Monday, 27 June 2016

Construction of World's Largest Dam is on the Cards!!, Boon or Bane?

Construction of World's Largest Dam is on the Cards!!, Boon or Bane?Is Inga 3 the only answer to DRC’s energy complications? Will it benefit the Congolese people? According to supporters, the Inga 3 project would pump out as much energy as 20 large nuclear power stations and tackle the energy deficiency in Africa. Its construction is set to begin within months, without conducting any environmental impact study and despite the World Bank’s disapproval. The government, which is working to complete the project, planned for the dam to be built by a Chinese company that would furnish the financing.

The construction of the largest dam in the world is all set to begin within few months and it has been anticipated that it could be generating electricity in under five years. But as we know, “Everything comes with a price”, it is estimated that 35,000 people may have to be repositioned. According to critics, it could be built without any environmental or social impact. Fingers crossed !! The $14bn (£9.5bn) Inga 3 project, the first part of the mega-project, which is being accelerated by the government of Democratic Republic of Congo will span one channel of the vast river Congo at Inga Falls. It entails 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. The good news is that it is estimated 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. The Congo River is the deepest river in the world and the fifth longest, with a flow rate second only to the Amazon’s. The Congo River is home to at least 700 fish species, with 300 documented fish species in its lower section alone. The river empties water and sediment into the Atlantic Ocean, creating “the Congo Plume” – a natural process which is thought to be one of the largest carbon sinks in the world.

The river is unique in that it has large rapids and waterfalls very close to the mouth while most rivers have these features upstream. The rapids and waterfalls give the Congo River huge hydropower potential; hence it has been targeted by hydropower developers since the Belgian colonial period. According to the California-based NGO International Rivers, the long delayed project, whose backers claim it could provide about 40% of Africa’s electricity, may intrude national law and international guiding principle for the development of mega-dams. 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.

Moreover, 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.” Energy problem is indeed a global issue where countries are fighting to tackle this alarming issue.

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.” “There has been a complete disregard for affected people and the environment. It is shocking that the world’s biggest hydropower scheme could go forward without an assessment of its social and environmental impacts and a resettlement action plan in place,” said Bosshard.

The Congolese Government is fasttracking the construction to fulfill a legally binding contract signed with the South African government to supply 2,500MW of electricity from the Inga 3 by 2021. It is expected to choose a consortium of two of China’s largest dam builders by August, and hopes to start building by November. According to Kapandji, the Chinese consortium has said electricity could be generated within four to five years. A Spanish consortium has suggested Inga 3 would take six years to build. Big dams built in developing countries have forced many millions of people to relocate and caused enormous environmental destruction. But pressure from environment and development groups has enforced countries and funders to commission impact surveys to evaluate and alleviate damage. Read more


Post a Comment