Work on the world’s largest hydropower plant is expected to start in October, 2015 following commitments from the World Bank and other development agencies to finance its construction. South Africa has also agreed to buy more than half of the energy that would be generated at the 4800 MW Inga 3 plant at Inga Falls on the Congo River. Preliminary reports show that a series of dams on this section of the river would have a relatively small environmental and social impact, but International Rivers and other non governmental organizations warn that virtually none of this power would improve the lives of local residents in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Given its long history of social and political unrest, the DRC has been considered too risky for development projects on the scale of the planned $120 billion Inga 3 plant, the Guardian reports. But now local government is working with foreign consultancy groups to ink a plan to eventually generate 40,000 MW—enough to power 40 percent of Africa. And since the flow of the falls is so great, according to the development proposal, few residents would have to be relocated and little land use will be required.
The African Development Bank, World Bank, French Development Agency, European Investment Bank and Development Bank of South Africa have all expressed interest in financing successive stages of the project, according to the Guardian. But International River and a host of other civil society organizations are resisting the plan based on the DRC’s poor track record in delivering power to locals.
Siting an International Energy Agency report, the groups note that grid-based electrification is not cost effective for the majority of people living in Africa and that 70 percent of the continent is better served through renewables and off-grid solutions. In a letter to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, the groups wrote that the energy is much more likely to be shipped down to South Africa and used by large mining companies.
Via The Guardian