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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 | October 4, 2013

Protests against the Khudoni mega-dam in Georgia are spreading beyond the local communities affected by the dam. [*]

Blog entry | September 24, 2013

Statements and behaviour of Georgian authorities show their determination to go ahead with the construction of the huge Khudoni dam that would displace more than 2000 indigenious Svans, regardless of public protests. At the same time the project company's set-up raises questions about ulterior motives.

Press release | September 17, 2013

Khaishi – A public debate over the fate of the Khudoni dam in western Georgia turned tense today as locals opposing the project were intimidated by authorities and the project developer, Transelectrica LTD. Despite the threats, villagers in Khaishi turned out in significant numbers to the consultation to express their opposition to the project.

Blog entry | November 6, 2012

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development boasts of having invested 10 billion euros in sustainable energy since 2006. A closer look reveals that although the bank's efforts deserve recognition, several investments make a mockery of 'sustainability'.

Bankwatch in the media | June 27, 2012

By creating loopholes in environmental legislation, is President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration making a deal with the devil?

Publications

Briefing | August 27, 2013

Any hydropower project no matter the size can cause negative consequences to water basins, associated ecosystems, to climate and affected communities living along the water basins. A large number of individually acceptable projects can also lead to unacceptably high negative cumulative effects. This briefing lays out sustainability criteria that help taking these concerns into account in the strategic planning and implementation of hydropower developments.

Study | June 18, 2013

This study reviews the development of greenfield hydro projects in Georgia and explores how current energy sector trends in the country relate – or otherwise – to sustainable energy principles.

Bankwatch Mail | May 10, 2013

If there is one sector in which the EBRD has been causing particular controversy in recent years, it is the energy sector. From lignite in Slovenia to hydropower in Georgia and nuclear in Ukraine, the bank has financed a series of projects that have incurred opposition from various quarters. Now that the EBRD is revising its Environmental and Social Policy it's time to take a look at what needs to be learned from these projects.

Briefing | May 9, 2013

In recent years the EBRD has increased its funding for hydropower plants (HPPs) of all sizes. While small hydropower plants are seen by many as a far safer technology than large hydropower plants, they too can cause interruptions in river flows, loss of biodiversity and the degradation of habitats, disruptions for migrating fish and a lack of water for irrigation and drinking in downstream communities. The updated EBRD Environmental and Social Policy should include safeguards to ensure that small HPPs are truly sustainable.