The proposed 201 metre Khudoni Hydro Power Plant construction is planned for high mountains of west Georgia (2010 metres above sea level) on the River Enguri. According to government calculations, construction of the Khudoni HPP will cost USD 500 million and will last 4-5 years. The plan is for Khudoni NPP to have an installed capacity of 700 MW with a 1.7 billion kw output.
The project envisages the construction of an arch dam at crest with columns, with a height of 170metres, including 141 arch part. The length of the dam would make a reservoir with a volume of 230 million cubic metres. The Georgian government plans that the Khudoni dam will be complemented by a number of other upstream hydropower plants also on the River Enguri (Tobari Hydropower, installed capacity 600 MW, projected generation 2,2 billion kWh, Cascade of Nenskra hydros – 87 MW).
The implementation of the Khudoni project was blocked by NGOs in the early 1990s, as it was shown to be a construction that contains extreme risks for ecological disaster and requires the resettlement of a number of unique villages (including Chaishi); the Khudoni HPP site is located in Zemo Svaneti (Upper Svaneti),an area of unique beauty. Preserved by its long isolation, the Upper Svaneti region of the Caucasus is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval-type villages and tower-houses. The village of Chaishi still has more than 200 of its renowned and highly unusual houses, which were used both as dwellings and as defence posts against invaders who plagued the region in mediaeval times and before. The Zemo Svaneti region has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site area since 1996.
The area is inhabited by the Svans, an ethnographic group of the Georgian people. However, the people of Svaneti are a race apart: the pace of life is different there, they have their own language and traditions, their own architectural styles, and for them ancient customs are still very much a part of everyday life.
The Khudoni HPP would intensify the devastation of forests and wildlife habitat, the loss of river species populations and the degradation of upstream catchments areas owing to the flooding of the reservoir area in one of the most amazing highland regions of Georgia. The upper part of the River Enguri basin combines sub-alpine forests and meadows, rocks and alpine tundra. The area is well known for its endemic wildlife. This includes different forest bird species, a community of large raptors (golden eagle, griffon vulture and lammergeyer), and endemic birds including the Caucasian black grouse, the Caucasian snowcock and the Caucasian chiffchaff. Mountain goats, chamois, brown bear, wolf, lynx, roe deer, and wild boar are quite common. The cumulative impact of the Khudoni, Enguri and Tobari hydroes will adversely affect water quality, natural flooding and species composition in the river.
World Bank involvement
Since summer 2005, the World Bank has been involved in negotiations with the Georgian government regarding the Khudoni HPP. It approves to give the Georgian government a technical assistance grant of USD 5 million, out of which around USD 1.75-2.35 million would be needed for preparatory works (preliminary and feasibility studies ) for Khudoni HPP .
According to the Georgian Country Partnership strategy that was revealed to the public only in late November 2005, the Bank proposed “under the possible IBRD –enclave energy project (USD 50 million), the development of a new hydropower resource at Khudoni that could generate more than 10% of annual consumption and about 20% of current hydropower production, improving the security of Georgia’s energy supply. The project would be structured as an export oriented sale of power to neighboring countries”. Without World Bank participation, the government would not be able to find the investors for the projects; this is why the World Bank has been asked to lead the creation of a financial consortium, in order to secure funding for the hydro station building.
The Khudoni dam will increase the electricity tariff due to the huge investment in the energy sector, while the people living near to the Enguri Hydro, Georgia’s largest hydro project producing 40% of Georgia’s electricity consumption, still experience problems with access to energy. According to a leaked World Bank document, the basic costs of the project would be at least USD 780 million, while the production tariff would be 4 US cents per kw, and the economic return would be only 5%.
High electricity tariffs are already unaffordable for the majority of the Georgian population (); more than 50% of the population is living under the poverty line, while extreme poverty affects 17.4% of the population (according to World Bank data). The construction of Khudoni would significantly increase electricity tariff thus harm the livelihoods of the majority of people.