Ana-Maria Seman https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/24184/all cached version 09/02/2019 22:30:39 en Georgia’s highlanders against hydropower https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ana-maria-seman/hydropower-project-georgia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the Georgian government moves ahead with its plans for increasing the country’s hydropower capacity, local communities are being sidelined in the process of compensation payments.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/33107055270_a7149bc31e_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Locals working on their land to produce their food, Svaneti. (c) Bankwatch. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Earlier this summer, I visited Georgia’s Svaneti region together with colleagues from <a href="https://bankwatch.org">Bankwatch</a>. Svaneti, located high in the Caucasian mountains, borders the breakaway territory of Abkhazia, and is home to some of the most pristine rivers in the Caucasus. As a team of civil society members, we travelled there to talk with local people and analyse the quality of consultations over future development projects on their lands.</p><p dir="ltr">Together with the surrounding forests, Svaneti’s Nenskra and Nakra rivers have existed in a symbiotic bond with local communities for centuries. This strong interdependence between people and nature is visible everywhere in Svaneti — a constant reminder of the important role that local communities must play in designing infrastructure projects.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet in recent years, Svaneti has been transformed into a battleground between communities and the Georgian government with its plans for building large hydro power plants. The threat has united Svan people who are struggling to conserve what is left of their cultural heritage and the biodiversity of the region.</p><h2>Public funding</h2><p dir="ltr">The Georgian government’s ambition to build<a href="https://bankwatch.org/our-work/projects/hydropower-development-georgia"> dozens of new hydro power plants</a> (HPPs) in the Svaneti region has caught the attention of international financiers. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have all expressed interest in financing the planned 280MW Nenskra HPP, the most advanced project in the government’s pipeline. Up to 75% of the project costs <a href="https://bankwatch.org/our-work/projects/nenskra-hydropower-plant-georgia">could come from international public sources</a> and with the <a href="http://www.ebrd.com/work-with-us/projects/esia/nenskra-hpp-portage.html">loan approval date</a> coming up on 15 November for the EBRD, there is little time to act.</p><p dir="ltr">But while the dam is supposed to ensure energy security for Georgia during winter and eliminate imports from Turkey, locals and activists are opposing the project, which they view as a threat to Svan culture, the biodiversity of the region and the safety of local communities given the area’s seismic instability.</p><p dir="ltr">Seeing the awe-inspiring Svaneti region, the forests and rivers that will vanish for the Nenskra HPP, it is easy to understand these concerns, the anger and the feeling of hopelessness that locals express. Capturing water from these two serene rivers, the impacts of the project would stretch for dozens of kilometres, from the transmission lines to the power house, the site of the dam and over and across the mountains along the future water intake tunnel from the Nakra river. If the dam plans are implemented, it will get Nakra river down to 10% of its current flow and Nenskra to 5%. The project will affect numerous pasture lands and summer grazing areas for animals and its reservoir will flood hectares of forest.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">If realised, this project will strip over 200 people, some of whom already living in poverty, of their pasture lands and livelihoods</p><p dir="ltr">A biodiversity expertise commissioned by Bankwatch identified several species of wild protected animals in the region including Eurasian lynx, brown bear, Persian leopard, booted eagle among many whose habitats will be disturbed by the future dam. Moreover, the region is experiencing annual mudflows and landslides and is well known for its geological instability, something people fear might be emphasized when the dam is built. Locals have also expressed great concerns over the impact the the dam will have on the humidity levels in the villages, causing numerous health problems as was the case of the Enguri HPP built in the region during soviet times.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/33490337175_aaedf20dee_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/33490337175_aaedf20dee_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hiking trail in Svaneti mountains. Photo: Bankwatch / Flickr. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The project promoter is JSC Nenskra, a Georgian company established by Korean K-Water with a 10% share of a Georgian state owned company. JSC Nenskra has already benefitted from several deals with the Georgian government, among others <a href="https://bankwatch.org/sites/default/files/Nenskra-LALRP-11Sep2017.pdf">receiving forest land for one dollar contracts</a> (see page 20). The locals we spoke to and who have used this land for centuries told us they were not even aware of the deal.</p><h2>Patronising perception of local culture</h2><p dir="ltr">JSC Nenskra has committed to compensating the rightful owners for all pasture land and assets that will be lost due to the project. But during our visit and discussions with affected people, we discovered major flaws in the company’s assessment of the number of people that will be affected, their assets as well as the compensation they are entitled to. The shortcomings, which we have collected in a <a href="https://bankwatch.org/publications/failing-local-communities-land-assessment-and-livelihoods-restoration-plan-nenskra-dam">report</a>, are proof and consequence of a lack of proper consultations with local communities.</p><p dir="ltr">The majority of people living in the two valleys own cattle that graze on summer pastures, lands which are inherited since generations and co-owned by up to five families. Customary law still dominates the region and people share both pasture and other assets such as summer cabins. During our discussions with affected households, we discovered that the project developer failed to map all the rightful users of these lands and assets. Instead, the company included single users in the compensation scheme, thus leaving behind numerous other co-users. This is the case for all the households we interviewed and from the assessment of the project documentation it seems it has been the practice for all the pasture lands that will be lost. In addition, a number of individual owners of land and cabins from the Nakra valley have been completely left out of the compensations scheme.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/33107062370_749173de39_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Khaishi villagers discussing Nenskra HPP. (c) Bankwatch. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>These systemic gaps in how JSC Nenskra assessed people’s land rights reveals not only the poor quality of public consultations, but also a patronising perception of local culture and livelihoods. Our visits to the region have left no doubt that the company has failed to recognise locals’ dependence on their land and the way their communities are functioning, based on strong internal rules of sharing and inheritance.</p><p dir="ltr">The poor quality of consultations is also reflected in the unjust amounts of compensation. As detailed in our<a href="https://bankwatch.org/publications/failing-local-communities-land-assessment-and-livelihoods-restoration-plan-nenskra-dam"> report</a>, the project documentation does not thoroughly assess the economic situation of affected households. The company’s assessment does not take into consideration the number of cattle that a family owns and which of these families would lose access to pasture and therefore to fodder. It also does not account for the numerous internally displaced people in the communities, or acknowledges the impact of changes in logging activities. In sum, the company has overlooked major aspects of the socio-economic profile of locals which are crucial for a just compensation scheme.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, the company is still delaying an assessment of the impacts of facilities associated with the hydropower plant such as transmission lines and a waste disposal site. Needless to say that also the consultations with affected communities has not happened yet.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Many still fear to speak out about the project and have asked for confidentiality during our interviews</p><p dir="ltr">While the project documents made available by JSC Nenskra do not contain information on the location of these associated facilities, cadastral plans obtained from the Georgian authorities show that the location has already been agreed on. Local residents, who have signed letters demanding to be consulted about the locations of these facilities and the compensation they are entitled to, are understandably outraged.</p><p dir="ltr">Many still fear to speak out about the project and have asked for confidentiality during our interviews, afraid there might be repercussions on their families or jobs. A change in the logging licence system from 2015 has restricted the possibility for locals to obtain licences, forcing many into the illegal logging and timber sales business.</p><p dir="ltr">But the threat of losing parts of their identity along with the development of the project drove more than 300 people to sign a <a href="http://greenalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Collective_letter_2017.pdf">letter </a>this June expressing their opposition to the project and their disappointment with the company’s failure to take account of customary law and local culture. And some are still taking the risk of openly opposing the project — in August, Bankwatch <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx-fjdZ4WfAIMkVTMGNRV3ROT2s/view">witnessed</a> a large group of locals stepping out from the last round of public consultations held by the company.</p><h2>International standards</h2><p dir="ltr">Assessments of expropriation and compensation are not the residents’ own ideas, but international standards that JSC Nenskra has to respect to receive international public finance. Yet countless breaches of these standards are evidence that the Nenskra hydropower project is a serious threat to the local Svan communities.</p><p dir="ltr">If realised, this project will strip over 200 people, some of whom already living in poverty, of their pasture lands and livelihoods. The project must not go ahead until the project company is conducting individual assessments in order to have a full picture of the socio-economic situation and the fair amounts of compensations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">When banks’ clients lack the capacity and willingness to understand the contexts in which they operate, the irreversible disruption of the fabric of entire communities is inevitable</p><p dir="ltr">Multilateral development banks have so far delayed their approval date for loans for the Nenskra project in light of the numerous environmental and social concerns. With Georgia’s hydropower sector marked by controversies and major errors in the past, international investment ought to tread more carefully with approving any more projects.</p><p dir="ltr">When banks’ clients lack the capacity and willingness to understand the contexts in which they operate, the irreversible disruption of the fabric of entire communities is inevitable. &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kate-horner-igor-vejnovic/river-defenders-gather-forces-in-georgia">River defenders gather forces in Georgia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tatuli-chubabria/how-can-we-politicise-labour-rights-in-georgia">How can we politicise labour rights in Georgia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/left-in-dark-inside-georgia-s-chiatura-mines">Left in the dark: inside Georgia’s Chiatura mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ana-maria-seman/nuclear-transboundary-consultations-are-test-for-public-participation-and-">Nuclear transboundary consultations are a test for public participation and transparency across Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/peter-liakhov/armenia-before-goldrush">Armenia: before the goldrush</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vladlena-martsynkevych/hatching-discontent-in-ukraine">Hatching discontent in Ukraine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ana-Maria Seman Green Eurasia Georgia Caucasus Wed, 20 Sep 2017 20:56:27 +0000 Ana-Maria Seman 113484 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nuclear transboundary consultations are a test for public participation and transparency across Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ana-maria-seman/nuclear-transboundary-consultations-are-test-for-public-participation-and- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Over the next three years, 30 nuclear reactors across Europe will reach their retirement age. Making the decision-making process over their future open and transparent is crucial.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1024px-Rivne_NPP_-_2011.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The 2014 decision on extending the lifetime of Rivne Nuclear Power Plant in western Ukraine gave European governments a pretext for avoiding public scrutiny. CC BY 3.0 Yanat / Panoramio. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>One month ago, the Ukrainian government took an unexpected step. It invited neighbouring governments to participate in consultations regarding lifetime extension of nine of its nuclear reactors.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">For more than four years Bankwatch and other civil society groups have been calling on Ukraine to recognise its obligations under the Espoo Convention (which provides a framework for environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context) and carry out public consultations. But at a time when public trust in government institutions across Europe is at a record low and given the major inconsistencies in the practice of transboundary consultations on nuclear issues, this is only the start of a test for public participation and transparency in Europe’s nuclear sector. </p><p dir="ltr">The upcoming Meeting of Parties (MOP) to the Espoo convention in June will be the battleground for anti-nuclear government to set clearer rules for applying the convention.</p><h2>Not a box-ticking exercise</h2><p dir="ltr">Ageing nuclear reactors are fast becoming a serious threat across Europe. In addition, rather than devising energy transition strategies and allocating &nbsp;the financial resources needed for decommissioning of outdated reactors, &nbsp;governments inside and outside the EU, often pushed by the nuclear industry’s lobbyists, choose to extend the lifetime of nuclear reactors beyond the expiration date of their licences.</p><p dir="ltr">Of Belgium's seven nuclear units, three (Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1) have been <a href="http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Agreement-on-extending-lives-of-Doel-units-3007155.html">granted</a> 10-year life extensions. This move has sparked harsh reactions from neighbouring Germany over the lack of transboundary consultations, taking the Belgium government to <a href="https://www.heuking.de/en/news-events/latest-news/20160721-rhineland-palatinate-joins-legal-action-against-tihange-2-reactor.html">court</a>. Close by, both the Netherlands and the Czech Republic are being investigated by the Implementation Committee of the Espoo convention for the lifetime extension of Borselle and Dukovany nuclear reactors without consulting neighbouring states. On Europe’s eastern flank, Ukraine has already <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/iryna-holovko-dana-marekova/new-life-for-ukraine-s-aging-nuclear-power-plants">prolonged</a> the operations of six reactors beyond their original lifetimes without conducting any transboundary consultations.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">No less than 30 nuclear reactors across Europe will reach their retirement age over the next three years. The inconsistent application of the Espoo Convention procedures for decisions on extending their lifetimes is thus a serious concern</p><p dir="ltr">But this is not just about these four countries. No less than 30 nuclear reactors across Europe will reach their retirement age over the next three years. The inconsistent application of the Espoo Convention procedures for decisions on extending their lifetimes is thus a serious concern. In fact, the Convention's implementation committee already ruled in 2013 that Ukraine extending the lifetime of two reactors (Rivne 1 and 2) was in breach of the international treaty due to the lack of environmental impact assessments and transboundary consultations.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">When other governments saw Ukraine subsequently ignoring the ruling, continuing with lifetime extensions for four more nuclear units, they took it as justification for avoiding public scrutiny in decisions on lifetime extensions for their own reactors. This has led to a situation where since the Rivne decision in 2014, five new cases of incompliance have piled on the table of the Espoo implementation Committee, all following complaints from civil society and potentially affected countries.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The irregular application of the Espoo Convention is one of the subjects on the table for next month’s meeting of parties (MOP) to the convention. The situation in Ukraine has garnered particular interest in light of the large number of reactors with licences extended and the very limited progress made on ensuring public participation in lifetime extension decisions since the Rivne decision at the previous meeting. Ukraine’s notification on transboundary consultations received in late April by the governments of Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Poland and Belarus, although an important first step, shows just that — the poor quality of environmental documentation and lack of guidance on how to apply the convention to nuclear lifetime extensions. The notification, supported by a handful of documents limited to non-technical summaries of environmental impact assessments (EIAs), is unclear about the purpose and the activity that is subject to transboundary consultations. As such it looks like little more than a lip service, in turn making neighbouring governments and citizens into rubber stamps for Kiev’s reckless nuclear energy enterprise.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than allowing citizens and governments in neighbouring countries to have a say on the final decisions on nuclear units’ lifetime extensions, the Ukrainian notification only invites comments on some vague aspects of &nbsp;electricity production in Ukraine. This effectively renders the whole process meaningless. What’s more, of the nine reactors in question, four have already had their operation licenses extended, thus casting serious doubts over the point of these consultations.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The Ukrainian government still has to bring more clarity on the connection between the outcome of consultations and the decision-making processes on lifetime extensions which have already been granted in Ukraine</p><p dir="ltr">The periodic Safety Reviews of the relevant nuclear units, the reports on safety upgrade measures, full EIAs for each reactor, are only some of the documents that have to be provided to the public for consultation and which are missing from the documents submitted for consultations by Ukraine. Transparency is a key condition to ensuring meaningful public participation as well as the timeliness of consultations, which ought to take place before the decisions on lifetime extension are made.</p><p dir="ltr">For civil society groups monitoring the situation as well as neighbouring governments that are currently commenting on the notification, the Ukrainian government still has to bring more clarity on the connection between the outcome of consultations and the decision-making processes on lifetime extensions which have already been granted in Ukraine. More clarity and additions need to be brought as well to the documentation which should be in line with the requirements of the EU directive on environmental impact assessment. Public participation in the decision-making on lifetime extension must not be a box-ticking exercise, but a genuine opportunity to consider alternative strategies, environmental sustainability as well as financial means for decommissioning of the plants, sooner or later.</p><p dir="ltr">The parties to the convention, including the representatives from the European Union, will not have the option of undermining the calls for more clarity, as was done at the previous MOP due to political pressure, and will have to endorse clear recommendations for how the convention should be applied to lifetime extensions.</p><p dir="ltr">These recommendations should be clear on the obligation to apply the convention to lifetime extension decisions, on the environmental documentation that has to accompany the notifications which needs to be in line with EU EIA directive and on the timeline and forms of consultations with the public, national and European. This is absolutely crucial for setting the grounds for current and future decision-making processes and for governments to not get away with sloppy consultation processes. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/iryna-holovko-dana-marekova/new-life-for-ukraine-s-aging-nuclear-power-plants">New life for Ukraine’s aging nuclear power plants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/jan-haverkamp-iryna-holovko/towards-post-nuclear-ukraine">Towards a post-nuclear Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia-vladimir-slivyak-nailya-ibragimova/atomic-energy-and-polit">Atomic energy and political power in Russia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Can Europe make it? oD Russia Ana-Maria Seman Green Eurasia Tue, 30 May 2017 11:17:10 +0000 Ana-Maria Seman 111228 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ana-Maria Seman https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/ana-maria-seman <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ana-Maria Seman </div> </div> </div> <p>Ana-Maria Seman is an international development campaigner. She works with <a href="bankwatch.org">CEE Bankwatch Network</a> where she monitors investments of international financial institutions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and advocates for accountability over the environmental and social impacts of energy projects.</p> Ana-Maria Seman Mon, 29 May 2017 11:17:44 +0000 Ana-Maria Seman 111229 at https://www.opendemocracy.net