Today, the World Bank Group Board of Directors approved a grant of $73 million for the Inga 3 Dam on the Congo River -?? the biggest hydropower project the World Bank has ever funded. International Rivers denounces the decision as support for a risky mega-project that will not benefit the local population.
The 4800 megawatt Inga 3 Dam is the first phase of the giant Grand Inga scheme in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Including the financing costs, Inga 3 will cost $14 billion. The Bank’??s $73 million grant will finance technical studies and legal work to prepare for the construction of the dam, which is expected to start in 2016 and take seven years. Even though only 9% of the DRC population has access to electricity, the power generated by Inga 3 will primarily benefit mining companies and export markets.
Rudo Sanyanga, the Africa Director of International Rivers, said: “By approving Inga 3, the World Bank shows it has not learned lessons from the bad experience of previous dams on the Congo River despite its claims to the contrary. The Bank is turning a blind eye to the DRC’s poor governance and is taking short-cuts to the environmental assessment of the project.”
Peter Bosshard, the Policy Director of International Rivers, said: “Solar, wind and micro-hydropower are more effective at reducing energy poverty in Africa, and don’t suffer the cost and time overruns that are typical for large dams. We will continue to push the World Bank and the DRC government to support clean local energy solutions rather than Africa’??s next white elephant.”
On March 10, four researchers from Oxford University published a study which found that the large dams built since 1934 suffered average cost overruns of 96% and delays of 44%. In a conversation with International Rivers, the Oxford study’s co-author, Atif Ansar, cautioned against Inga 3. “It is a very high-risk project typical of dam disasters,” he said. Using the findings of the Oxford study to forecast cost overruns, he suggested that the Bank’s $14 billion estimated cost of Inga 3 should be uplifted to $28 billion to obtain 80% certainty that the budget is not exceeded. Given the cost risk’s the dam is a non-starter in terms of economic viability. Congo is at risk of drowning its fragile economy in debt.