By Probe International

Probe International opposes World Bank financing for Congo dams

Grainne Ryder
Probe International
May 28, 2007

Probe International tells the World Bank to halt all loans to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Inga dam project until those affected by the dam are provided with the water, sanitation, electricity, health and education services promised to them more than 30 years ago.

May 28, 2007
Mr. Samy Watson
Executive Director for Canada
World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington, DC
Re: Proposed Loan to Democratic Republic of Congo for Inga Hydro Development
Dear Mr. Watson,
I am writing on behalf of Toronto-based Probe International to express our concerns about the proposed US$499 million loan package to the Democratic Republic of Congo for Inga hydro refurbishment and development.
The loan (oddly classified as a Regional and Domestic Power Markets Development Project) is intended to increase government revenue by boosting power exports from its two existing hydro stations at the Congo’s Inga rapids, and by enabling further hydro development at the Inga site.
The project documents provide no evidence that the loan will improve government finances as hoped. Nor is a cost recovery or revenue management plan presented, which strikes us as remarkable given the government’s track record of corruption, indebtedness, and financial mismanagement. The people in the project area, meanwhile, face eviction by a government known for violent repression and other human rights abuses.
The loan includes US$32 million to help the state power utility, SNEL, develop the massive-scale Inga 3 and Grand Inga hydro schemes, following the refurbishment of Inga 1 and Inga 2 dams. As for the thousands of people in the project area, they were told by the authorities last year they’d have to leave to make way for the new projects, and not to expect compensation or any other form of government assistance. Incredibly, the Bank’s “integrated safeguards datasheet” claims this resettlement of around six thousand people is not related to the project under consideration.
The project documents further incorrectly claim there are no outstanding social or environmental issues related to Inga 1 and 2. In fact, people resettled or otherwise negatively affected by the dams are still without basic water, sanitation, electricity, health and education services promised to them back in the 1970s and 1980s when Inga 1 and 2 were built, according to local sources. Many people lost their traditional farming and fishing livelihoods at that time while the promised long-term jobs at the Inga site never materialized. Villages less than one kilometre from the dam site still have no electricity. And as for health and education, most villagers cannot afford to pay the fees charged by the local clinic or send their children to school.
Clearly, the DRC government owes these people for their losses and for the services promised, however long overdue. In addition, project affected people are entitled to benefit from future project revenues, whether that means provision of basic services (i.e., electricity, water supply, local infrastructure, livelihood restoration) or other revenue-sharing mechanisms worked out with local communities.
As is, the Bank has failed to safeguard local people’s rights in the planning and development of the Inga site and turned a blind eye to the legacy of Inga 1 and 2. This is both reckless and indefensible.
We therefore urge you, as Canada’s representative to the World Bank, to vote against the proposed loan package until such time as:
  • a thorough social and environmental impact assessment of Inga 1 and 2 is conducted and subjected to an open and participatory review process in the DRC;
  • a compensation package is developed and approved by project affected communities; and
  • the rights of all people affected or threatened by Inga development are duly recognized by Inga promoters in the DRC, neighbouring countries, and at the World Bank.
So that we may keep concerned Canadians informed, we would appreciate it if you could let us know how you decide to vote on Canada’s behalf on May 29th and the reasons for your decision.

Grainne Ryder

Policy Director
Probe International
Energy Probe Research Foundation
225 Brunswick Ave
Toronto, Ontario

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