[On December 16, USAID announced that the US government is considering
financial support for the Inga 3 Dam on the Congo River. In response,
seven US civil society groups in a letter to Secretary of State called
on the US government not to support the controversial project. The
letter is pasted below, and is also available at
USAID Support for Grand Inga Phase A Project
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We understand that USAID is considering financial support for Phase A of
the Grand Inga Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (also
referred to as Inga 3). We believe the United States government should
not support this project, for the following reasons:
Benefits will bypass the local population:
We note that the bipartisan Electrify Africa Act encourages USAID to
prioritize "the deployment of technology and grants to expand
electricity access for the poorest segments of the population." Inga 3
is in direct conflict with this mandate.
After donors have invested billions of dollars in the construction and
rehabilitation of the Inga 1 and 2 dams, more than 90 percent of the DRC
population remains without access to electricity, and 85 percent of the
country's electricity is consumed by high-voltage industrial users.
Building on the model of Inga 1 and 2, Inga 3 will completely bypass the
local population and generate electricity for the DRC mining sector and
the South African export market.
Project will likely deepen the resource curse:
It is no coincidence that the DRC, a country rich in natural resources
but poor in governance, has been beset by corruption and civil wars for
decades. In spite of repeated promises, the country's governance has not
improved in any significant way in recent years according to
Transparency International. The project to rehabilitate Inga 1 and 2 has
been mired in endless delays and cost overruns. Inga 3 will generate
revenues in a highly centralized fashion. It is likely that the project
will be affected by rampant corruption, and may further entrench the
country's resource curse.
Environmental risks are neglected:
The Inga 3 Dam will likely impact the endemic fisheries of the Congo
River. Maybe more importantly, the project - and the Grand Inga scheme
at large - will block sediments and may thus interrupt carbon
sequestration in the Congo Plume, one of the world's largest carbon
sinks. For this reason, a peer-reviewed article has warned that "plans
to divert, store or otherwise intervene in Lower Congo River dynamics
are truly alarming."
Inga 3 is a stepping stone towards the Grand Inga scheme, and the DRC
government has repeatedly stressed that the project is part and parcel
of Grand Inga. In spite of this, there are no plans to carry out a
cumulative impact assessment for the scheme or an integrated basin
management plan for the Congo River. This does not express willingness
to learn from the mistakes of past dam building.
Better options are available:
The International Energy Agency has found that 70 percent of rural areas
in developing countries are best electrified by mini- and off-grid
renewable energy solutions. This is particularly true for countries such
as the DRC that have vast territories, low population densities and
underdeveloped central grids.
Decentralized renewable energy technologies benefit under-served
populations, reduce the likelihood of resource conflicts, and usually
have a negligible environmental footprint. They have become commercially
competitive, but their deployment is still being hampered by market
failures. We submit that USAID and Power Africa should focus their
support on the decentralized renewable energy solutions of the future,
not the failed development models of the past.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your response.
Dr. Peter Bosshard and Dr. Rudo Sanyanga
Bank Information Center
Friends of the Congo
Friends of the Earth US
Institute for Policy Studies
Rainforest Action Network
cc. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID
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