Over the last 10 years, IFC Performance Standards have been adopted in emerging markets, influencing $4.5 trillion in investments. Trusted worldwide, IFC’s Performance Standards and guidelines set the bar in many sectors. In the hydropower sector, for example, guidance and tools are essential to help developers assess and mitigate environmental and social risks. This is especially important in emerging markets where policy and regulations are often not well established.
This month, IFC launched two new publications to its hydropower collection, providing practitioners with consistent and practical approaches to help advance sustainability of the hydropower sector. Lakhdeep Babra, IFC Asia Pacific Environmental and Social Manager, launched the Good Practice Handbook on Environmental Flows for Hydropower Projects and the Good Practice Note on Environmental, Health, and Safety Approaches for Hydropower Projects at the 7th International Conference and Exhibition on Water Resources and Renewable Energy Development in Asia held in Danang, Vietnam.
In his keynote address, Babra said, “The hydropower sector is a perfect example of a space where we can create or unlock a more sustainable market.” He added, “This new guidance on Eflows and environmental, health, and safety approaches will help our clients have practical tools to address challenges they face when implementing their projects.”
Babra further elaborated that the World Bank Group (WBG) Eflows Handbook is meant to guide practitioners on selecting an appropriate environmental flows assessment level for hydropower projects. The Handbook draws heavily on the global lessons and experiences of IFC, the World Bank and its clients, and other organizations that are focused on promoting, assessing, and implementing Eflows.
“Eflows is not a new topic, but a challenging one. It is critical as it provides guidance to practitioners on taking rigorous and consistent approaches to assess hydropower project impacts on downstream river ecosystems and people, and determine their EFlows commitments,” said Babra.
At the conference, IFC hosted a Hydropower Developers’ Working Group networking session for hydropower companies to learn about the group’s initiatives and progress made in Lao PDR, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Nepal and how to become a member. During technical sessions, Gael Gregoire and Kate Lazarus led discussions on advancing sustainability in the hydropower sector. In her presentation, Lazarus discussed why hydropower project developers need to think beyond their exclusive projects, and take a landscape view to better understand the bigger picture by conducting cumulative impact assessments (CIAs) and strategic environmental assessments (SEA).
“Although project-specific environmental and social impact assessments are essential, understanding how entire river basins function is also key to achieving sustainable operations,” said Lazarus. “CIAs help in improved operations and power outcomes, formulation of appropriate Eflows, and strengthen coordination and management from a basin perspective.”
From CIAs to Eflows, IFC provides practical tools and solutions for pressing challenges in the hydropower sector today. Lazarus’ presentation was followed by the launch of IFC’s Good Practice Note on Environmental, Health, and Safety Approaches for Hydropower Projects the next day. This guidance is a technical reference document with industry-specific examples of Good International Industry Practice (GIIP). Designed to be used along with the WBG General Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Guidelines, it provides guidance to users on EHS issues associated with hydropower activities that may emerge during the development, construction, and operational phases, along with recommendations for their management.
“IFC’s Environmental, Health, and Safety GPN is a proven tool for project developers to help improve management of environmental and social risks,” said Gregoire.
These two publications follow the recent launch of a string of local publications including IFC’s Good Practice Handbook on Cumulative Impact Assessment and Management in Lao language and IFC’s Environmental and Social Performance Standards in Lao and Myanmar languages. IFC’s Performance Standards are now available in 10 languages worldwide.
“We want to ensure that we not only produce new knowledge and guidance for the hydropower sector, but that we accommodate readers in markets where English is not the primary language,” said Lazarus. “Hydropower developers in Lao PDR now have access to two essential tools to help them improve sustainability of their operations and the sector overall.”