23 February 2014

Inga Dam 3, a blog from IRN

The Inga dams story has always been strange, but this IRN blog by Peter Basshard suggests things have gotten stranger. Why don't we yet have the World Environmental Organization that can oversee projects like this and create some accountability to process? The world is a tired place of haves and want to have more calling the shots. Yes, today is a cynical day. But if this language is true, that the Bank and USAID of all organizations and whoever outside of the sovereign rights of the DRoC government are deciding about DRoC's natural resources, how is this any different than colonial control of one country or in this case, international organization with no real country, over another?

Monday, February 10, 2014

The World Bank's Inga 3 Project Goes From Bad to Worse

The World Bank's Inga 3 Project Goes From Bad to Worse
By Peter Bosshard
International Rivers, February 10, 2014

The Inga 3 Dam on the Congo River, which has incited the dreams of dam
builders and investors for three decades, was finally scheduled to
receive its first grant from the World Bank on February 10. Last week
the Bank added another twist to the Inga saga and withdrew the project
from its board calendar. Working with a Chinese company, the Bank now
plans to develop the dam as a private investment through the
International Finance Corporation (IFC), rather than as a public
project. This is bad news for poor people and the environment in the
Democratic Republic of Congo.

With a capacity of 4,800 megawatts and a price tag of $12 billion, Inga
3 is the World Bank's biggest ever hydropower project. The IFC has no
expertise in developing such complex projects. The biggest hydropower
project it has ever managed is the 600 megawatt Upper Marsyangdi 2 Dam
in Nepal. Because wind and solar projects are becoming ever more
attractive, the IFC's support for hydropower projects has shrunk from
$300 million to a mere $50 million per year since 2008.

The IFC has a poor social and environmental track record. Only in recent
months, the Corporation was admonished by its own ombudsperson for human
rights violations and other abuses in the Tata Mundra thermal power
plant in India and the Dinant oil palm project in Honduras. The Upper
Marsyangdi 2 Project was rocked by strikes as well. International Rivers
has documented that the planned Environmental Impact Assessment for Inga
3 falls short of good international practice. We can expect further
environmental short-cuts and compromises if the project is developed by
IFC and private investors.

The mining sector and other heavy industries consume 85 percent of all
the power generated in the DRC. Less than 10 percent of the country's
population has access to electricity. Increasing access is the highest
development priority for the DRC's energy sector. Yet this is of no
interest to private investors. A World Bank evaluation of the power
sector found in 2003: "In most countries, the rural poor tend to be
overlooked because private operators are reluctant to serve low-income
clients given that these markets are not financially viable on a
freestanding basis."

Similarly, Ali Mbuyi Tshimpanga, the director of the existing Inga
hydropower station, warns: "The problem is that, with a public-private
partnership, you patch up only the part of the grid that interests the
private financiers. It's of almost no benefit to the community." The
Inga 3 Dam is designed to serve mining companies and the South African
market. If it is developed as a private investment, poor consumers are
bound to be excluded from its benefits.

As International Rivers has learned from internal sources, the IFC deal
was arranged by the heads of the World Bank, IFC and USAID behind the
scenes, without any accountability to the DRC parliament, the World
Bank's board of directors and civil society. Such elitist,
non-democratic approaches will not bring about broad-based development
in the DRC. Non-transparent deals like Inga 3 are the best recipe to
entrench corruption in the country further.

Public support for a privatized Inga 3 Project becomes ever more
indefensible. International Rivers will continue to oppose destructive
mega-dams in the DRC and other countries, and will promote clean local
energy solutions that are more effective at reducing poverty and
protecting the environment.

Peter Bosshard is the Policy Director of International Rivers. He tweets
at @PeterBosshard.