AfDB vows to assess Congo mega-dam impact

27 Jul 16

The environmental and social impacts of a $14bn hydropower dam will be assessed before construction begins later this year, the African Development Bank has guaranteed.


Inga Dam. Credit: International Rivers

Inga Dam. Credit: International Rivers


The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Inga 3 dam and hydropower station is the first phase of a much larger, $100bn mega project dubbed Grand Inga, which has long been a cornerstone in the vision of how to power Africa in the future.

The Grand Inga project has been repeatedly beset by delays, obstacles and doubts. The first phase of the project started to get off the ground in 2013. However, the operation has already sparked safeguarding concerns after the Congolese government pushed to fast track construction and said it would bypass environmental and social impact assessments.  

But Zakou Amadou, division manager for energy at the AfDB, which has provided funding for the project, said in a statement to PF International that the bank will ensure the project adheres to international standards.

The World Bank, which agreed to co-finance Inga 3 with the AfDB in 2014, announced yesterday it was suspending disbursements of the $73.1bn worth of technical assistance it agreed to deliver for the project.

But the AfDB said it would not suspend the $74m it has agreed to provide.

Amadou said that the AfDB assistance covered financing for a number of additional studies, including those evaluating environmental and social impacts.

“The bank will ensure the realisation of all additional studies as agreed in the joint statement on the project support,” he said.

The Congolese government is fast-tracking the construction in order to honour a legally binding agreement with South Africa, under which the DRC agreed to supply 2,500MW of electricity from the Inga project by 2021.

DRC and sub-Saharan Africa face a chronic power crisis, with only 31% of the region’s population able to access electricity. That leaves nearly 600 million people without power.

Inga 3 alone would almost double the Congo’s current capacity and enable the country to export energy to its neighbours.

Grand Inga, which will be the biggest dam in the world when complete and span the entire breadth of the vast river Congo, would produce 44,000MW, almost double that of China’s Three Gorges power plant, currently the largest in the world.

While ambitious, complex and expensive, Grand Inga’s backers point out that the project could double Africa’s energy production capacity at a stroke, providing cheap and sustainable energy and boosting prosperity across the continent. 

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