Achieving an environmentally sustainable outcome for the Gulpur hydropower project in the Poonch River Mahaseer National Park, Pakistan

  • Cate BrownEmail author
  • Vaqar Zakaria
  • Alison Joubert
  • Muhammad Rafique
  • Jahanzeb Murad
  • Jackie King
  • Jessica Hughes
  • Pablo Cardinale
  • Leeanne Alonzo
Original Article


An holistic environmental flows (EFlows) assessment, undertaken as part of an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), led to improved planning and design of the Gulpur hydropower project (HPP) on the Poonch River, Mahaseer National Park, Pakistan. The park was declared a conservation area primarily because of its two globally threatened fish species, the endangered Mahaseer (Tor putitora) and critically endangered Kashmir Catfish (Glyptothorax kashimirensis). These triggered critical habitat thresholds for the funders, requiring special biodiversity protection measures. Despite the river’s conservation status, these two species are under threat of extinction from unsustainable harvesting and catchment practices, notably non-selective fishing practices and sand and gravel mining in the river bed. The EFlows study analysed various permutations of flow releases from the proposed dam, operational regimes and catchment management options. The need to contain existing adverse impacts on the threatened fish and river ecosystem, combined with the results of the assessment, influenced the planned turbine design, weir location and operational regime of the project. Additional management measures to enhance the protection status of the park and its fish to achieve a biodiversity net gain outcome were developed with conservation management stakeholders and communities. These measures were incorporated into a biodiversity action plan, which was approved by Pakistan’s regulatory authorities and paved the way for approval of the project financing by international lenders. The project represents a valuable case study on mechanisms for achieving ecologically sustainable HPPs.


EFlows DRIFT Hydropower Gulpur Pakistan Critical habitat National Park Mahaseer Kashmir catfish 



We thank Mira Power, Asian Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation for their commitment to seeking a sustainable solution; and especially all the stakeholders that assisted with, contributed to and supported the initiative. We also acknowledge that this study would not have been possible without the specialist and technical support provided by Dr. Mehr Ali Sha, Dr. Andrew Birkhead, Mr. Mark Rountree, Ms. Fareeha Irfan Ovais, Mishkatullah and Mr. Hussain Ali.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southern Waters; Institute for Water StudiesUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Hagler Bailly PakistanIslamabadPakistan
  3. 3.Zoological Sciences Division Pakistan Museum of Natural HistoryIslamabadPakistan
  4. 4.Mira Power LimitedIslamabadPakistan
  5. 5.Water MattersWestern CapeSouth Africa
  6. 6.International Finance Corporation (IFC)Washington, DCUSA

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