Opinion: How Inga Dams Are Holding Congo’s Energy Future Hostage
By Peter Bosshard (Interim Executive Director, International Rivers) | From Huffing Post
World Bank and government officials like to describe the proposed Grand Inga dams on the Congo as a “dream for Africa“, which could electrify the whole continent at low cost. Instead, the world’s largest hydropower scheme risks turning into a nightmare which crowds out better solutions and pulls the Congo’s energy sector down the drain.
In March 2014, the World Bank approved a grant of $73 million to help the Democratic Republic of Congo prepare the Inga 3 Project, the first stage of the giantGrand Inga complex on the Congo River. By this time, the African Development Bank had already spent more than $50 million on feasibility reports for the dam. At 4,800 megawatts, Inga 3 would be the World Bank’s biggest hydropower project ever. It will consist of a long intake canal from the Congo River, a 100-meter high dam, a hydropower plant and 3,400 kilometers of transmission lines to South Africa.
Inga 3 was expected to start generating electricity in 2021, and the groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled for October 2015. Yet a year into the project, the dreamers at the World Bank are waking up to the hard reality of mega-dams. By mid-2015, the DRC government was supposed to have created a special agency to carry out the project. Consultants should have completed resettlement action plans. A private consortium to invest in the project should have been selected, and negotiations for concession and power purchasing agreements were supposed to be underway.
As of today, none of this has happened. Of the three consortia that were selected for the final bidding round for the project, two turned out to be ineligible because of corruption and other malpractices. And after a feasibility process that has already lasted close to five years, the engineering companies recently recommended that the dam site be moved due to unfavorable geological conditions.
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