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Hydropower development in Georgia

Svaneti, Georgia. Panorama above Mestia. (More images in our flickr set.)
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Hydropower in Georgia - Quick facts

installed capacity:
3500 MW
(= 25% of available capacity - Source)

annual output:
appr. 8.5 TWh
share of domestic electricity needs:
85 percent (Source)
potential capacity:
estimated with 80 TWh (27 TWh economically viable)

Blessed with staggering mountains, Georgia has a largely unexploited hydropower potential (see quick facts) on which private investors, the Georgian government and international lenders have set their sight.

Experience and ongoing monitoring shows that while some hydropower projects would only bring marginal, if any, benefits for locals, the risks associated with them are largely being underestimated or ignored.

Read the briefing:
Hydropower in Georgia - Impacts on communities, the environment and the economy (pdf)

Large dams versus local communities


By far the most controversial hydropower project in Georgia is the Khudoni dam. It will interfere with a rich cultural heritage and 2000 people will have to be forcefully resettled.

At the same time the opaque ownership of the project company (registered in a tax haven) and its contractual obligations make the purported benefits of the 702 MW project doubtful.

Read more:
Detailed background, images and updates on the Khudoni hydropower plant.

A historical view on the Georgian energy sector, the effects on local communities and the role of international financial institutions.



Not far from the site for Khudoni, another controversial large dam project, the 280 MW Nenskra hydropower plant, is being planned. It is the most advanced of Georgia's massive plans for hydropower installations in the Upper Svaneti region. It will deprive the local community of ethnic Svans of lands and livelihoods, but potential negative impacts have not been properly assessed.

More on Nenskra


A cascade of projects

An interactive map of planned hydro installations in the Upper Svaneti region shows how dense and without strategic planning these investments have appeared.

Explore the map


Geological hazards in mountain areas

Landslides happened at the site of the Dariali hydropower construction. (Original image by Iago Kazalikashvili.)

Also smaller projects like the Dariali (pdf) and the Shuakhevi (pdf) HPPs can pose substantial risks, even when no dams have to be built.

Apart from damaging the rivers' biodiversity, the projects are being constructed without proper assessment of the geological conditions. Two fatal landslides in the Dariali Gorge revealed the irresponsible decision-making by the investors and the Georgian government.

Read more

Second fatal landslide in Georgian Dariali valley
Blog post | August 22, 2014


Below: See an Al Jazeera report on Georgian hydropower constructions in seismically active areas.


Resettlement and lack of legal protection

Involuntary resettlement in Georgia - an overview

Download the study

Georgian communities that face hydropower projects have difficulties protecting their rights as affected stakeholders and landowners.

  • Georgia’s legislation does not address the issue of involuntary resettlement caused by infrastructure projects.
  • The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system is ineffective in Georgia, both in terms of providing the public with information and opportunities for public participation (pdf).
  • An unclear legal rights regime offers no or minimal protection for communities that make customary use of land that traditionally was in their hands. Unregistered land plots can literally be grabbed by investors for infrastructure projects.

In addition to the threat of losing their land or being resettled, farmers may have to face reduced access to water for irrigation or higher risk of flooding due to dam constructions. Both exposes them to an increased food insecurity.


Latest developments


Blog entry | July 5, 2016

As rains cause mudflows in Georgia's mountains, locals from different regions unite to protest hydropower developments in geologically unstable areas.

Blog entry | June 29, 2016

With hydropower and mining projects encroaching on their lands and livelihoods, Svan communities in Georgia’s northwest consider convening in an ancestral assembly to discuss their course of action.

Blog entry | May 24, 2016

Protests against large dams in Georgia's Svaneti mountains have led to confrontations with police. Locals are losing patience over the protracted consultation process on the project.

Blog entry | March 31, 2016

After hitting a snag, the Khudoni dam in Georgia’s mountains is back in the game threatening to expropriate private lands and to bump up electricity prices for Georgian consumers. The controversial changes in an amended contract have inflamed the passion of the Svans who have for years tried to protect their communities from flooding.

Blog entry | March 15, 2016

The mistrust and frustration of communities in the mountains of north-western Georgia is deepening over make-shift consultations on large dam constructions.


Briefing | May 11, 2016

Protests have in recent weeks broken out across rural Georgia after construction resumed on several large hydropower projects financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Demonstrators have complained that the projects were repeatedly decided behind closed doors, and that poor assessments of the social and environmental consequences mean their livelihoods are under threat.

Advocacy letter | March 9, 2016

In this declaration, the community of Khaishi, a village in the mountains in north west Georgia, called for a the cancellation of the contract for the construction of the 700MW Khudoni dam. Khaishi residents demand the recognition of customary land rights and the inclusion of Svans into the decision-making over the project.

Briefing | February 25, 2016

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is in the early stage of assessing a loan for the 280 megawatt Nenskra hydropower plant, located on the Nenskra and Nakra rivers in the Caucasus mountain valleys inhabited by ethnic Svans. The poor quality assessment of the project, together with the neglect of the opinion of locals, threatens to aggravate the fading public acceptance of hydropower. With this project, the EIB and other potential international financiers have a chance to insist on changes to the imprudent course hydropower developments have taken in Georgia and to request tighter environmental and social regulations.

Briefing | February 2, 2016

For the last decade, the government of Georgia has promoted hydropower as a way of tackling energy security and turning the country into a regional energy player. The EBRD has been one of the key catalysts of this hydro boom. Yet the presence of the EBRD and other international financial institutions has not been enough to ensure the development of comprehensive energy strategies, robust project assessments and meaningful public consultations. The potential for social and environmental problems is therefore prevalent. The Nenskra hydropower plant is yet another project that lacks the proper assessment and has failed to gain acceptance from the local communities.

Bankwatch Mail | December 17, 2015

No matter how you look at it, the so-called sustainable energy approach being taken – and loudly trumpeted – by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is simply at odds with both climate science and the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).