Ensuring the equitable distribution of large dams' benefits is more pressing than ever with an unprecedented boom in dam construction currently under way. This panel will examine novel approaches to benefit-sharing by bringing together thought leaders on this topic from academia and practice.
An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is currently under way. The typical benefits from hydropower dams that are often cited include electricity, supply of drinking water, irrigation benefits, GHG reduction, employment, recreational opportunities, infrastructure, tax payments etc. The main issue here is that these benefits mainly go to people who live far away from the dam sites and do not reach other groups of people in the project-affected area often sustain most of the negative impacts of dams. In view of this, hydropower projects need to also commit to support measures for development and welfare opportunities for local and regional communities that are negatively affected by these hydropower projects. This idea of benefit sharing is not new. Extractive sector projects have long accepted the critical importance of social license to operate and adopted numerous approaches to ensure benefit sharing. The examples of such programs include local supplier development programs, small business developments and skills training, construction and upgrade of social infrastructure, health and education programs, gender empowerment, environmental enhancements, and others. In the hydropower sector, however, benefit sharing approaches have not yet been standardised. Developers need external expertise and capacity building to identify which benefit sharing approaches would be suitable in their projects and implement those successfully. This panel will address this issue by bringing together practitioners, researchers and policy actors that will discuss ways in which benefit sharing in the hydropower sector can be improved and further developed as a practice.