Synchronicity Earth

Synchronicity Earth is a charitable foundation with an ambitious vision: a sustainable planet that values the interconnectivity and interdependence of all living things.

Will Congo’s Poor Benefit from World’s Largest Dam Project? Part Three

By Rudo Sanyanga

In the spirit of engaging with our partners please see below a blog by Rudo Sanyanga. Rudo is the Africa Program Director at International Rivers, one of our partners within our freshwater portfolio. This is the final of three blogs by Rudo that looks back on a scoping trip that was undertaken as part of the project we are supporting – Protecting the Congo River. Part One and Part Two of this blog can be viewed by following the links.

Displaced by Inga I and II

I had read a lot about “Camp Kinshasa“ and was curious to see this compound where many who were displaced by the previous Inga dams have settled. This shabby compound is where the Inga I and II displaced communities had been dumped.   The inhabitants have been waiting here for compensation for over 40 years. To get to the camp one has to pass through the Inga Estate, a small gated town established in the late early seventies to house workers from the DRC state power utility, SNEL, and supporting-service employees. The town has modern buildings although some were in a state of disrepair.  A kilometre away from this town is Camp Kinshasa. It is an eyesore; the buildings are falling apart, with boxes and wooden boards nailed to support or cover holes in the original prefabricated structures. Litter was strewn along the fringes, and the structures are crowded with lots of people in a very small space. Service provision was non-existent. In the face of this misery and injustice, I wondered whether the displaced people from the Inga III project would receive fair compensation and whether it was right for the project proponents to start making claims about how they will address the latest displaced communities while they continue to turn a blind eye to the legacy of the past.

Camp Kinshasa dwelling (Photo: Rudo Sanyanga, International Rivers)

At least $12 billion will be needed for construction of the Inga III and an astonishing $80 billion for Grand Inga dam. It does not make sense that DRC failed for over ten years to complete the rehabilitation of Inga I and II, yet now it expects to manage a bigger and more complex project. One cannot help but question whether there is human capacity to handle such a project and even capacity to absorb the huge amounts targeted for these developments. Is it realistic that Inga III can be completed in eight years when the rehabilitation has taken a decade and is still incomplete?

I have also wondered who will profit from the Inga projects (and in fact, I wonder who has profited from the costly rehabilitation of the previous dams). Inga III is clearly regarded by a range of developers and the Government as a commercial project that will supply power for export and the mines, not for the Congolese people. On the African continent, which averages a high energy consumption gap, the DRC is 4th from the bottom, surpassed only by Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania and Togo in lowest number of electricity use per capita. Yet the DRC is very rich in resources. Unfortunately, this blessing has so far turned out to be a resource curse. Transparency International rated the DRC 160th for governance and corruption out of 176 countries in the world.  The Inga I and II rehabilitation process was not spared of corrupt deals. Six and a half million dollars went unaccounted for in 2008 and there maybe more that disappeared unknown. The citizens as well as the government are fully aware of the prevalence of corruption in all sectors. What systems will be put in place to combat corruption? Once again, who will profit from this project?