A proposed hydropower plant in Croatia was considered a category A project, under EBRD’s 2008 Environmental and Social Policy due to the size of the underground dam and the potential significant impacts to a proposed Natura 2000 area. This meant the highest level of assessment was required- including public consultation and information disclosure. WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff worked closely with the EBRD and the borrower in order to assess the potential project against EBRD performance requirements, EU Directives and national legislation.
An initial ESDD assessment was undertaken as well as the development of supplementary information to align the existing 1999 environmental impact assessment with EU standards. A stakeholder engagement plan, non-technical summary and environmental and social action plan (ESAP) were developed and disclosed for 120 days for public review and comment. Public consultation meetings were held across Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The most significant potential risks were determined to be biodiversity and resettlement. The main output of the due diligence and ESAP was for further biodiversity studies, including an equivalent study to an ‘appropriate assessment’ and biodiversity management plan. The study was completed and disclosed and further consultation was undertaken during a 30-day disclosure period.
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s team of social experts developed a resettlement action plan to meet the requirements of Croatian law and the EBRD’s performance requirement 5. The plan aimed at achieving amicable agreements to compensate for any resettlement or loss of land. This was also included in the ESAP to prevent impacts on nearby cultural heritage sites and to appropriately manage and control the disruption to neighbourhoods from the construction traffic.
Following detailed consultations with the borrower, the lender and the local authorities regarding the findings of the independent expert studies, there were still outstanding areas of potential biodiversity impact for which sufficient mitigation was considered unlikely to demonstrate compliance with the lender’s ESG policy. After a series of detailed assessments and discussions, a decision was made to cancel the loan and support to the project in order to uphold the lender’s ESG policies.