Massive picket on Grand Inga 3 hydroelectric on the cards

Inga III hydropower project. Photo : RWB

Pretoria, South Africa (ADV) – A picket by the Human rights activists from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and civil society organisations including International Rivers and WoMin is scheduled for 16 November after the SA government in 2014, under the then President Jacob Zuma signed a treaty in which it pledged to buy 2500MW of Congolese hydropower per year once the dam comes online in 2030.

Set to take place at the South Africa Department of Energy in Pretoria the protest is meant to raise concerns against the inclusion of the Grand Inga 3 hydroelectric dam in the updated draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

“Of concern to South Africans is the impact that Grand Inga will have on local electricity prices. Studies show that, if South Africa goes ahead with procuring this hydro-electric power from the DRC, the cost of electricity will increase by R400 million per annum,” said Ange Asanzi, Africa Campaign Coordinator at International Rivers recently.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s controversial Inga 3 hydroelectric project was announced in 2013 to great fanfare with World Bank support, at an estimated cost of $14 billion. The project was supposed to deliver 4.8 GW of power, primarily for export to South Africa and to power mines in eastern DRC. However, the World Bank canceled its involvement in 2016, throwing the project into disarray as investors have shied away. In part to address criticism of the project’s flawed economics, the government announced in 2017 that it would redesign the project, with intentions to more than double the generation capacity to over 10 GW.

“Another concern is the lack of transparency and inadequate involvement of local, already marginalised Congolese communities. It is estimated that over 30 000 people will be displaced if the project goes ahead.

“The picketers will hand over a petition signed by over 10,000 community members from Inga in the DRC against the construction of the dam in which South Africa is heavily invested,” added Asanzi.

The development of this hydropower project raises a number of concerns- the power production from the Inga 3 is mainly for industry users and will not improve the access level for the more than 90% of the DRC population who have no access to electricity. The prospect of local people getting power from Inga in the next 20 years is remote and does not feature in the project as currently planned. Most of Inga 3’s power would travel long distances to the industrial and urban centers in South Africa and large mines in DRC, bypassing Congolese who are not served by the nation’s limited grid.

© Bur-csa – A.H – N.A / From our regional correspondent Mkhululi Chimoio – African Daily Voice (ADV)