Sacrificing the local to support the national: Politics, sustainability, and governance in Nepal's hydropower paradox

Arica Crootof, Rashmi Shrestha, Tamee Albrecht, Thomas Ptak, Christopher A. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Developing run-of-the-river (ROR) hydropower can pose a sustainability paradox. The paradox can occur when countries prioritize hydropower development to achieve national-level sustainable development targets while failing to include project-affected communities in planning processes. This research developed a comparative study examining the ways social and political relations were articulated between hydropower companies and project-affected communities across 12 ROR hydropower sites in the Gandaki River basin of Nepal. The study details how the introduction of hydropower can feasibly offer local communities coveted benefits such as increased water and electricity access and availability. Outcomes of ROR hydropower development, however, were not uniform across study sites and spatially uneven development was manifest. Consequently, many of Nepal's ROR hydropower projects exacerbate social and political inequalities in Nepal's mountain river basins, which in turn fuel hydropower driven conflicts. Drawing on theories of global change, energy justice, and political ecology, this research highlights opportunities currently being neglected in Nepal to bring local communities into processes linked to national sustainable development goals and targets and to address injustices embedded in the development of ROR hydropower resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102206
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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