The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) was prepared in an industry-led process from 2007 to 2010. The Protocol is a voluntary scorecard by which the hydropower industry can assess the social and environmental performance of its projects. NGOs are concerned about its lack of independence, substantive weaknesses, and the exclusion of dam-affected people from its preparation and use.

The Protocol was prepared by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (HSAF), a self-selected group of industry representatives, government agencies, financiers, and large NGOs. Southern civil society groups and affected people were excluded from the process.

The Protocol allows the assessment of projects at four stages (early stage, preparation, implementation and operation). Projects are assessed across a range of aspects with scores from 1 to 5. Civil society organizations maintain in a critique that the Protocol falls behind existing social and environmental standards in important aspects.

The substantive weaknesses are compounded by the dam industry's tight control over the Protocol. The document can only be used with permission by the International Hydropower Association (IHA). Assessments can only be carried out with a license from IHA. When specific hydropower projects are being assessed, dam builders control the whole process. If it is up to the Protocol, the fox will guard the hen house when it comes to assessing the sustainability of hydropower projects.

A scorecard is not a standard, and a private document is not an appropriate tool of public policy. International Rivers and other civil society groups have called on governments and other institutions not to support a document that can be used to greenwash destructive projects. We will make sure that the Protocol does not replace or weaken existing social and environmental standards such as the framework of the World Commission on Dams, which is currently the gold standard of dam building.

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