Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Democratic Republic of the Congo mega-dam to be funded by private sector, groups charge

Carey L. Biron in IPS: Watchdog groups here [in Washington] are warning that a deal has been struck that would see Chinese investors fund a massive, contentious dam on the Congo River, the first phase of a project that could eventually be the largest hydroelectric project in the world.

Discussions around the Inga III dam proposal, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have been taking place in some form for decades. They have picked up speed over the past year, however, under the auspices of the World Bank, the Washington-based development funder.

On Tuesday, the bank’s board of directors were to have voted on an initial 73-million-dollar loan for the project, to be offered through the International Development Association (IDA), the institution’s programme for the world’s poorest countries. Last week, however, that vote was abruptly postponed.

Now, civil society groups are reporting that the project may be going forward instead under the World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with the backing of Chinese investors. Yet critics, who have long worried about the local social and environmental impact of the Inga project, worry that greater involvement by the private sector will result in skewed prioritisation of beneficiaries.

“Handing the project over to a private investor will make it even less likely the country’s poor people would benefit from the project,” Peter Bosshard, policy director for International Rivers, an advocacy group, said Monday....

The Inga Falls on the Congo River in the DRC, shot by Alaindg, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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