Probe Alerts

Probe Alert September 2000

Probe Alert Fall 2000
September 1, 2000

CIDA pays for Manantali’s hydro retrofit that benefits Quebec companies.

Probe Alert reported in 1998 that CIDA, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank were financing a new phase of the Manantali dam, one of two dams built in the Senegal River Valley in the late 1980s that have brought economic ruin, malnutrition, and disease to hundreds of thousands of West African farmers.

Originally designed to generate electricity and provide irrigation, the Manantali dam deprived downstream farmers of the floodwaters needed for growing sorghum and keeping pastures fertile. Once-abundant fisheries have disappeared and the valley is now infested with water-borne diseases.

Although dam authorities now release an artificial two-week flood, this only reaches about one-third of the area traditionally flooded.

Since 1997, donor governments, including Canada, have been trying to revive Manantali as a 200-megawatt power project at a cost of US$445 million – that’s roughly three times the capital cost of high-efficiency, gas-fired turbines that could reliably deliver power to consumers without the need for long-distance transmission.

The former minister responsible for CIDA, Diane Marleau, assured Probe International that the retrofitted hydro dam will be managed to protect the “health and traditional interests” of downstream farmers. But the World Bank’s own documents reveal that the dam will further deprive downstream farmers of the floodwaters they need. The Norwegian government has refused to fund this phase of Manantali because of the dam’s unmitigated health impacts. Germany’s former minister of development assistance called it “an act of economic and environmental nonsense.”

Despite these concerns, the Canadian government views Manantali as an opportunity for Quebec companies. Based on documents obtained by Probe International using the Access to Information Act, CIDA has paid out $19,790,000 for turbines and alternators supplied by Sulzer Canada of Pointe-Claire, Que., $6,847,630 for installation supervision by Tecsult International of Montreal, and an undisclosed amount for a three-year fisheries study by Roche International of Sainte-Foy, Que.

Earlier this year, Probe also learned that one-third of the dam’s output will go to Senegal’s electric utility, Senelec, which is now partly owned by Hydro Quebec.


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