Better communication on Khudoni required
06 March, 2014
Better communication on Khudoni required
While the launch of the 700 megawatt capacity Hydro Power Plant (HPP) Khudoni in the Georgian highland of Svaneti stumbles over environment and resettlement problems, economic analysts recommend Georgian authorities to set up a Special Commission with the Investment Council. Four analysts appealed to the government on 4 March.
The Commission should include economic profile ministries as well as Interior Ministry, majority MPs, heads of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region and Mestia district where the construction site is located, plus the
Minister of Corrections. Analysts believe this representative format will be an effective tool to remove the miscommunication among the state, investors and the local population which creates a setback in the implementation of the strategic project that should back up the energy independence of the country.
The HPP Khudoni projected output figures of 1.7 billion kilowatt/hour of electricity which will enable the state to replace roughly 10% of the electricity import supplied mainly by Russia in winter. Thanks to the favorable location of Khudoni to the neighboring Enguri HPP [the backbone of Georgian hydro generation], the latter may generate an extra 470 million kwt/h electricity automatically which equals the construction of a new HPP free of charge.USD 1 billion will be invested in the project, 4 000 people will be employed for six years during the construction period, and at least USD 20 million per year will remain in Svaneti. So, the project will be a huge opportunity for the small and poor region.
The Khudoni HPP investor company, Trans Electrica, should acquire their construction permit by 15 March 2014 or it will face penalties for not adhering to the deadlines. However, it still cannot get through the nettling social and environment issues. Environmentalists and human rights watchdogs believe Khudoni is not worth flooding several villages comprising 528 hectares territory, devastating forests and resettling around 200 families. Another problem is that the projected under-water-area includes a church and a cemetery. The investor company asserts there are technologies to move the church and graves to a safer place, and also aim at conducting resettlement procedures in line with best practices. But opponents find their arguments unconvincing, and rigidly oppose the Khudoni HPP idea. The Svaneti population confronts the process violently.
In order to come to a solution, the Ombudsman of Georgia held a meeting on 28 February gathering all interested sides but to no avail again. As the permit deadline is getting closer, environmentalists and human rights watchdogs are becoming more vigilant. They fear the state is so interested in the Khudoni development that it may turn a blind eye on the pointed defects to help the investor stick to the schedule.
An overwhelming part of energy and economic analysts think the utilization of ample hydro resources of Georgia, which depends for 75% on imported gas and oil, is vital for the energy security of the country and its economic development. Only big HPPs like Khudoni may create pillars of stable electricity balance for Georgia, they believe.
Some of them discern a Russian hand behind the anti-Khudoni campaign. Levan Kalandadze, an economic analyst, refers to the recently aired doctrine of the Russian Federation stating that lately the developed market size diminishes and that Russia should increase the energy dependence of developing countries on Russian energy carriers. “Ukraine exemplifies to what a high energy dependence on Russia may lead to,” Kalandadze said.
Revaz Arveladze, President of the Energy Academy of Georgia, indicates that although Georgia exports its electricity in summer, Russia is the only electricity supplier to Georgia in winter while Khudoni will be capable to fill this seasonal gap. He thinks the Khudoni project must start as soon as possible, but that both the state and the investor are pretty tardy in their communication to the Svaneti population who play the first fiddle to solve the fate of the project. “They have to be more active in elaborating on the benefits of the project to the population and suggest fair compensations,” Arveladze said.
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