Minimum Environmental Flow for Hydropower Projects in Bhutan, Final Phase

Contract partner: Mof, RGoB - Ministry of Finance, Royal Government of Bhutan Country: Bhutan Funding amount: € 503.750,00 Project start: 01.11.2019 End: 30.11.2023

Short Description:

Overall goal

The overall objective of the project is to minimize the negative impact on the environment from developmental activities such as hydropower plants. The project aims to consolidate achievements made in the previous phase by further institutionalizing the environmental flow (E-Flow) utility beyond run-of-the-river hydropower plants development, which involves hydropower peaking, abstraction and diversion of natural watercourses such as for drinking and irrigation. In addition, the project will integrate the study and analysis of E-Flows into the curriculum of educational institutes and establish robust institutional capacities. Thereby the project will contribute to reducing the negative impacts of development activities on the ecological integrity of the aquatic ecosystems and river corridors. It will provide important insights and build capacities to better strike the delicate balance between economic development and generating revenue on the one hand and ensuring minimal effects to the country’s environment on the other hand.

Expected results

R1: A module on assessment and monitoring of minimum E-Flow will be integrated into curricula of the College of Science and Technology and Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research.

R2: An E-Flow guideline is integrated into the Detailed Project Report Preparation and Hydropower Guidelines.

R3: E-Flow guidelines beyond run-of-the-river hydropower schemes are developed and integrated in relevant Guidelines.


Target group / Beneficiaries

A total of 28 officials from 8 different institutions will directly benefit from capacity development activities. These institutions are:

1. College of Science and Technology,

2. Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research,

3. Bhutan Electricity Authority,

4. Department of Hydropower and Power Systems,

5. National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology,

6. Department of Livestock,

7. Druk Green Power Corporation Limited and

8. Gross National Happiness Commission.

The indirect beneficiaries include faculty lecturers, students, other employees of the involved agencies and hydropower developers.



1. Develop an appropriate module on assessment and monitoring of minimum E-Flow, which will be integrated into curricula of the College of Science and Technology and Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research.

Activities include: recruitment of a professional expert, training and capacity building, purchase of additional equipment, developing institutional partnerships, development of appropriate modules through workshops.

2. Integrate E-Flow guideline into the Detailed Project Report Preparation and Hydropower Guidelines.

Activities include: workshops and meetings to mainstream E-Flow guidelines into the Power Sector Master Plan and to ensure that E-Flow studies are included in Environment and Social Impact Assessments of Hydropower projects.

3. Develop and integrate an E-Flow guideline beyond run-of-the-river hydropower schemes.

Activities include: recruitment of a professional expert, develop a guideline for universal application of watercourses diversion and abstraction through workshops and seminars.



The conservation of the environment is one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s Development Philosophy, which is centered around the concept of Gross National Happiness. It implies that Bhutan’s socio-economic development cannot be pursued at the cost of the natural environment. Balancing between economic development, and environmental protection and conservation, the 12th Five Year Plan, 2018-2023, stresses the importance of strengthening water security and enhancing management through the implementation of the National Integrated Water Resources Management Plan (2016) and the requirement of minimum E-Flow.

Given the novelty of the E-Flow concept and the skills required to conduct complex simulations and modelling approaches and to handle specialized equipment, it is necessary for staff trained during Phase 1 of the project to continue training and to keep themselves updated on new information, systems and best practices for the assessment of E-Flows. Since the assessment and determination of E-Flow is highly technical in nature and cannot be performed by one individual alone as it requires different expertise and skills, there is a constant risk of loss of knowledge due to changes in key staff and attrition within the implementing agencies. Strengthening institutional capacity by involving more participants and subsequently institutionalization E-Flow capacity is one way to remove dependence on single individuals.


project number 2766-01/2019
source of funding OEZA
sector Umweltschutz allgemein
modality Project-type interventions
marker Environment: 2, Climate change mitigation: 1, Climate change adaptation: 1, Biodiversity: 2, Desertification: 1, Disaster risk reduction: 1
  • Policy marker: are used to identify, assess and facilitate the monitoring of activities in support of policy objectives concerning gender equality, aid to environment, participatory development/good governance, trade development and reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. Activities targeting the objectives of the Rio Conventions include the identification of biodiversity, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, and desertification.
    • 1= policy is a significant objective of the activity
    • 2= policy is the principal objective of the activity
  • Donor/ source of funding: The ADA is not only implementing projects and programmes of the Austrian Development Cooperation , but also projects funded from other sources and donors such as
    • AKF - Foreign Disaster Fund of the Austrian federal government
    • BMLFUW - Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water
    • EU - Funds of the European Commission
    • Others - various other donors are listed in ADA’s annual business report.
  • Type of Aid – Aid modalities: classifies transfers from the donor to the first recipient of funds such as budget support, core contributions and pooled programmes and funds to CSOs and multilateral organisations, project-type interventions, experts and other technical assistance, scholarships and student costs in donor countries, debt relief, administrative costs and other in-donor expenditures.
  • Purpose/ sector code: classifies the specific area of the recipient’s economic or social structure, funded by a bilateral contribution.
  • Tied/Untied: Untied aid is defined as loans and grants whose proceeds are fully and freely available to finance procurement from all OECD countries and substantially all developing countries. Transactions are considered tied unless the donor has, at the time of the aid offer, clearly specified a range of countries eligible for procurement which meets the tests for “untied” aid.