The largest dam in the world is set to begin construction within months and could be generating electricity in under five years. But 35,000 people may have to be relocated and it could be built without any environmental or social impact surveys, say critics.
The $14bn (£9.5bn) Inga 3 project, the first part of the mega-project, is being fast-tracked by the Democratic Republic of Congo government will span one channel of the vast river Congo at Inga Falls. It involves a large dam and a 4,800MW hydro-electric plant.
But subsequent phases, together costing about $100bn, could eventually span the Congo river, the world’s second largest by volume. It is expected to have an electricity-generating capacity of nearly 40,000MW – nearly twice as much as the Three Gorges dam in China or 20 large nuclear power stations.
But the long delayed project, whose backers claim it could provide about 40% of Africa’s electricity, may violate national law and international guidelines for the development of mega-dams, according to the California-based NGO International Rivers.
Peter Bosshard, the NGO’s interim director, says those running the project are not concerned that 35,000 people may have to move in phase 1 and 25,000 people later, or that fish supplies from the river are likely to be greatly affected.
In a filmed interview with International Rivers, the head of the Grand Inga Project Office, Bruno Kapandji, suggests that environmental and social impact surveys will not be completed before work starts, possibly in November.
“It is a choice to make, people have no electricity. We set an objective – we have to produce energy,” Kapandji said. “There are a lot of studies to carry out, at least 18, and we favour some over others based on priority, and to allow us to … develop a tender document that will be technically and financially acceptable.”
Kapandji says that Inga 3 is the “only solution” to Congo DRC’s energy problem and would allow it to export electricity: “As Congolese we have no choice but to build Inga 3. And for the cities in Kinshasa, Bas-Congo and Katanga, Inga 3 is the only solution … Today the price of commodities is falling and we need revenue. If we have a lot of energy to export, like Canada and Uruguay, we won’t have a problem”.
Bosshard said: “Bruno Kapandji makes it clear that the government has no intention to carry out a social and environmental impact assessment for the huge project before construction starts. Developing Inga 3 without an EIA will violate national law, World Bank safeguard policies, and Chinese guidelines for overseas contractors.”
Source: The Guardian UK