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Nenskra hydropower plant, Georgia

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Key facts


The Nenskra project foresees damming the Nenskra river 10 kilometers upstream from the village of Chuberi. To increase the reservoir’s volume, a 14 km long tunnel will divert water from the Nakra river on the other side of the mountain close to the village of Nakra.

Cost: USD 1 billion (doubled since initial estimates)

Size: 280 MW power plant, 135 m high dam and a storage reservoir

Public financing: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has provided public-private partnership advisory services. As of spring 2016, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Korea Eximbank consider financing the dam.

Project promoters: Korea Water Resources Corporation & JSC Partnership Fund (a Georgian government agency)

Contract type: Public-private partnership: BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer)

Contractor: Salini Impregilo (IT) (preparatory works began in September 2015)

Customer: Like many other newly built hydropower plants in Georgia, Nenskra will produce winter season electricity for the domestic market and export the rest to energy-hungry Turkey.

Highlights

  • 34 new hydropower plants are planned in Upper Svanetia, an area roughly half the size of Cyprus. more >>

  • The Nenskra reservoir will deprive locals of the pastures and forests they use to earn their income. more >>

  • The project's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment did not properly assess socio-economic impacts on local communities nor the geological hazards. more >>


 

Hydro congestion in Svaneti


In the last decade, Georgia has rushed to exploit its hydropower resources to become a regional energy player. But weak laws and lack of strategy have made the sector a breeding ground for environmental damage, social problems and political cronyism.

Map: Hydro plans in Upper Svaneti


Interactive map of planned hydropower installations in Upper Svaneti

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The Upper Svaneti region in north-western Georgia provides a microcosm of these broader trends.

Plans for development of 35 new plants are under way in an area roughly the size of Mallorca that is largely covered by a planned national park, hosts UNESCO listed medieval monuments and is inhabited by the traditional community of Svans.

The impact of such intensive hydropower plant constructions on the rivers and biodiversity in Upper Svaneti has not been assessed.

Of all the projects, Nenskra is the most advanced.

 

>> Read more:
Hydropower development in Georgia - Projects, risks, legal context

Find out more

 

Local population & land use issues


Mother and daughter during mass in Chuberi.

300 families live in Chuberi and 80 families in the village of Nakra. The majority are Svan, an ethnic subgroup of Georgia’s Caucasus mountains with their own language, laws and traditions. For generations, they have lived in isolation and self-dependence in Upper Svaneti. Their livelihoods depend on forestry, grazing and subsistence agriculture.

Photo story


The community of Chuberi will lose part of its land should the Nenskra dam be built.

Read the photo story

The reservoir will flood communal lands and would reduce families incomes, contributing to poverty and marginalisation, especially for women who are less likely to receive job opporunities during the construction.

At least two families live in fear of being resettled.

Even though the use of land is a highly contested issue, the agreement over the project, which may contain relevant information, has not been made public.

 

Parallels to the Khudoni dam downstream

The people of Chuberi know the experience of the Svan communities living downstream in Khaishi where the 702 MW Khudoni dam is planned to be built. The Georgian state sold their ancestral lands for next to nothing to the Khudoni dam promoter. The lands and the dam remains a subject of fierce protests to date.

 

>> Read more:
Khudoni hydropower plant, Georgia - Project background, images, more

See the project page

 

Poor impact assessments, lack of participation


[From a] nature preservation point of view, not all of these larger [rivers] like Enguri and smaller rivers like Nenskra and Nakra should be used for hydropower generation.

Prof. Dr. Frank Schrader, International Consultant on Hydropower, in his review of the Nenskra ESIA

From the onset, the project has been poorly communicated to the affected communities who have few opportunities to be heard. People’s knowledge about the dam is scarce and the information provided by the developers focuses on benefits while neglecting negative impacts.

A review (pdf) of the Nenskra Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) prepared by a German consultant indicates that the ESIA report fails to sufficiently define the area of influence, suggest project alternatives, assess the impacts on the local communities and the geological hazards, and evaluate the costs and benefits of the project for the Georgian society.

The Georgian Ministry of Environment approved the project even though the review questioned the project from a nature conservation perspective.

 
>> Read more:
Briefing on the Nenskra hydropower plant (pdf)
Briefing | February 2, 2016

Comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Nenskra hydropower plant (pdf)
Comments | September 30, 2015

Preliminary comments on the Nenskra Environmental Impact Assessment with a particular focus on the consultation process (pdf)
Comments | June 25, 2015

 

Cumulative impacts

Nenskra is one of several dams planned in the Enguri river basin, upstream of the state-owned 1300 MW Enguri hydropower plant. The water accumulation at Nenskra will inevitably reduce water levels downstream, and lessen the economic utility of the Enguri dam and the planned Khudoni dam.

Together with the planned Nenskra and Khudoni dams, the state-operated Enguri hydropower plant (pictured above) is the third water storage facility in the Enguri watershed. All combined would put cumulative burden on the river's ecosystems and the local Svan population.

More importantly, the Georgian government has not tried to assess the cumulative impacts of all the planned hydro installations on the Enguri watershed and the Upper Svaneti region.

Besides the dams and derivation tunnels, the necessary constructions include bypass and access roads, high voltage transmission lines and substations. These may lead to substantial increase in landslides and thus sedimentation in the already exposed Enguri dam.

 

Seismic risks and land slides

Svanetia is a geologically sensitive mountainous area prone to landslides and mudflows. The situation is critical in the area of the planned Nenskra reservoir and around the village of Nakra.

Nakra has a history of mudflows that washed out the local cemetery and agricultural fields. Locals who have for long called for a protection system fear that the planned works on the Nakra river could cause flooding of their village.

A mudflow on the Lekvederi river damaged one of the two Svan hamlets to be affected by the Nenskra dam.
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Latest developments


 

Blog entry | March 28, 2017

This week, activists from across the world are meeting in Tbilisi to share their experiences of resisting hydropower projects and the money that supports them.

Blog entry | March 27, 2017

85 river and dam activists from 40 countries and all continents gather in Tbilisi, Georgia this week to share experiences about their efforts to protect the world’s rivers and join their struggles against destructive hydropower projects.

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 | June 27, 2016

On June 23 mudflows from the Devdoraki glacier again hit the Dariali gorge and washed away a road and infrastructure connected to two hydropower projects planned in the north of Georgia. The destruction included the water intake for the 19 megawatt Larsi hydropower plant and the derivation pipes for the Dariali hydropower plant.

Caucasus

Publications

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.

Briefing | April 29, 2016

This briefing was prepared and presented during the annual meetings of the Asian Development Bank on 2 May 2016 in Frankfurt.

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.