The new IIED briefing from Jamie Skinner and Christopher Schulz sets out a series of policy recommendations for sharing the benefits of hydropower to improve displaced people’s livelihoods.

‘Benefit sharing’ is not yet widely understood and there are few successful examples of it being put into practice. Yet it is a way to build support and social acceptance for new hydropower projects. Thus, the research from Schulz and Skinner, along with this briefing, aims to clarify the concept, frame benefit sharing as a ‘sustainability intervention’ and provide guidance to developers policy makers for successful interventions.

The policy pointers include:

  • For the rural poor, simple compensation for lost assets leaves them as poor after resettlement as before.  Benefit sharing is a complementary and more effective strategy to ensure resettled people are better off and one that will help developers gain a social licence to operate.
  • Developers and policymakers should consider sharing 2–3% of the revenue generated throughout a dam’s operation phase as a necessary cost, equivalent to the annual operation and maintenance budget of the dam itself.
  • Revenue sharing allows affected communities to benefit directly from the infrastructure that has disrupted their lives and gives them a clear stake in a project.
  • It is never too late: existing hydropower projects where resettlement is known to have been problematic should engage local affected communities to build trust and implement investments that can improve their livelihoods.

The briefing highlights reserch from Schulz and Skinner’s recent paper ‘Hydropower benefit-sharing and resettlement: A conceptual review‘.

Image: Nam Gnouang Dam (60MW), on a tributary of the Nam Theun River in Laos. Photo by Eric Baran. (CC 2.0 BY-NC-ND on Flickr)

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