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African, global agencies urge African hydro development

A half-dozen African and international agencies and groups are urging lenders to work with African nations to undertake hydropower development on a large scale.

�Conditions are now ripe for hydropower development in Africa and this is a period of unique opportunity,� the World Declaration on Dams and Hydropower for African Sustainable Development said.

The declaration was approved in a November 24 meeting in Paris of the African Union; Union of Producers, Transporters, and Distributors of Electric Power in Africa; the World Energy Council; the International Commission on Large Dams; the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage; and the International Hydropower Association.

�We call on multilateral and bilateral funding agencies to engage with African countries on hydropower development, promoting national and regional project development facilities and innovative funding mechanisms,� the declaration said.

The groups said governments, financing agencies, and industry have developed policies, frameworks, and guidelines for evaluation and mitigation of environmental and social effects, and for addressing concerns of vulnerable communities affected by hydropower development.

�We call upon governments to recognize the need to plan hydropower developments in a river basin context against the background of the full range of alternatives for energy production,� the document said. �Planning should give due weight to environmental and social factors, as well as economic and financial factors.�

The groups said Africa has 61 international shared rivers whose basins comprise almost 61 percent of the surface area of the continent. The document added multipurpose projects have a crucial role to play in promoting water security as well as power generation.

The declaration said Africa exploits only 4 percent of its fresh water, with only 40 percent of the rural population having potable and safe water supply. Less than 7 percent of hydropower has been developed, with 65 percent of the population not having access to electricity.

The document said African ministers have delivered a strong message in support for hydropower; international institutions are encouraging hydro development; and international lenders are now supporting dams and hydropower.

�It is now time to go for a significant development of dams and hydropower in Africa,� the declaration said. �Africa must seize this opportunity and the organizations signing this declaration pledge they will do their best to accompany this great continent in this endeavor.�

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