Publication: Managing Environmental and Social Impacts of Hydropower in Bhutan

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Development of Bhutan’s untapped hydro power resources has the potential to spur economic growth, rapidly increase export revenue,reduce poverty, and bring about sustained improvements in human development. The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) has,therefore, embarked on an ambitious plan to develop the renewable hydropower resourcesin the country. Large hydropower plants generating 1,606 MW are already operational,and new plants with an additional capacity of3,658 MW are under construction and expectedto be commissioned by 2018 and 19. According to these plans, the RGoB will commission closeto 12,600 MW of new hydropower by the end of the next decade, becoming by far the highest hydropower producer per capita in the world. The findings of this study are framed in the Bhutanesecontext and focus on recommendations that are relevant for Bhutan. The study has found that the main impacts of hydropower development in Bhutan relate to aquatic biodiversity and are cumulative,meaning that they are not of immediate concernbut should get priority attention once the development of hydropower accelerates. This study has identified a number of gaps inthe management of E&S impacts and rankedthem according to relevance for Bhutan. In conclusion, despite due awareness and a goodregulatory framework for managing the E&Simpacts of hydropower in Bhutan, challengesremain in the upstream planning and in the implementation of the assessment and mitigation of impacts, mainly because of the lack of capacity among key government institutions to ensure quality and enforce good practices. Addressing the capacity constraints, and providing keyinstitutions with the tools, structures, and skills necessary for proper E&S management of hydropower would benefit the sustainability of Bhutan’s natural and cultural values, as well as its hydropower and economic development.
World Bank Group. 2016. Managing Environmental and Social Impacts of Hydropower in Bhutan; Managing Environmental and Social Impacts of Hydropower in Bhutan. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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