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6 Jul 2022

Drying up: Tracking the environmental and human rights harms caused by hydropower in the Caucasus and Central Asia


As the climate crisis urges a shift to more sustainable resources to meet growing energy needs in Central Asia and the Caucasus, a fast and fair transition to wind, solar and hydropower is essential. But a broken hydropower industry model sees projects and companies create significant social and environmental costs with apparent impunity.

We have tracked publicly reported allegations of environmental and human rights abuses linked to hydropower plants (HPPs) in Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The evidence of human misery and environmental damage reflected in our tracker demands urgent attention from the international banks and investors backing these projects. The unnecessary harm linked to the hydropower industry now calls for a transformation of approach by investors and lenders in the region, as well as companies.

This briefing presents findings from data gathered over the last 10 years alongside illustrative case studies from the region. Key findings include:

- 265 human rights and environmental issues recorded relating to 32 hydropower projects in the four countries included in our analysis.

- Impacts on communities (98) were the most frequently reported issue.

- Sixty-seven environmental issues were recorded. Others raised include governance and transparency issues (55), impacts on human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society (25), and impacts on labour rights (20).

- Of 32 hydropower projects assessed, 17 received funding from international financial institutions (IFIs), including four HPPs which received funds for rehabilitation purposes.

- All of the investee companies have been linked to allegations of human rights and/or environmental abuses.

- None of the investee companies has a publicly available human rights policy.

The data demonstrates local communities are facing major risks amid increasing demand for hydropower. A considerable number of cases with impacts on livelihoods of communities are followed by another problem – the issue of access to water. There is an urgent need to address the harms in this sector if a just transition to renewable energy is to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.

For more case studies on hydropower plants in the mentioned countries and their environmental and human rights impacts visit the Hydropower tracker page.

Explore the tracker

Explore all the human rights and environmental issues recorded in Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and find information on companies involved in hydropower projects using our allegations tracker