18 May 2016

26 May 2016 Speaking Engagement in New York City

I have been invited to speak in NYC on the evening of 26 May at Midoma Gallery for the closing party of artist Ariel Shallit's Iconic: re-imagined show. You can check out the details on my website news and read more about our collaboration work - my portrait photography of indigenous river communities before displacement and his overpainting technique to combine art and science for advocacy. I am quite keen on sharing the story of the people I have met around the world who are experiencing community instability and threats to their identity, health, and well-being due to the wave of water development on rivers. River communities of indigenous are losing their way of life and this is being categorized as an economic externality or a political blip on the RADAR.

I feel I have failed a bit to be able to get this point across in academia sometimes as responses from my audience sometimes ask why the Gumuz (and you can insert any indigenous group out of the national economic system here) matter? Other times I am asked whether I really thought that local people wouldn't prefer buying their fish at a grocery store to having to fish in the river. And yet more have voiced the need to modernize the traditional communities who are "primitive" or "backwards" and need help.

As one recent reviewer wrote on an academic paper that I unsuccessfully submitted for publication - "The Gumuz are being displaced, others are not, so this is obvious and does not need human security [analysis] or interviews in the field."

I hope I can improve my scholarship to clarify the point that development may have it wrong - and in fact may be an absolutely dangerous path with no return. I hope to communicate clearly that every sort of people matter, traditional lifestyles and knowledge are valuable, and people have the right to determine their own identity and livelihoods. Until then, I will start to really move on advocating through art and collaborations with artists to get the message out - maybe if people are unable to understand the dignity of people in my words, they can understand through the images I take.

The engagement information is below if you are in the NYC area next week and would like to attend. No cover.

12 May 2016

World Bank Report on Water and Economics Link

If you are curious to read the World Bank's report on water from their perspective, you can access the full report from their site (or you can opt out for the executive summary which is only a few pages). This report will help to explain where the Bank will be investing next and how.

11 May 2016

Inga 3 in the News Again: Talk of Selecting a Construction Company

News article released today states that Democratic Republic of Congo's Inga 3 dam project is alive and well and is moving forward this year. The news is that the project's potential electricity is being sold to South Africa's energy hungry market and Congo's mostly foreign-owned mining sector, the left-overs go to the people. This is in an energy poor country. It appears from this that water resources of the Congo will be harnessed for profit rather than for domestic development.

The Inga project, well-known to anyone interested in hydropower on the African continent, has been an idea in the heart of Congo's desire to develop and the heart of many economists that see Inga as the answer to Africa's energy needs. The siting of Inga can harness 11% of global hydropower potential - yes global not just Congo River - and this is found on one stretch of the Congo River, downstream from Kinshasa. I wrote a bit about this twice in 2013 (here is the second post) and it is the highest traffic post I've written receiving more than 4500 hits to date.

The two tenders are big companies, one of which constructed Three Gorges Dam and we all know how efficient that dam is running. Perhaps they have learned from their mistakes? With Congo's internal political challenges, it will be quite interesting to see how and when this project can get off the ground. The estimated cost of 50 billion dwarfs Ethiopia's GERD, which is the largest hydropower project being constructed on the African continent right now.

Congo to select developer for Inga 3 hydropower plant by October

Tue May 10, 2016 3:08pm GMT
[-Text [+]

By Aaron Ross

KINSHASA May 10 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo will decide by October between a Chinese and Spanish consortium to develop the long-delayed Inga 3 hydroelectric project with construction expected to begin the following June, a government official said on Tuesday.
The $12 billion project along the Congo River will expand on two existing Inga hydroelectric dams and is part of an eight-stage Grand Inga project that would produce a record 44,000 MW at an estimated cost of $50-80 billion.
Proponents of the project say that it could eventually power half of Africa, while critics say that the money would be better used supporting smaller local plants.
The Chinese consortium is led by China Three Gorges Corporation while the Spanish one includes engineering giant Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA , said Bruno Kapandji, the head of the Agency for the Development and Promotion of Grand Inga.
"We are waiting for their bids in the month of July," Kapandji told Reuters. "We will choose the one that will be the best in terms of experience, capacity to mobilise funds, capacity to mobilise technology."
Of Inga 3's 4,800 MW, 2,500 will be sold to South Africa and 1,300 is earmarked for Congo's mining sector. The remaining 1,000 will go toward meeting domestic demand in a country where less than 15 percent of the population has electricity.
The start of construction has been repeatedly delayed by red tape and disagreements between Congo and its partners on the project, including the World Bank and African Development Bank, which have provided technical assistance.
Kapandji said he expects construction to begin in June 2017 and last four to five years. Congo had originally promised South Africa power from Inga 3 by 2020. 
However, he said that the project still needed to secure additional financing. He declined to say how much money had already been mobilised but said that possible investors were attracted by the project's potential profitability.
Kapandji also defended the controversial decision last October to move control of the project from the prime minister's office to an agency within the presidency, which has raised concerns about corruption and political interference.
"It's the head of state who pilots this programme," he said. "First of all, that secures the project itself. Also, that reassures our partners and, above all, our clients."
(Editing by David Evans)