Developing Nepal’s Hydropower Potential

Dr. Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations, ICIMOD, addresses stakeholders during a consultation meeting held in Kathmandu recently to share the significant  'Hydropower Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines of Nepal' drafted by ICIMOD and International Finance Corporation for the Government of Nepal

Significant contributions in drafting and presenting ‘Hydropower Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines (HP-EIA) of Nepal’ to the Government of Nepal (GoN) and stakeholders on 20 May, 2016 were made by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) Koshi Basin Initiative and International Finance Corporation (IFC). By helping developers manage environmental and social risks and impacts, and guard against unforeseen risks and impacts that could interrupt project execution, legal claims and any critical issues, the guidelines are key to any hydropower development. 

In 2014, ICIMOD undertook the study ‘Basin-wide Strategic Environmental Assessment to Support Sustainable Hydropower Development’ which was based on the analysis of strategic level Policy Plan and Programme documents related to hydropower development and interviews with stakeholders. As a result, ICIMOD and IFC were requested by the Ministry of Population and Environment (MOPE), Nepal to collaborate with relevant ministries of Nepal in preparing the guidelines.

Inaugurating the consultation meeting, Bishwa Nath Oli, secretary of MOPE said that GoN has large aspiration to develop hydropower in a short time span and these guidelines form an integral part of developing hydropower. Mr Oli praised the support provided by IFC and ICIMOD to ensure sustainability of hydropower development in Nepal. Deputy Director General of the Department of Electricity Development, Nabin Raj Singh, thanked MOPE for their efforts and hoped it will continue to support to maximise local development benefits, and greater acceptance of projects by local communities and governments.

In her opening remarks, Ainsley Hemming, Second Secretary, Development Cooperation of the Australian Embassy, expressed her government’s commitment to support sustainable hydropower development in Nepal and congratulated the GoN for considering social and environmental impact assessment an integral part of the hydropower development process. 

Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations from ICIMOD, said the new HP-EIA guidelines were prepared through a participatory process ensuring environmental impact assessments can be conducted quickly and efficiently, and are aligned with international performance standards, helping in expediting the government approval process. He gave his assurance ICIMOD will continue to provide support to GoN in updating and reforming environmental monitoring and regulatory framework and building government agency capacity to enhance their environmental oversight capabilities and attract investment opportunities.

The draft HP-EIA has been developed based on extensive gap analysis of existing Nepali EIA guidance documents and relevant legislation and comprehensive stakeholder consultations with local government, developers and EIA practitioners. These gaps included inadequate engagement of stakeholders; inadequately defined areas of influence and study areas, insufficient identification of baseline studies required to carry out EIA; not enough socio-economic and socio-community baseline studies; lack of knowledge on identifying and quantifying impacts; lack of precision on impact predictions, and inadequate alternatives analysis. 

The HP-EIA provides guideline for each priority area in a simple checklist-based format in a clear and concise structure. This format aims to ensure guidelines are user-friendly and readily adopted by EIA practitioners, regulators, and hydropower developers in Nepal. Ideally, these new guidelines will improve financial and operational performance by optimising the management inputs such as water and energy, minimise negative impacts on ecosystem and maximise development benefits leading to a more efficient and cost-effective development and operation of hydropower projects.