Hydro Companies Push For Sustainability in Myanmar


Myanmar’s rich landscape is being explored for its abundance of water resources to advance its economy as an emerging market. One area of growth being considered by the government is in the hydropower sector. With a new Hydropower Developers’ Working Group in Myanmar, IFC is engaging the private sector to adopt and promote environmental and social sustainability in the sector.


“The facts cannot be ignored: around 34 million people still do not have access to electricity,” said Vikram Kumar, IFC Country Manager for Myanmar in his opening remarks. “Hydropower, if done sustainably, could help people improve their daily lives throughout the country.”


With extensive river systems running throughout the country, hydropower has potential to be an important source for electricity. With the multitude of potential environmental and social impacts that often plague hydropower projects, IFC recognizes that the private sector would benefit from coordinated activities and to be provided with the tools and approaches to ensure development is based on good industry practices and international standards.


“It can be challenging for companies searching for information or seeking to build relationships with government authorities and stakeholders,” said Aung Zaw Naing, President of Hydropower Developers’ Working Group for Myanmar. “HDWG is an opportunity for the private sector to make an impact. We encourage all hydropower companies that want to improve environmental and social standards in Myanmar and their business operations to join our initiative.”


Over 150 stakeholders joined a general forum in August supported by the Australian government for the launch of Myanmar’s first Hydropower Developers’ Working Group. The innovative platform spearheaded by IFC is geared for the private sector to collectively address issues hindering sustainable hydropower development including the need to raise environmental and social standards. The interim executive committee presented on how HDWG Myanmar will provide opportunity for members to collaborate on policy, better engage stakeholders and improve business operations, which should in turn attract higher quality investors to the sector.


Originally established in Lao PDR in late-2013, IFC pitched the idea to hydropower developers in Myanmar in December 2015. In Myanmar the working group will adopt its own agenda and mandate, ensuring the group addresses issues specific to the local landscape.


Since their first meeting in December, HDWG Myanmar has established an executive committee consisting of local and international hydropower companies, law firms and industry-related professionals.


At the event, the government of Myanmar presented on their hydropower development plans and how hydropower contributes to the overall energy mix in the country. IFC’s Jason Pellmar outlined how the role the private sector could contribute to raising standards in hydropower and help Myanmar benefit from stronger leadership and collaboration. The private sector strives for greater coordination among stakeholders to develop stronger policies and to shift from short-term to long-term financing models, according to Pellmar.


“One benefit of the group is that we can talk openly among developers in a private setting,” said Aung Zaw Naing. “The group is also an excellent way for hydropower companies to engage and learn about other’s work.”


In 2015, IFC’s Hydro advisory team developed a new program to support the government’s capacity building efforts specific to developing sustainable environmental and social standards.


“There’s a growing interest among hydropower developers to establish the working group in Nepal and Pakistan too,” said Kate Lazarus, team lead for IFC’s hydro advisory program. “Where there is a commitment from hydropower companies to improve their sector we’ll be there to support.”