The British Council’s South Asia Science Programme has awarded NCRF Co-Founder, Kumar Paudel, support for his new project “Governing Nepal’s water resources through Environmental Impact Assessments”.
In cooperation with Lancaster University, Greenhood Nepal, Pokhara University and Resources Lab, this project will research how EIA’s are being implemented in Nepal. Importantly, it will also provide baseline data that will then allow us to take important legal actions in the Nepali courts.
Water resources management is a growing global challenge, including due to the rapid growth in hydropower production across South and Southeast Asia. An emerging source of energy and foreign income, they are also an imminent threat to sustainable multi-functional landscapes.
Nepal hosts 92 hydropower projects, and is developing >700. These include river diversions and high dams, with profound impacts on Nepal’s 6,000 rivers, 5,358 lakes, groundwater and 9 domestic Ramsar sites. It also has implications for water access for agriculture and tourism.
Nepal’s hydropower is largely governed via Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which aim to improve decision-making about development projects. These EIAs now consume huge public and private resources, including multiple public consultations, 4 ministerial-level decisions, in a process that usually takes longer than 1 year. However, relegating water governance to the EIA process, which is widely critiqued, presents clear limitations. It is not clear how EIA’s–beyond the paperwork–are implemented, monitored and audited. Further, it is an “open secret” that Nepal’s current EIA system is failing–not only society and the environment, but also the private sector and national development.
Our research will explore how water is governed via EIAs, asking:
• What are the types of projected impacts and mitigation measures recommended?
• What are the active/passive costs associated with the EIA system?
• How do proponents explain EIA implementation gaps?