Conflicts around hydropower and, in general, large-scale infrastructure development

The key actors involved in conflicts related to hydropower development are developers and the affected people. NGOs, development agencies and financing agencies can play a vital role in surfacing conflicts, and assure that the appropriate processes and safeguards are in place to reduce conflicts. It has been

Benefit sharing & sustainable development 151 Table I I. I Interpretation of various aspects of benefit sharing across issues and scales

From single output .................. to multiple interests at different scales



Local —>


Regional —► National —* Transboundary

ENERGY as output Source: water, natural resource use: water and land

Upstream and downstream project

Aquatic ecosystems & fisheries

Irrigated agriculture, forestry

Domestic - livelihoods, local community infrastructure Wildlife and river bank

Ecosystem services Mobility


Flood management Watershed management Environmental protection/conservation Regional electricity transmission Infrastructure development (e.g., roads for mobility and access)



Weak definition.......... moving to .............Strong definition

(more obligator)' ..............................not mandatory (unless


Various scalar aspects of types of benefit sharing interventions possible based on an energy source

well documented that large-scale HPPs have considerable consequences for the environment and groups of people living both upstream and downstream of hydropower installations. In many developing countries, dams are built without the full participation and consent of local inhabitants and without the proper environmental and social impact assessments. Local populations rarely receive the necessary compensation for their loss of habitat and livelihood. The subsequent energy that is produced by the dams often bypasses local populations and is sent to regional and national hubs where it is used predominantly to power industrial demands. In addition, the power produced is often too expensive for the majority of rural inhabitants. Some of the key challenges (not all-encompassing) are listed in Table 11.2.

Global financing for hydropower projects and the surge for using benefit sharing approaches

After the publication of the World Commission on Dams (WCD, 2000) report the hydropower sector suffered from a period of low investments by multilateral and regional financial institutions and critics from different stakeholders. The pivotal report pointed clearly to uplifting requirements (standards) for hydropower development targeted at proponents (developers/owners) and solutions for reducing adverse effects on humans and the environment. Projects’

Table 11.2 Key challenges faced in hydropower project development and the role of benefit sharing in addressing these challenges

Examples of challenges causing conflicts due to inadequate adherence to requirements or weak/ vague national policies

Role that benefit sharing can play

Assuring adequate resettlement/relocation compensation is provided by project owners, i.e., in agreement with affected households and land owners. Not doing this has resulted in dissatisfaction creating risk for developers where projects are stopped or halted by affected people (or their representatives, e.g., NGOs), by protests, locking of gates to project sites, blocking of roads, violence and robbing of sites of equipment.

This Is usually a project-based action and benefit sharing does not come into play. Here the authorities and due diligence processes have to keep this in check. Enhancing the livelihood measures through benefit sharing funds can help ease tension and conflicts and often allow parties to discuss terms.

Ensuring that a range of livelihood restoration measures are used and affected communities and households accept these and have the knowhow to use them. Inadequate measures can lead to risk for developers as mentioned above due to the devastation of livelihoods and subsequent increase in poverty levels. It must be understood that not all affected persons/households are able to easily bounce back after being relocated in hydropower projects - the impacts are high and multifaceted, including psychological.

Benefit sharing measures can extend and enhance the magnitude of livelihood measures through financial allocations for capacity building related to agriculture methods, machinery, long-term followup, creating SMEs and providing resources for assuring markets for produce, etc.

Adequate measures for securing that forest and water ecosystem services are not lost and if reduced alternative options substituting these are included in project environmental and social management plans.

Benefit sharing can provide financial means for the set-up of trusts and funds for watershed management institutions.

Ensuring that all affected people, particularly the vulnerable, are included in decision making and agreed targeted measures are in place.

Benefit sharing can assure added funds for vulnerable groups in building-up livelihood means, for example training women for SME set-up and management, assuring their inclusion for health and education, providing land ownership to assure that livelihoods are manageable.

Lack of local (community-based) or regional institutions to partake in decision making in the above issues and also in the follow-up monitoring processes.

Funds through benefit sharing regimes go beyond the usual environmental and social management plans to provide for trust funds, project development loans, forest management committees and women groups for decision making at the local level.

Examples of challenges causing con flicts due to inadequate adherence to requirements or weak/ vague national policies

Role that benefit sharing can play

Lack of national and/or project policy or strategy and action plans which call for safety-nets (safeguards) to come into play when affected people fail to regain livelihoods.

Benefit sharing has in a number of countries been introduced through national polity' and/or project strategy to provide additional development input to the project going beyond the usual project level required (nationally mandatory) environmental and social mitigation and enhancement.

proponents needed to be responsible for mitigation of impacts: fairly compensating, restoring livelihoods and making sound environmental conservation decisions - aiming to sustainable development. It was through the WCD report that the hydropower sector was introduced to the potential need for employing benefit sharing regimes for enhancing or going beyond required mitigation measures — so that firstly revenues or royalties from the sales of power could be shared with stakeholders. This resulted in changes in requirements internationally (multilateral banks, donor nations and some national governments) and investments in HPPs have gradually changed in the last decade.

There is growing evidence that to mitigate and minimise existing and future resource conflicts especially related to livelihoods and cultural heritage, approaches and pathways that transform brewing conflicts are looked for by developers (and proponents). One key pathway is that of benefit sharing regimes coupled with communication, which can nurture and enforce collaboration necessary for any form of sustainable development. The spatial localisation (far from those who pay for the power and which proponents tend to focus on) of the HPPs can limit the trickle down of benefits unless specific social development investment programs are undertaken in the area impacted by the project (the project footprint). In this context, hydropower companies and governments must often take action to share benefits at the local level — an action which can only be feasible through project-based policy/strategy, national legal requirements and/or requirement of loan providers.

Current status of hydropower development and new paradigms - fostering conflict minimisation and sustainable development

After many years of gradual dampening of pugnacious opposition to dam constructions, hydropower is back on the international donor and financial institutions agenda. International Finance Institutions and Multilateral Development Banks" are renewing their investments in hydropower: parallel to the development of new paradigms and instilling of new policies. Starting with the World Commission on Dams (WCD, 2000) which pushed for stringent regulations for hydropower development across financing institutions, there have been a range of now anchored initiatives - including integrated resource management, sustainability, cumulative and strategic assessment guidelines — all pointing to the recognition of the requirements of sustainability. The IPCC (2011) report clearly supported hydropower as a vital renewable energy vehicle that can contribute to mitigating climate change, recognising that social and environmental issues will remain challenging. While some of the old debates on environmental impact are being revisited, new narratives and discourses on processes, structuring and value of benefit sharing at national to local levels are being placed upfront in infrastructure development.

The contemporary discourse on infrastructure development and benefit sharing parallels a broader refraining of hydropower development as an important trigger for sustainable development. Resource use beyond biological resources includes water- land-cultural resource use and loss/dilution, particularly to indigenous communities. Here other sectors have included the following issues into benefit sharing regimes: property rights and entitlement to resources (water, land, public goods) and access, which are also beginning to surface as pertinent and, in some cases, formidable issues of concern both to proponents, donors and local communities in hydropower projects. Within this context, hydropower development is also seen as a path for working towards resolving embedded issues of social and environmental equity- in resource use and environmental governance within water and climate realms. Thus, benefit sharing is seen as a vehicle to transfonn conflicts and fulfil expectations of mitigation to a greater extent than before (Fig. 11.1). In the case of weak governance, poor environmental and social impacts assessment resulting in poorly developed mitigation and compensation action plans, the well-being of communities is jeopardised and actions can lead to conflicts and resentment towards project development. For proponents of HPPs, private or non-private, securing a social licence to operate (SLO) is also increasingly seen as an integral part of hydropower development and for achieving trust and legitimacy with affected people.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >