Authors: Peilei Fan, Myung Sik Cho, Zihan Lin, Zutao Ouyang, Jiaguo Qi, Jiquan Chen, and Emilio F. Moran
Abstract: Hydropower dams produce huge impacts on renewable energy production, water resources, and economic development, particularly in the Global South, where accelerated dam construction has made it a global hotspot. We do not fully understand the multiple impacts that dams have in the nearby areas from a global perspective, including the spatial differentiations. In this study, we examined the impacts of hydropower dam construction in nearby areas. We first found that more than one-third of global gross domestic production (GDP) and almost one-third of global population fall within 50 km of the world’s 7,155 hydropower dams (<10% of the global land area sans the Antarctic). We further analyzed impacts of 631 hydropower dams (≥1-megawatt capacity) constructed since 2001 and commissioned before 2015 for their effects on economy, population, and environment in nearby areas and examined the results in five regions (i.e., Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America) and by different dam sizes. We found that recently constructed dams were associated with increased GDP in North America and urban areas in Europe but with decreased GDP, urban land, and population in the Global South and greenness in Africa in nearby areas. Globally, these dams were linked with reduced economic production, population, and greenness of areas within 50km of the dams. While large dams were related with reduced GDP and greenness significantly, small and medium dams were coupled with lowered population and urban land substantially, and large and medium dams were connected to diminished nighttime light noticeably in nearby areas.