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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 | June 26, 2014

On Friday Georgia will sign an association agreement with the European Union, meaning that our country will start cooperating more closely with the EU and even implement more European legislation. This is good news, particularly when it comes to the environment.

Blog entry | March 14, 2014

Last weekend, the Georgian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources again left no doubt about where its main interests lie: enforcing the massive exploitation of Georgia’s hydropower potential despite and against people’s concerns and if necessary by use of force.

Blog entry | February 27, 2014

Georgian public opinion backs the village of Kaishi in the Georgian mountains that defiantly defends its land and tradition against the planned Khudoni dam. The project promoters have now embarked on an all-out promotion campaign including a fake non-governmental organisation.

Blog entry | February 12, 2014

As activists pointed out at a consultation meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia's hydropower sector has plenty of lessons to be learned by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Blog entry | February 6, 2014

The growing antagonism between promoters of the Khudoni hydropower plant project in Georgia and their local opponents from Kaishi is unlikely to ease when the investor and the Georgian Ministry of Energy boycott mediation by Georgia’s Ombudsman.

Publications

Study | October 31, 2014

Land, forests, water and raw materials are valuable resources that increasingly interest the major players of the economy of our planet. This report collects 16 case studies from around the world in order to better understand the impacts of natural resource grabbing on the local communities, clarify the responsibilities of the European Union and, in conclusion, examine actions to be undertaken to invert this phenomenon.

Briefing | May 2, 2014

The Georgian company JSC Dariali Energy has requested a loan of up to USD 80 million from the EBRD for the 108 MW Dariali hydropower (HPP) project. The project involves the construction of a derivation-type HPP on the Tergi river in the municipality of Kazbegi. The project will divert water from the town of Stepatsminda towards the powerhouse close to the border with Russia, leaving eight kilometres of river without a sufficient amount of water.

Briefing | May 2, 2014

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has approved a loan of up to USD 86.5 million for Adjaristsqali Georgia LLC (AGL), a subsidiary of the Norwegian Clean Energy Invest for the construction of the 185 MW Shuakhevi hydropower plant (HPP). The project involves the construction of two dams and three diversion tunnels. Bankwatch member group Green Alternative has concerns about the possible negative impacts of the Shuakhevi HPP and the overall justification for the project, both explained in this briefing.

Study | March 31, 2014

The report summarises the findings from a fact-finding mission to villages in the Svaneti region of northwestern Georgia that will be impacted by the Khudoni hydropower project. During the visit 250 people were interviewed, of which around 160 were women.

Bankwatch Mail | March 20, 2014

A new report published on March 10 by a team of researchers from the University of Oxford, based on the largest ever study of large hydroelectric dams (245 in 65 countries) has found that in most cases large dams are economically not viable and few, if any, will realise their planned benefits. The study assessed the costs, construction time, and benefits of all large dams built around the world since 1934, and further concluded that the severe cost and construction delays that so often dog large dams (defined in this research as those that exceed 15 metres in height) mean they can be seriously damaging to the economies that attach so much hope to them.