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Nenskra hydropower project, Georgia

Resistance against a EBRD funded dam in Georgia’s northern Svaneti region has caused locals to restore the traditional ruling body lalkhor in order to increase the community’s impact on the national decision-making process


The Nenskra hydropower plant is a dam project of 280 MW and considered a the most advanced of Georgia's massive plans for hydropower installations in the Upper Svaneti region. The project is located on the river Nenskra, up stream to the Khudoni dam. On Monday, August 31, 2015, the Partnership Fund of Georgia and South Korea’s K-Water company executed the key project agreements to develop and construct the 280 MW hydropower plant under the BOT scheme (Build-Operate-Transfer). Apart from serving the national demand, the project might also export electricity to Turkey [5]. According to Bankwatch, as has been the practice with other hydropower projects in Georgia, the Nenskra implementation agreement signed in August 2015 is confidential, so many details about land appropriation and tariffs are unknown.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Nenskra hydropower project, Georgia
State or province:Upper Svaneti region
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The project consists of a dam, pressure tunnel, surge tank, penstock and powerhouse. Additionally a transfer tunnel will convey the water from Nakra river to the new Nenskra dam reservoir to improve the performance of the Project. An asphalt faced rockfill dam (AFRD) has been selected considering the site conditions in the Nenskra river basin. The peculiarity of the structure is the 65 m deep Cut-Off wall to be realized throughout the alluvial deposit on the river bed.

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Level of Investment:1,035,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:300 families live in Chuberi and 80 families in the village of Nakra.
Start of the conflict:2015
Company names or state enterprises:JSC Nenskra Hydro consortium from Georgia
Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water) from Republic of Korea
Salini Impregilo from Italy
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Finance Corporation (IFC)
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has agreed to provide US$200 million for Georgia's 280-MW Nenskra hydropower plant.
Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) (KEXIM) from Republic of Korea
European Investment Bank (EIB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local activists organized at village level
Green Fist and Young Greens
Green Alternative
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsGiven the scale of existing and new hydro developments and supporting infrastructure projects (bypass and access roads, additional high voltage transmission lines and substations and so on), a strategic environmental assessment of the existing and planned plants should be conducted to evaluate the impacts and avoid an excessive burden on river ecosystems. The current Nenskra ESIA fails to assess the cumulative environmental and social impacts of all projects combined.
There is also high seismic risk [1]
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Strengthening of participation
Restoration of ancient village level or community level democratic institution (Lalkhor)
Proposal and development of alternatives:The traditional liqwbääl (Svan congress) ruled that Svans are an indigenous people with its own language, traditions and culture and that it is necessary to restore the ancient tradition of holding a pan-Svan congress called lalkhor in order to have more of a say in large-scale infrastructure projects which are planned in the region. According to Svan customary law, respected members of the community serve on the Ialkhor (congress) and are entrusted with mediating conflicts and disputes. (The last time the council met is so long time ago that it is barely within living memory among the oldest members of the community [4])
Other issues discussed during the congress included the need to agree on the strategy for preventing the planned construction of the Khudoni hydro power plant (Khudonhesi in Georgian), including all seventeen communities in the decision-making process regarding planned hydroelectric and mining projects, and develop a legal framework for protecting lands under traditional ownership, which are vulnerable to takeovers by the government and companies.
The congress also concluded that Svaneti’s model of development should move away from hydroelectric infrastructure projects and focus instead on development of ecotourism and agriculture.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The people of Chuberi and nearby villages know the experience of the Svan communities living downstream in Khaishi where the 702 MW Khudoni dam is planned to be built. The Georgian state sold their ancestral lands for next to nothing to the Khudoni dam promoter. The lands and the dam remains a subject of fierce protests to date.[1]
This has made people coming together with more awareness of what is going to happen. An ancient traditional congress of respected people from the village has been called back. The resistance is still ongoing.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Economic Cost-Benefit Analysis of Nenskra Hydropower Project: Summary Report
[click to view]

International Finance Corporation
[click to view]

[click to view]

[4] Democracy and Freedom Watch - Svan council convenes to stop hydro power plants

by DOMINIK K. CAGARA | Jun 15, 2016
[click to view]

[5] Eca-uk
[click to view]

[3] Democracy and Freedom Watch - Protests resume against the Nenskra hydro power plant in Svaneti

by DOMINIK K. CAGARA | Jul 6, 2016
[click to view]

[1] Bankwatch Network - Nenskra hydropower plant, Georgia
[click to view]

[6] Bankwatch - Dec 2017 - Price tag of Georgia’s Nenskra dam goes through the roof
[click to view]

[8] Bankwatch Network - Indigenous Svan communities unite to block hydro development in Svaneti
[click to view]

Salini Impregilo website
[click to view]

[2] Key Agreements Signed in $1B Nenskra Hydropower Plant in Georgia
[click to view]

Other comments:Most of the information is retrieved from Bankwatch reports. For more information contact:
David Chipashvili
Green Alternative/CEE Bankwatch Network
Georgian Campaigner
[email protected]
Meta information
Contributor:Daniela Del Bene - ICTA/UAB
Last update18/08/2019
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