Stakeholder engagement key to hydropower success

Stakeholder engagement key to hydropower success

Huge potential exists to develop water resources in Asia, particularly in Laos, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar. The need to develop this potential is urgent — more than 700 million people in Asia need access to electricity, and hydropower can be part of the solution that ends energy poverty in the region.

International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, wants to help ensure that hydropower development in the region follows good environmental and social practices, and is sustainably managed to minimise impact and lower risk.

There’s work to be done to get to that point by improving how hydropower companies work with stakeholders.

For companies that want to lower their investment risk and help build a sustainable hydropower sector in Myanmar, we recommend four key courses of action:

1) Don’t wait, start engaging now. Getting in early allows companies to discuss and think through the recommendations they receive and find a balance with their plan. In the Philippines, Ambuklao and Binga hydropower projects started engaging local communities and building consensus among indigenous people early on. As a result, the company has been able to cooperate with downstream users of water for irrigation and fish ponds. Working closely with local communities also helped resolve land-dispute issues and maintain good working relationships with government authorities.

2) Build trust. A January 2015 workshop in Nay Pyi Taw, co-hosted by the World Bank Group and the International Hydropower Association, agreed that trust among stakeholders — government, private sector, communities, NGOS, and development partners — was essential for the future of sustainable hydropower development and to ensure shared commitment to projects.

3) Compliance with the law isn’t enough. Policy and regulations provide a foundation for companies to start from, but do not always provide the detailed guidance and tools to ensure that stakeholder engagement meets local expectations. A wide range of tools are available — including IFC’s Performance Standards — to guide companies on improving engagement with their stakeholders and designing sustainable projects.

4) Leverage industry support. Hydropower companies can work together to better engage stakeholders. In Laos, the Hydropower Developers’ Working Group — has shown that developers are keen to drive change in their sector. Together, companies can consider how to address the concerns of their sector or industry, and leverage shared resources to make a greater impact. Developers in Myanmar will have the opportunity to join the Hydropower Developers’ Working Group this year.

To ensure that hydroelectricity can provide Asia’s populations with the power they need, communities, businesses, and schools need to be included in the process — not in a one-off consultation, but as part of a long-term relationship.

Those relationships pay multiple rewards.

Stakeholder engagement improves their reputations, promotes transparency, and strengthens their business operations.

Kate Lazarus, senior operations officer, leads IFC’s sustainable hydropower programme in the Mekong region. She is based in Vientiane, Laos.

Kate Lazarus

Senior operations officer

Kate Lazarus, senior operations officer, leads IFC’s sustainable hydropower programme in the Mekong region. She is based in Vientiane, Laos.

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