In 2014, the South African government signed a treaty in which it pledged to buy 2,500MW of Congolese hydropower per year once the Grand Inga 3 project comes online.

This is anticipated to cost South Africans at least an additional R400 million each year (at current rates of rand-dollar exchange) compared to sourcing local renewables, an amount equivalent to the value of last year’s SASSA, the social grants department, tender corruption scandal.

It doesn’t stop there: the deal also requires South Africa to directly invest in the project (around 5%) in the dam, which according to the World Bank will cost $14 billion, or R200 billion, based on current exchange rates.

Realistically though, as a mega energy project, regardless of where it is built, it will inevitably cost much more.

Locally, Medupi has been overspent by R52 billion – just a quarter of the entire Grand Inga 3 costing.

Can you imagine if this dam ends up being overspent by over 100%? Read more: Inga 3 hydroelectric project to double in size

Whilst on paper, the Inga 3 project may sound like a good idea, with claims that the dam will propel the Southern African Development Community out of a vicious cycle of energy insecurity and poverty through fostering economic growth, speeding up regional integration, and paving the way for peace and prosperity, the reality is very different.

Reasons to reject Grand Inga project:

  1. The South African public can’t afford it:
  • Grand Inga 3 will damage South Africa’s already constrained economy and severely limit realistic prospects for inclusive growth. For years, citizens and businesses have been crippled by rising fuel, electricity and food costs, and an under-performing economy.
  • Under this deal, South Africans will be expected to shoulder the further burden of at least an additional R400 million every year for 2,500MW of imported hydro energy.
  • South Africans are already facing a potential 15% increase in electricity tariffs. There is also the growing burden of having to repay billions of rands for loans South Africa received from funders like the World Bank, IMF, EU, and China to sort out its energy shortages.
  • Furthermore, a project of this nature is likely to result in further local job losses, which our economy cannot afford.
  1. Governance failures and potential for corruption

The planning and implementation process of Grand Inga 3 is as murky and treacherous as the waters flowing through the Congo River. That is why the World Bank pulled out in 2016, amidst concerns around governance and transparency.

Local DRC activists have warned that "the project is currently under the direct control of the country’s Presidency, and is characterised by a complete lack of transparency, and is not subject to public scrutiny. Large-scale corruption is systemic in other large-scale extractive and infrastructure projects in Congo".

  1. Human and environmental rights impact

Hydroelectric power may be a renewable resource, but developing such huge projects has massive human and environmental rights implications.

There is a real chance the project will follow the same pattern as many other mega hydro dams: it will irreparably damage local communities in the DRC who have not been properly consulted, and now face forced relocation, imprisonment if they refuse to move, and other issues like environmental degradation.

South African environment lobby group, the South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute has warned that "large hydro projects come with their own socio-ecological costs which have been well documented," and Congolese Civil Society organisations report that "no environmental and social impact assessment has been conducted on Inga 3 to date and no mitigation and environmental management plan has been adopted".

Imported clean energy

Now is not the time to look at unaffordable, imported clean energy that doesn’t help job creation where we need it: in South Africa.

Now is the time to look at securing affordable renewable energy that creates jobs, locally, and attracts sustainable and long-term investment, locally.

This is not just our opinion: At least 36 reputable companies, organisations, individuals and institutions share our views and have submitted their concerns of Grand Inga’s role in the IRP2018.

The South African government should not agree to any deal that will destroy any prospects of stable and affordable power for all South Africans. When you meet tomorrow, we urge you to add your voice and help stop South Africa’s support for Grand Inga.

Written by: International Rivers

2 COMMENTS

  1. Jean Jaques Bukasa
    May 31, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Finally a platform where I can respond to International Rivers because if they were democratic enough, they would have allowed a debate to take place directly on their website in response to whatever they are writing. Unfortunately for reasons known to themselves, they cannot do that. They prefer to dictate us with a one way traffic of information they want us to accept as truth. Mr. Bosshard, until you give others the right to respond on your website, I would consider your organisation in the same way as people who do not do what they themselves preach.

    Having said that, I would also like to say that I have always found that articles by your organisation on the Inga Dam project and many others have always been one sided and never giving the positive side of things exactly like would behave a person jealous of another or a person paid to fulfill a dirty mission, otherwise how to explain that you are throwing bullets full of contradictions from every direction with the hope that perhaps one will hit the target and help stop everything. On the Inga dam project, you would go from environmental issues like the fishes that could become extinct; the 60 000 people that will be displaced- to financial issues that are out of context like the dam is to big to be built etc. I think that all those thrown bullets are really rubber bullets. More than five million people have died in Eastern Congo and millions have been displaced, killed and displaced by people who have been drawn in the war by poverty and lack of occupation, hence by lack of electricity that brings development, infrastructure, economic activity and in brief, life; the life that all these innocent victims could have kept today. But here we are talking about the simple situation of 60 000 people that could be displaced in a country of the size of some continents with 80% of in-occupied land; about the disappearance of fishes that we have learned to grow in tanks, against the survival of tens of millions of people in Africa who will be dead in the 10 coming years if electricity is not around them to help provide essential services and goods like the proximity to an hospital would do; or the million of kids otherwise would not be able to access education.

    The last time I checked International Rivers website, I learned that Mr Bosshard was in vacation in the Alps in his native Switzerland. What a strange place to go for holidays, a place surrounded by big dams, and dying fishes, and stagnant reservoirs, and we can go on with the list the way International would do to dramatize a situation. But is Switzerland known to be the last place one would want to find himself in? So What is then different with the Inga Dam speaking of the environmental aspect of things and zero benefits downstream? Mr. Bosshard went to the Alps with the peace of mind that back home, his relatives, friends and everything he cares about were all fine with the blessing of the mighty power electricity. Why Africans and other developing countries cannot also have a peace of that peace of mind?

    I have counted about 25 dams in Switzerland, 25 dams whose heights are over 100m with the Grande Dixence Dam, the highest in the world, at 285m followed by Mauvoisin at 250 m.The Inga Dam is about 200m only. By the way, dams’ reservoirs in Switzerland are given beautiful names and are rather called Lakes: Lac des Dix, Lac de Mauvoisin, Lago di Vogorno etc. According to Wikkipedia: “Based on the estimated mean production level, hydropower still accounted for almost 90% of domestic electricity production at the beginning of the 1970s, but this figure fell to around 60% by 1985 following the commissioning of Switzerland’s nuclear power plants, and is now around 56%. Hydropower therefore remains Switzerland’s most important domestic source of renewable energy.[4] Hydro energy was meaning to be taken down in 2013 with new laws on energy to be put in place but they were scrapped for a more eco friendly plan”.

    So, having put, I hope everything into perspective, you the reader, be the judge.

  2. The story of small dams, solar and wind power as a better option than big dams could as well be the story of small constructors who do not have the expertise in the construction of big dams, trying to push the big players out of the picture. I have been long in the marketing world to know how easy it is for a business to create itself a place in the market by making it its mission to extract and speak about the few negatives from established products while overselling the benefits of its own. It will then remain for consumers who are not aware of the true reality out there to echo the sentiment and help expand that notion until another day comes to tell a different story. Claims can often be supported by serious researches, which are often just work done in a vacuum and do not take into account all the factors that could show a totally different situation. The internet is full of examples of battles of interests, in which customers are left in the middle confused and wondering what is good for them? One that has been quite interesting has been the coffee saga where some experts for example have been saying hard and loud that coffee is not good for your health while others believe that coffee is actually very good if one wants to avoid sicknesses like Parkinson and Dementia late in life.

    The reality with small dams, solar and wind power infrastructures is that by the time we reach the all DR Congo and the rest of Africa with about 50 GW of electricity like the Inga project is proposing, probably more than 100 years will have elapsed and on the long run more money will have been spent on constructions or lost through corruption as well; more people will have been relocated, a generation or two will have gone without electricity and this because of a simple plausible fact that small dams and others will require working with too many different locations or projects, hence multiple different feasibility studies will need to be carried out, each project will require its own logistic plan each time etc., instead of optimizing on a project like Inga that we know everything about and we can easily manage. Thus, too many dams all over the country to try to harvest that amount of electricity could reveal to be a very messy alternative with too many dams in the environment and too many retaining nutrients at different levels of rivers well before they reach the sea, while Inga is well situated at the end of the course and is not the only river that serve the Atlantic ocean with nutrients. I think the sediment issue is really a simple one at the time when some coastal countries and cities like the Netherlands and Dubai have been dragging tons of sand from the sea and passing them where they are needed. The same technology could be used to free the nutrients to the sea in the case of the Inga Dam and this could also be another great opportunity to create more jobs.

    That the Inga Dam will be very expensive to build is another thing I have heard. So will be 100 smaller dams costing $1 billion each trying to produce 50GW of electricity. Besides, whose money is being spent here? Because why should it be a problem if those who are paying for it do not have an issue with it and they have done their homework? Inga 3 is not going to cost 80 billion or more. It is going to cost $12 billion about. It is the rest 7 of the 9 dams that constitute the Grand Inga that will cost $80 billion in total. So, these are small dams close to each other that will be gradually built and giving the possibility to measure success as we progress. Therefore, this should not be an issue to the supporters of small dams unless only a club of selected few people subjectively decides what small really is. So confusion should not be entertained around the cost of Inga 3, which is not Grand Inga or Inga 7.

    Solar and wind energy are not a new thing. They have been around for decades. Electricity from the Solar and Wind is not cheaper than Hydro power for the end users. However, they have in recent days gained in popularity and we have seen it in the news, countries fighting between themselves for market control with the hidden proposition to Africans that they should stop looking at Inga, which however ought to use a lot of African cement for most of its construction, but rather consider importing millions of solar panels and turbines.

    Inga Dam is more than a dam and more than a Congolese story only; it is the symbol of the African Renaissance. For a Congolese citizen who has left the country for more than 20 years now and who like many has for long been passionate about African development and has from the outside experienced how the giant Congo with its underutilized resources has stood as stumbling block to that development; for many who have believed in Africa and worked in the background to mobilize Africans to take charge of their destiny for as much as they could with the little means they had; for us who have witnessed the amazing work done in that direction by African presidents under the leadership of president Thabo Mbeki with the Inga project as one of the priorities of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Planning and coordinating technical body of the African Union aiming to eradicate poverty and create sustainable growth; for us, all Africans and friend of Africa who have enjoyed seeing the economic results achieved by African countries in the past 10 years and the hope they brings along, surely, Inga Dam means passing to the second gear in the realization of the African dream.

    I will certainly not surprise you when I say that Inga is not the first grand dam in DRC. We do have 2 even much bigger ones with bigger lakes, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Kivu that have claimed 45,600 km2 of valleys between their rifts. They have never asked permission from anyone to be there, nor to retain most of their sediments, they are just there, naturally formed, a God given gift. They are among the deepest in the world. They do not produce hydro power but contain enormous amounts of methane and CO2 trapped under the pressure of their deep waters, which if suddenly released in the atmosphere could be catastrophic for millions of people living around as they seat close to dormant volcanoes and yet millions of people live around the waters and depend on them for fish and beauty. Now, what is that to Inga Dam that has more to offer, is environmentally much safer and more docile compared to such gifts of nature?

    I appreciate the concern and hope in seeing Africans waiting to leverage on the experience of western countries like in the case of the mobile phone for example; however there will be a problem here. If Africans are going to be the only ones to wait until the technological miracle that will allow them to do things easily with little intelligence occurs, it is as good as saying that everything that western countries are enjoying today are the result of poor decisions and are all a mistake; they could have waited for better opportunities in the future. Unfortunately the last best opportunity will never come if it has to make us equal to God, perfectly knowing what will be vanity. So, how long do you propose we wait to even come close to that? I believe that people should take the opportunity they have now and make the best of it.

    In conclusion I would like to say that The development of rich countries’ economies whose industrial activities have created global warming and their fight to preserve their lifestyle and the air they breathe as shown by the recent refugees crisis should not be done at the expense of the developing countries by making it difficult for them to carry vital development projects. It should not be the rich countries that shout the loudest using NGOs and various other tactics that an activity by a developing country is a hazard to the environment and global warming, either. What they should rather do is to reduce or cease their pollution of the air and allow space for developing countries to use their share of CO2 or otherwise compensate them for loss of income in activities they plan to undertake so that they could explore better solutions. So what will be the compensation value of leaving Africa in the dark or the cost of sacrificing their development by not building Inga, which should correspond to the amount of money they could have made with 50 GW around? Priceless! 10 times more than the actual US budget!

    It is an irony that the influx of refugees from the developing world to the West, which ought to be considered as the solution to global warming by the fact that less forest will be cut in Africa for example, is rather seen as a treat to their existence and not as a wonderful readjustment of what the world should be and do to save mother earth: sharing what we have already so much taken from the earth to avoid exploiting it more. So the idea of British or Americans first, and lets build walls by people like Trump for countries that are supposed to be the leaders, the daddy of the world and play the role of gatherers, is in that respect very dangerous as it send the message that it is everyone for himself. Is it charity starting at home or that daddy want to eat first and leave bones for the kids? That way obesity statistics won’t fall soon in the West.

    Mr. Bosshard, I understand your cause and your fight. However, it should not be done in isolation. Constraints are multiple and they show that the problem should not be approached in a simple way. So let us be very careful that in the process of fighting for a cause, without knowing it, we end up doing more harm than good, hurting more the people we thing we are trying to save.