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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sustainability and hydro development in the Columbia River Basin Toller, Susan B.


This thesis examines the concept of sustainability and the implications of large-scale hydroelectric development for the sustainability of communities in the Canadian portion of the Columbia River Basin. A literature review of sustainability provides a background for discussion and a working definition of sustainability is proposed for consideration throughout the study. An overview of the Canadian experience with hydro development and its ecological, social and economic impacts provides a context within which to consider issues related to sustainability. The Columbia River Basin is the setting of a case study of sustainability and hydro development in British Columbia. The Kootenay region has been affected by extensive hydro projects since the early 1900s on the Kootenay River and most significantly by large dams built on the Columbia system as a result of the Columbia River Treaty. Communities in the Kootenays have borne a large share of the impacts of these dams. The resulting degradation of fisheries, wildlife and forests has jeopardized the integrity of the region’s resource base and its capability to enhance the quality of life of those living within the Columbia River drainage basin. Future hydroelectric planning should address the sustainability of the ecological, social and economic systems affected by this land use change and ensure that local communities are included in project decision-making. Increased awareness of the consequences of large-scale hydro projects during planning stages may enable sustainable development to occur.

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