The Nature Conservancy / International Finance Corporation / World Wide Fund for Nature / World Fish Migration Foundation / McGill University

Free-flowing rivers: global status and solutions for securing their benefits

Tuesday 28 August | 16.00-17.30 | Room: NL 357
James Morgan / WWF-US

Rivers provide a range of economic, social and environmental benefits to communities and countries around the world, including clean water, regulation of floods, fisheries and other food production. However, the ability of rivers to provide these benefits are negatively impacted by diverse economic activities, including agriculture, and river management and associated infrastructure to support energy production, water storage and transportation.

Thus, one of the great challenges for global water management is the identification and replication of development options and management interventions that maintain or restore the benefits of connected and free-flowing rivers.

This session will introduce a global study and conceptual framework to define free-flowing rivers and quantify, map and monitor their status – and then review various solutions to maintain or restore their benefits.  These solutions range from system-scale planning aimed at guiding the siting and design of new river infrastructure, to the re-operation of existing dams to restore natural flow patterns, and the strategic removal of aging infrastructure to reconnect rivers and floodplains. Panelists will emphasize how specific examples, methods and tools can be integrated into government policies, strategic planning efforts, and private sector practices to have global impact on sustainable


Free-flowing rivers: Global status and solutions for securing their benefits

0:00 – 0:05     Welcome & Value of free flowing rivers – Pavan Sukhdev, President, WWF-International Board, Importance and values that connected & free-flowing rivers deliver and how lack of an agreed definition and global inventory have been an obstacle to protection and restoration

0:05 – 0:15      Global Assessment of Free Flowing Rivers - Bernhard Lehner, Associate Professor of Global Hydrology, McGill University
Overview of a new global study conducted by diverse range of collaborators: how it has improved our understanding of rivers, produced an agreed definition of 'free-flowing', and provided a preliminary map of the world's free flowing rivers

0:15 – 0:25        From science to policy protection for free flowing rivers  – Michele Thieme
Overview of policy mechanisms and pathways for keeping or restoring river connectivity.

0:25 – 1:05         Case Studies for Maintaining or Restoring Free-Flowing Rivers (6 minutes each)

  • Moderator - Jeff Opperman, WWF Global Freshwater Lead Scientist
  • Landscape Planning – Matt Corbett, Environmental Specialist, Environment, Social and Gov Dept, IFC
    How the SEA process in Myanmar could keep the last two long, free-flowing rivers of Southeast Asia well-connected while still delivering renewable energy solutions
  • Upstream Planning Facilities – Jorge Gastelumendi, Director, Global Water Policy, The Nature Conservancy
    How project preparation facilities can support energy development – and keep rivers connected – by providing permanent funding for upstream planning in the SEA process
  • Downscaling and Advocacy – Chanda Mwale, Freshwater Programme Officer, WWF-Zambia
    Dive into the Luangwa dam campaign and how downscaling is helping to inform hydropower policy in Zambia
  • Dam Removal - Arjan Berkhuysen, Managing Director, World Fish Migration Foundation
    How dam removal movement is growing in Europe and how dam removals from Spain to Finland are reconnecting rivers and bringing life back to the continent's waterways

1:05 – 1:30         Q&A and Discussion