conservation and management programs, and mitigate impacts arising from hydropower plants.

 Presentation title: So many fish, so many problems

Abstract: Brazilian rivers are home to an enormous diversity of fish and have great potential for hydropower generation, the main source of electric energy. However, hydropower generation is one of the most impactful human activities for riverine fishes. I will present the main impacts of hydropower plants on the fish in our country and the challenges for mitigating them.


Hector S. Vera-Alcaraz:

Hector is Biologist and has been working in ​​Zoology since 2003. His specific area of ​​work is Phylogenetic Systematics with emphasis on neotropical fishes. Other research areas are Aquatic Ecology and Conservation Biology. In addition, he works in education teaching and supervises undergraduate and graduate students. He has expertise in scientific collections for study in museums, management and curation of scientific collections, ecology of continental aquatic environments, fish ecology, theory and methods of phylogenetic systematics, systematics and taxonomy of neotropical fishes. His field of research is Systematics of Neotropical Fishes, and has published scientific articles in taxonomy with descriptions of new species of fishes from Paraguay and Brazil. Currently, Hector is researching the phylogenetic relationships of the fish family Callichthyidae (Siluriformes), a group of armored catfishes that is distributed from Panama to Argentina, and uses morphology (mainly osteology) and genetics as sources of evidence (mainly mitochondrial and nuclear genes). He also works on the taxonomy of these armored catfishes to reveal their classification and description of several new species, mainly of the genus Corydoras. Lately, he is dedicated to update the fish species inventory of Paraguay, doing scientific collection, preservation, restoration, and dissemination of the testimonial collections of the National History Museum. He also works in Biodiversity Conservation and Aquatic Ecology, doing some projects for the Ministry of the Environment (MADES) researching in National Parks and urban areas, monitor and ecology of aquatic communities, and scientific representation for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

Presentation title: Fish biodiversity and Hydropower dams in La Plata basin, South America

Abstract: The Río Paraguay and the Río Paraná, including the whole basin of the Río de La Plata, holds more than 400 species of fishes and is considered an area of endemism for Neotropical fishes. This presentation will review the biodiversity state of the freshwater fishes of this region and will also explore the main implications of the management of river systems for hydropower dams to the conservation of these taxa.



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