Public health incorporates anything for which one would seek medical attention, such as sickness, disease, mental health, injuries and fatalities. Hydropower projects must manage potential risks to public health throughout their life cycle, but they also have the potential to provide improvements in public health facilities and health services.
Good practice in this area encompasses assessment, management, stakeholder engagement, compliance and outcomes relating to public health at the preparation, implementation and operations stages of a project’s life cycle. For example, at the preparation phase the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) should include a section on public health. While this may not be a national requirement, it is an expectation for international good practice. Potential risks and opportunities should be distinctly evaluated for both the construction and operations stages due to the differing nature of the risks that can prevail.
Adhering to good practice in public health can help a project or operating hydropower facility identify and manage ongoing or emerging public health issues and ensure that commitments made by the project to implement public health measures are fulfilled.
Understanding good practice
International industry good practice in public health for hydropower projects is defined in the Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice (HGIIP).
The guidelines were published by the International Hydropower Association and are governed by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, a multi-stakeholder group of representatives of civil society, industry, governments and financial institutions.
Assessing project performance
Two assessment tools are available to measure hydropower project performance:
The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) is used by independent accredited assessors to consider whether a project has achieved good and best practice at different stages of its life cycle. Public Health is addressed in P-18 for the preparation stage, I-14 for the implementation stage and O-14 for the operation stage.
The Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool is used by independent accredited assessors to help project teams address any gaps against good practice in environmental, social and governance topics across 12 assessment sections. Public Health is addressed in Section 4.