Writing Workshop on Benefit Sharing in Hydropower

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Background 

Countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan have abundant water resources, and hydropower has emerged as an economically viable and sustainable energy option. In addition to energy generation, dams provide a multitude of benefits such as flood control and irrigation, which contribute significantly to poverty alleviation and broader goals of sustainable development. This has led to increased support for dams from country governments as well as donor agencies. Despite these wider benefits, hydropower projects also have adverse social and environmental impacts, particularly at the local level. To address such concerns it is important for national and local governments to develop policies and regulations that facilitate/ promote equitable benefit sharing with affected parties as well as the wider community. 

Lack of standard policy directives on benefit sharing have allowed the hydropower project developers to define benefits either based on their own understanding as “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) or through negotiations with local communities in an attempt to obtain social license to operate hydropower projects. Within benefit sharing, what actually constitutes ‘benefit’ is debatable and varies considerably across hydropower projects. Even if benefits are shared, variations exist among hydropower projects in terms of how benefits are shared – through environmental and social impact mitigation strategies or through separate mechanisms such as corporate social responsibility or other structures and mechanisms.

It is imperative and highly pertinent to conduct research on benefit sharing to develop an understanding of how benefits from hydropower projects are understood by stakeholders, including project developers, government and citizens, within the current context of rapidly changing investment in hydropower sector involving multiple actors. 

ICIMOD released the first comprehensive report on benefit sharing mechanisms in Nepal in 2016, which was widely appreciated by the larger hydropower community. Later, at the end of 2017, ICIMOD commissioned four studies – one each in Upper Indus, Pakistan and in three states of India (Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh). These studies were conducted by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan; People’s Science Institute (PSI), Dehradun, and South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies (SaciWATERs), Hyderabad. In addition, another study looked at tradeoffs between irrigation and hydropower in Nepal. First drafts of all these reports are now ready and the purpose of this workshop is to discuss and finalise those drafts. 

Objectives of the workshop:

  • Present the findings from the benefit sharing field work and case studies in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Pakistan
  • Incorporate feedback and finalise each of the draft for publication
  • Share the findings with a larger group of stakeholders