Inga 3, the world’s largest dam will displace tens of thousands in DR Congo

Inga 3, the world’s largest mega-dam, is set for construction on the Congo River. Critics argue that the the dam will displace thousands of people and wreck the ecosystem.

The Inga 3 project involves the construction of a large dam and a 4,800 megawatt hydro-electric plant spanning a channel of the vast Congo River, the world’s second largest by volume, at the Inga Falls. The 14 billion dollar project is being fast-tracked by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s government.

Inga 3
The first phase of Inga 3 © International Rivers

The Inga 3 Hydropower Project

According to the plans, the mega-dam will initially be built low (Inga 3 “Basse Chute” or low head) and progressively increased in height (“Haute Chute”) as the project proceeds to the next phase, eventually flooding 22,000 hectares of land as well as the original diversion canal. The outflow from the turbines will enter the Congo River about 30 kilometres downstream of the falls.

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The outflow from the turbines will enter the Congo River about 30 kilometres downstream of the falls © International Rivers

How it will affect local communities

California-based NGO International Rivers says Inga 3’s two components are expected expected to displace about 35,000 people – 10,000 for Inga 3 “Basse Chute” and 25,000 for Inga 3 “Haute Chute” – as well as greatly affect the river’s fish supplies.

Campaigners also argue that the power to generated by the hydro-power project will travel long distances to reach the DRC’s industrial mines and power lines will be stretched more than 5,000 kilometres all the way to South Africa passing through Zambia and Namibia. The result will be that the over 90 per cent of the DRC’s population that isn’t served by the nation’s limited grid will be bypassed.

Women cultivating vegetables along the downstream of Inga dam © Irine
Women cultivating vegetables along the downstream of Inga dam © Irine

Wrecking the environment

Other critics argue that the construction of the dam, which was first proposed in the early 1950s, will cause a decline in biodiversity, an increase in waterborne disease and violate national laws and international guidelines on dam construction.

Yet those who have supported the construction of the Inga 3 Dam maintain that it will bring economic development and sufficient energy to the impoverished African country. Inga 3 is the “only solution” to DR Congo’s energy problems and would even allow it to export electricity, says Bruno Kapandji, in charge of the agency for the development and promotion of Great Inga. “As Congolese we have no choice but to build Inga 3,” he reiterated.

 

Inga 3
Inga dam aerial view © International Rivers

Construction due to begin

The two rival consortiums, one led by China’s Three Gorges Corporation and the other by Spanish engineering giant Actividades de Construction y Services (ACS) have submitted their final bids to be selected as Grand Inga’s developers. Construction is likely to begin 2017.

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