Spatial scales in addressing concerns of social and environmental equity in hydropower projects in Nepal

Authors: Padmendra Shrestha*, University of Arizona
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Applied Geography, Asia
Keywords: Social and environmental justice, spatial scales, hydropower development
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Construction of hydropower plants results in uneven distribution of costs and benefits. The costs are generally borne by people and environment near the power plant, whereas those who live far off from the plant receive the benefits from the electricity. Addressing questions of spatial equity, among other equity concerns, is one of the major challenges in ensuring sustainable hydropower development. This paper based on the empirical studies of existing run-off river, daily-peaking, and storage hydropower projects in Nepal analyzes concerns of spatial equity in the following three mechanisms: i) compensation and mitigation measures for social and environmental impacts, primarily defined by consultants and project developers in environmental assessment reports; ii) government policies to ensure benefits to different tiers of governments in which the hydropower project is located, and iii) benefit sharing mechanisms to address demands of local communities by project developers, as a way of obtaining social license to operate. The research shows that there are multiple definitions used in defining spatial units to identify project affected people and beneficiaries. This allows space for stakeholders to negotiate not just the cost and benefits, but also the boundaries that affect or benefit people. This paper illustrates of how project boundaries are negotiated in defining social and environmental tradeoffs in hydropower projects in Nepal.

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