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Optimising hydropower development and ecosystem services in the Kafue River, Zambia

Cowx, Ian G.; Lungu, Alphart; Kalonga, Mainza


Ian G. Cowx

Alphart Lungu

Mainza Kalonga


Ian Cowx
Project Leader


Fisheries are an important resource in Zambia, but are experiencing overexploitation and are under increasing pressure from external development activities that are compromising river ecosystem services and functioning. One such system is the Kafue Flats floodplain, which is under threat from hydropower development. This paper reviews the impact of potential hydropower development on the Kafue Flats floodplain and explores mechanisms to optimise the expansion of hydropower whilst maintain the ecosystem functioning and services the floodplain delivers.
Since completion of the Kafue Gorge and Itezhi-tezhi dams, seasonal fluctuations in the height and extent of flooding have been suppressed. This situation is likely to get worse with the proposed incorporation of a hydropower scheme into Itezhi-tezhi dam, which will operate under a hydropeaking regime. This will have major ramifications for the fish communities and ecosystem functioning and likely result in the demise of the fishery along with destruction of the wetlands and associated wildlife. To redress the problem it is recommended that an environmental flows study is conducted, as initiated by World Wildlife Fund, to protect the existing ecosystem services provision and optimise hydropower development, thus ensuring sustainability of the aquatic resources of the Kafue Flats for future generations.


Cowx, I. G., Lungu, A., & Kalonga, M. (2018). Optimising hydropower development and ecosystem services in the Kafue River, Zambia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 69(12), 1974-1982.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 21, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 24, 2018
Publication Date Sep 24, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 29, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Marine and Freshwater Research
Print ISSN 1323-1650
Publisher CSIRO Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 69
Issue 12
Pages 1974-1982
Keywords Ecology; Aquatic Science; Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics; Oceanography
Public URL
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