Fisheries is an important sector in Zambia, but are experiencing resource 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 explores 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 it delivers.
Since the construction of the Kafue Gorge and Itezhi-tezhi dams, there has been a reduction in the seasonal fluctuations in the height and extent of the floods. This situation is likely to get worse with the potential incorporation of a hydropower scheme into the Itezhi-tezhi dam, which will operate under a hydropeaking regime. This will have major ramifications for the fishing communities and ecosystem functioning and likely result in a collapse 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 to account for the ecosystem services provision and optimise the hydropower development to ensure continued delivery of the ecosystem services provided.