The government’s plan to develop 10,000MW of hydropower by 2020 has come in the way for the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to declare itself as an environment-friendly ministry.
Together with hydropower, the burgeoning number of industries and mines also contribute negatively to the environment.
According to a reference group that studied the impact on the environment from works carried out by each of the 10 ministries, hydropower infrastructure development has been having increasing impacts on the environmental through deforestation, land and biodiversity degradation and pollution.
According to the reference group, alternative options for this is to include strategies on compliance with environmental management plan, have budgetary support in place for environmental and social services and mandatory strategic assessment of hydropower development projects.
“Alternative opportunities and mitigation measures adopted and implemented will reduce cumulative environmental and social impacts,” states the framework.
Another issue raised by the reference group is the pressure on limited land resources to rehabilitate and resettle affected communities as a result of accelerated hydropower development.
The group has come up with various alternative options that would not only benefit the environment but also the families that will be affected.
Some of the alternative options include integrating development of hydropower projects, developing common corridors with multi-circuit transmission lines in line with National Transmission Grid MasterPlan and reassessing of the 10,000 MW target.
This would not only reduce the impact on the environment but also reduce rehabilitation and resettlement issues.
Another issue was the mining sector which also has a huge impact on the environment.
The mining sector causes major deforestation and changes in the land and land use features.
The group attributed this to the huge domestic demand of construction materials in the construction industry.
It is aggravated by the demand of minerals and construction materials from outside the country and the booming hydropower project constructions.
“It not only has environmental impacts like pollution of air, water and soil but also has health impacts,” sates the framework.
It has been recommended that activities on environment restoration bond covering full cost of closing, cleaning and rehabilitation and redevelopment of sites be included in the coming five-year plan.
Another noticeable pressure is the pollution from industrial wastes, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
“The generation of solid waste, pollutants and effluents by the industries has been increasing while contamination of air and water bodies downstream affects human health and eco-system,” says the reference group.
The reference group recommends a series of alternative options to be mainstreamed in the coming plan.
These include construction of sanitary landfills, promoting green and eco-friendly industries, and promoting cap and trade system for large industry polluters.
The group also identified environmental impacts due to increase in the use of POL products which was a result of increasing number of vehicles and construction machineries.
The alternative option that can be mainstreamed in the coming plan is to improve the quality of POL products, especially fossil fuel quality.
“There is also a need of policy intervention to reduce the import of vehicles and introduce hybrid cars,” states the framework.
It has also been found that import of unnecessary packaging materials created waste generation and wastes such as batteries and lubricants were not properly managed.