In a strange twist, the World Bank's biggest ever hydropower project is now set to serve the interests of mining corporations rather than the people of DR Congo
International Rivers has learned that the World Bank has abruptly decided to develop the Inga 3 Dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a private investment through the International Finance Corporation, rather than as a public sector project.
The Bank withdrew a US$73 million IDA grant for the project, which was scheduled for approval by its board of directors on February 11.
The move will compound the problems of the World Bank's biggest ever hydropower project, and ensure the project will serve the interests of mining corporations rather than the DRC population.
According to internal sources, the IFC will support a private investment in the Inga 3 Dam by Chinese companies in a deal that was brokered by the administrator of USAID. International Rivers decries the World Bank's decision for the following reasons:
The International Finance Corporation has a poor social and environmental track record. In recent months, the Corporation was admonished by its own ombudsperson for serious abuses in the Tata Mundra thermal power plant in India and the Dinant palm oil project in Honduras.
The IFC does not have the safeguard policies or the expertise to ensure proper social and environmental impact assessments for this huge project. Handing the Inga 3 Dam over to the private sector will lead to further environmental shortcuts and compromises in the project.
The Inga 3 Dam would generate electricity for mining companies and the South Africa market, not for the more than 90% of the DRC population with no access to electricity.
Expanding energy access for the Congolese population is a development priority, but is not of commercial interest to investors. Handing the project over to a private investor will make it even less likely the country's poor people would benefit from the project.
The IFC deal was arranged behind closed doors without any accountability to the DRC parliament, the World Bank's board of directors, or civil society.
It was reportedly brokered in a personal initiative by USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, just weeks after the US Congress instructed the US government to oppose supporting large hydropower projects such as Inga 3 through international financial institutions.
Non-transparent deals such as the Inga 3 Dam are the best recipe for deepening corruption in the DRC. They will not strengthen the public accountability that is necessary for social and economic development.
Working with civil society partners in the DRC, International Rivers will continue to oppose destructive megaprojects such as the Inga 3 Dam, and will promote clean local energy solutions that are more effective at reducing poverty and protecting the environment.
Peter Bosshard, Policy Director, International Rivers, (o) +1 510 848 1155 ext. 320, (m) +1 510 213 1438, email@example.com, @PeterBosshard