How do issues of equity and development impact the identification of stakeholders in cases involving hydropower or other revenue generating water infrastructure?
Key Question Categor(ies):Hydropower - Dams - Infrastructure
When one riparian holds the most geographic and military power, equitable agreements are difficult to reach. With the large majority of water originating in Turkey and Turkey having the most advanced military power, it has less incentive to work cooperatively with Syria and Iraq and to approach negotiations with a "basket of benefits" outlook.
Cambodia is a downstream country in the Mekong river Basin and has potentially much to lose from uncontrolled upstream development of the river. China, the most upstream country in the basin, and Lao PDR have ongoing construction or plans to construct hydropower dams in the mainstream of the Mekong River, which has raised concerns of potential environmental, economic, and social impacts to downstream countries. As an upstream country with vast economic resources, there is little incentive for China to cooperate with downstream countries.
Lack of inclusion of populations of a shared river basin in the decision-making processes may cause conflicts. The local populations in both Thailand and Myanmar have not been included in decision-making processes with regards to major hydroelectric projects. Whereas Thailand and Myanmar may work cooperatively to avoid conflict, large-scale projects may create or exacerbate intrastate conflicts.
Because hydropower projects require large financial investments, groups that are unable to make financial contributions may be marginalized. This seems to be the case for the Columbia River Treaty, in which the traditional fishing grounds of a large number of Native American tribes were altered and fisheries destroyed to provide protection for cities in the United States and economic opportunities for Canada. Because of this tendency to undervalue stakeholders who are unable to invest in the project itself, it may be necessary for decision-makers to be especially vigilant and sensitive to stakeholder needs when dealing with hydropower projects.
The population size, poverty levels, dependence on river flow for agriculture, and electricity needs can make certain parts of a basin more compelling candidates for the benefits of hydropower. However, the issue is complicated at the transnational level when the hydropower electricity generation will benefit one marginalized population and disadvantage another marginalized population downstream.