Hydropower is often promoted as an environmentally friendly and renewable energy resource. Yet, it is since long established that this energy source indeed has numerous negative environmental impacts, and the negative social impacts have been established by researchers in several cases. At the same time it is an ageing technology, within which aging dams are confronting climate change with the result that it is a carrier of number of threats against both human security and sustainable development.
The paper forms the basis for a recently launched research project involving four scientific disciplines - history of science and technology; political science; gender, technology and organization and land and water resource management. In the paper, the possibilities for a supradisciplinary approach to analyze the sociotechnical aspects of security, safety and risk in regard to large dams within Sub Arctica are discussed. Supradisciplinarity refers in this case to the involvement of both social and natural/technical sciences as well as the involvement of practitioners/constructors/dam owners etc and local inhabitants around the dams.
In focus is the question on how the current narrow and technically oriented dam safety concept could or maybe should be broadened to include differing attitudes and values, from different perspectives depending on gender, ethnicity and situated knowledge.
Empirical examples are drawn from on an ongoing study of the Lule River, the most hydroexploited river in Sweden, located within the Swedish part of Sapmi, within which local reindeer herders are being interviewed along with interviews with actors within the Swedish setting of dam safety. Departing from these empirical examples, attempts to identify the current understandings of the socio-technical constructions of dams, scientific perceptions of water flows and a changing climate within the framing of dam safety and discuss how can these understandings could be influenced by supradisciplinary conversations and exchange.