Strengthening the Approval Process for Mini Hydro Power Plants – Phase by Phase Recommendations

The proliferation of lucrative yet often ill-planned and destructive mini hydro power plants in the wet zone region has been a serious environmental and social concern, as these projects can destroy endemically rich and biodiverse habitats in fragmented forest patches, while causing problems with the water supply for neighbouring settlements. EFL investigated many cases of destructive mini hydropower plants, including a project on the Koskulana River, bordering Sinharaja Forest Reserve which eventually led to litigation against the project developers.

In order to create an environment where the potential impacts of these seemingly “green” energy sources were more carefully considered on approval, EFL conducted a policy dialogue in order to identify flaws and deficiencies in the approval process.

As an outcome of this dialogue and further consultations and revisions, EFL, together with other experts from relevant fields, has compiled recommendations that will strengthen the approval process for mini hydros. These comprehensive recommendations address each stage of the approval process and attempt to rectify the deficits of the approval process.

The report recommends that the objectives of renewable energy should be aligned with the objectives of conservation by avoiding environmentally sensitive areas and suggests that developers should pay compensation for environmental destruction they cause, in accordance with the Polluter Pays Principle.

In addition, to preemptively tackle the social issues and conflicts that arise between communities and developers, the report suggests that the approval process consider the carrying capacity of a whole river when approving multiple projects along one river, that may affect the water resources of neighbouring communities.

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