Khudoni - Enduring Stumbling Block
06 June, 2013
Khudoni - Enduring Stumbling Block
To build or not to build Khudoni Hydro Power Plant with around 700 megawatt installed capacity and 1.7 billion kilowatt/hour of output in Georgian highlands of Svaneti is the question the Georgian government has to decide shrewdly. The project, suspended 25 years ago for environmental perils, was put on the agenda again by ex-power that be in 2011 but it stumbled again due to alleged environmental and seismic risks as well as population resettlement and cultural heritage problems.
To dissipate
the Khudoni-related risks and find due solution to the problem inherited from its predecessor new government appealed to Dutch government to send the Netherlands Commission on Environmental Assessment (NCEA) to Georgia to measure the impact Khudoni HPP may have on the environment and country at large. NCEA presented its assessment on May 29, 2013. According to this research, the report provided by Khudoni investor company Trans Electrica Ltd on the project’s impact on the environment does not include comprehensive information necessary for final decision-making as it lacks the precise resettlement plan and related compensations, analysis of sedimentation of the reservoir and cultural heritage issues. To remove all defects the Dutch experts recommended additional research for a year. However Khudoni problem journal traces back by 25 years in fact.
Khudoni HPP projected to be constructed in hazardous Caucasian highlands took its start in early 80s of Soviet Georgia and was projected to provide the entire Transcaucasia region by electricity during peak hours, Revaz Arveladze, President of Energy Academy of Georgia, said in the interview to Georgian Journal. But the project was suspended in 1989 under crackdown of political party Green Movements for alleged environmental threats. He believes the project suspension had only political lining against the backdrop of the national movement upsurge and its suspension rather harmed than availed to Georgia’s interest that deadly needs more electricity capacity to develop its sluggish economy.
“No economic development is possible without developed energy sector,” he said. “Khudoni delay in late 80s was a mistake for it includes no risks and the sooner construction of Khudoni HPP starts the better. The 1.5 billion kilowatt/hour generated by Khudoni is approximately 4.5-5 billion of GDP that stands at USD 15 billion today.”
However Georgian environmentalist watch-dogs and population of approximately 14 villages in Khudoni construction site in Khaishi and destined to disappear under the gigantic dam encompassing 530 hectares, share not his enthusiasm. Environmentalists question whether the big HPP construction is relevant to hazardous landscapes of Georgian highlands and incline toward small HPPs deployment. Population comprising of around 500 families is reluctant to leave their houses and let flooding the graves of their ancestors and the St. George Church that is a big transgression to Orthodox Christians. Arveladze believes construction of one big HPP like Khudoni is less dangerous and more effective than construction of several smaller HPPs making the equivalent capacity. Non-governmental think-tanks believe the Khudoni is a complicated issue including social, cultural and economic facets and should be solved through joint efforts of the entire government not only by energy and environmental ministries alone.
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