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Benedito Braga: "The hydropower component in a multi-purpose development is extremely important."

Blog | Video: "We need to look at water as an integrated sector" – Ben Braga, WWC
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Video: "We need to look at water as an integrated sector" – Ben Braga, WWC

Benedito Braga is the president of the World Water Council (WWC). In this video interview, he spoke with us about the water and energy nexus, and hydropower’s role in it. WWC is co-convening a session on the nexus at the 2015 World Hydropower Congress. You can read the interview in full below.

How does hydropower fit into the World Water Council’s work programme?

The 7th World Water Forum in April 2015 is going to deal with the issue of water infrastructure for social and economic development. 

Hydropower is one of the most important users of water that requires such infrastructure and is used for social economic development, so it will be one of the key discussion items during the forum together with other important subjects like water supply, irrigation and food production.

So there are these three pillars for water security: one for hygiene and health and food, another one on economic development, and another one on the environment the ecological sustainability.

So water is part of this whole thing, and we need to provide water security – that’s the idea of the current strategy of the World Water Council during the term I am serving as president.

Does hydropower make economic sense?

I think that we need to look at the water sector as an integrated sector in which hydropower plays a very important role, in the sense that it produces revenues for the agencies that operate the reservoir and produces energy. 

So this brings important benefits for justifying the costs on an economic basis, and also on a social basis in the sense that this electricity will produce more development in the country as a whole, and not in the region as solely.  

So I think that the hydropower component in a multi-purpose development is extremely important in order to move the project ahead in terms of social economic benefits.

Are we making progress on water security?

The work of the World Water Council is towards water security, and water security has three important components: one on sustaining the humans in terms of supplying water for their lives, hygiene and for production of food.  

The big challenge is to have the government well organised towards water security."

Then water security in terms of using the water for social economic development, and that’s where hydropower development comes in with other infrastructure, for example inter-basin transfers and large infrastructure development.  

This will provide the water security in terms of providing better life, better economic development for countries and the security of providing good quality water in the rivers, so that you have a healthy environment, a healthy eco-system.

How can water and energy challenges be tackled together?

Well the biggest challenge is to have good governments, in the sense that we need solid public institutions. We need to have the legal framework that will allow regulation, because if you want the private sector to be involved in providing water security, be it in any of these three pillars that I mentioned, you need to have a strong government.  

It is only through strong government you can have the regulatory framework that will allow stable frameworks for the involvement of the private sector, so the big challenge is to have the government well organised towards water security, because the private sector is profit-orientated, and they are already very well organised to do their business. 

So the challenge is to get the government institutions dealing with water, and what we see today is that the subject of water is much more inside the environment ministers around the world. 

What we need is to have more prominence towards the water sector, and to have better performance from the professionals and the technicians that serve in the water sector so that it is better organised and structured both from the administrative and technical point of view.

What is the impact on developers – is it becoming more complex to deliver a project?

Yes it is, sure. When you have a greater involvement of stakeholders in a process it becomes lengthy and complex, because achieving consensus in groups that have extremely different views is much more difficult.  

That’s why I think governments have to be more powerful in the sense that in democratic countries, governments have the legitimacy to make decisions because they have been elected by the population under a free process.  

Now this doesn’t say that civil society doesn’t need to be heard, of course not, but the final decision has to be government because they have the legitimacy to make decisions.

Of course in order for you to have a project well-structured, maintained and sustainable, it may take a little bit more time in the onset, but it will pay off to have the impacted groups involved and discussing the issues openly.

The World Water Council is co-convening a session at the 2015 World Hydropower Congress on Water–energy nexus: what role does hydropower play? Find out more here.