Minimum Environmental Flow for Hydropower Projects in Bhutan, Final Phase
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.
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.
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.