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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

Khudoni

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.

 

Nenskra

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.

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Latest developments


 

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.

Bankwatch in the media | December 16, 2015

- Gdy budowali elektrownię, w ogóle nie było mowy o żadnym zagrożeniu. Nawet nam nie tłumaczyli, na jakiej zasadzie będzie ona działać. Dopiero teraz dowiadujemy się o niebezpieczeństwie - tłumaczy Eteri.

Blog entry | October 6, 2014

Georgian Urban Energy (GUE), the company in charge of constructing the Paravani hydropower plant (HPP), has been keeping secret a study on the potential flooding risks associated with the facility, despite requests and promises from the EBRD that such an analysis would be made public.

Blog entry | August 22, 2014

While likely not the cause, the EBRD-financed Dariali hydropower plant is being constructed without proper assessment or mitigation of known geological risks. The construction must be halted to avoid further damage.

Publications

Policy comments | September 30, 2015

These comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Nenskra hydropower plant in Georgia concludes that the quality of the submitted report is extremely poor. The report as well as the public hearings organised during its preparation do not comply with Georgian legislation or with the requirements of International Financial Institutions.

Policy comments | June 25, 2015

Following an on-site visit in the Upper Svaneti region in Georgia, these comments find substantial weaknesses in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Nenskra hydropower plant, in particular with regards to the engagement and consultation of local communities.

See also the comments on the final Nenskra EIA report.

Bankwatch Mail | May 14, 2015

For Shuakhevi as with other large dams recently built or planned in Georgia, it all adds up for western planners and financiers. The final bill for the Georgian population and environment, though, is still a long way from being finalised.

Bankwatch Mail | May 14, 2015

In the run-up to this year's annual meeting in Tbilisi, the EBRD has taken to social media, via the hashtag #Georgia15, to invite Twitter users to share “beautiful photos of Georgia with a global audience”.

Briefing | May 6, 2015

Since 2011 the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has provided USD 210.5 million to three greenfield hydropower projects (HPP) in Georgia - Paravani, Dariali and Shuakhevi. Instead of bringing improvements on the ground and environmental standards that are on par with best international practice, the EBRD has, by funding these projects, simply justified the wrongdoings that were from the beginning apparent: the degradation of river ecosystems, corruption and threats to people.