Thimphu, 14 – 17 March, 2016.- The second national stakeholder meeting gathered representatives from national Government agencies, private sector, NGOs, and the United Nations to discuss the different technical aspects related to the development of the TEEB Bhutan study: “Integrating the Value of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Hydropower Development Strategies”.
The workshop was organized by Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), and participants included representatives from Watershed Management Division, United Nations Environment Programme TEEB Office, KnowlEdge Srl, Druk Green Power Corporation, Forest Resources Management Division, Department of Renewable Energy, National Statistics Bureau , WWF Bhutan, WWF – Living Himalayas, Tangsibji Hydro Energy Limited, National Environment Commission, Department of Hydro-Met Services, and Department of Hydropower and Power Systems.
“The workshop was engaging for everyone –said Kavita Sharma, Technical Expert for National Studies at UNEP TEEB– and will certainly help us get to a comprehensive analysis of hydropower development in Bhutan, not only focused on environmental dimensions of hydropower development, but also socio economic ones. Moreover, what it is great in Bhutan –adds Sharma– and the credit goes to UWICE for making this possible, is that we have been able to bring together people from very different agencies, so that our work is both cross-sectoral and relevant for policymakers”.
TEEB Bhutan technical components
There are three main technical components to the TEEB assessments in Bhutan. First, spatial models at the watershed level would be used to understand how land use changes due to hydropower development relate to environmental changes downstream. Secondly, spatial models, would also be used to understand how upstream land use changes impact the quality of water delivered to hydropower stations. Lastly, these spatial models would be linked to systems models which would include social and economic variables to ensure that relationships between hydropower development and socio-economic variables are also captured.
These assessments are done to various ends. Understanding how upstream land use relates to water quality downstream can allow for hydropower stations to invest in land management practices which can reduce sediment loads. Sediment loading can lead to higher operational costs for hydropower plants. For instance, it is estimated that Druk Green Power Corporation spends USD 16 million each year to repair turbine and other infrastructure due to sediment loading. Secondly, understanding watershed wide impacts of hydropower development, including changes in ecosystem services provisioning, can allow policymakers to identify both the location and scale of these impacts. Currently, Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) for hydropower projects are limited to a 5 km radius around the construction site, and watershed level assessments, as part of TEEB Bhutan, may provide novel ways to understand and expand the scope of ESIAs.
TEEB Bhutan, project overview
TEEB Bhutan study will inform the Sustainable Hydropower Development Policy of 2008 and the Alternative Renewable Energy Policy of 2013, both of which call for a diversification of Bhutan’s energy sources.
More information on TEEB Bhutan: www.teebweb.org/areas-of-work/teeb-country-studies/Bhutan