Visit to Grand Inga Project Site, DRC, April 7-14, 2008
Legacy of Inga 1 and 2
According to Mr. Simon Malanda, representative of the displaced communities, the Inga site was inhabited by families from six clans who were forced to leave the site in 1920 under Belgian colonial orders. However, the project did not move forward for more than 30 years. In 1954-55, the Belgian authorities undertook a population survey of the site in order to know if people were still living in, or had returned to, the site.
Mr. Malanda’s uncle, Mr. Sona Ferdinand, was recruited by the project planners to assist in the survey. After the survey was completed, Mr. Ferdinand led a community effort seeking compensation for the displaced communities. In 1958, an agreement with the Belgian colonial authorities was reached for a lump sum of 781,000 Belgian francs to be paid to displaced communities. This was not paid prior to independence, and since independence neither the Congolese government nor SNEL, the state utility which oversees Inga, has paid. The communities report having never received any financial or in-kind compensation.
When Mr. Malanda’s uncle died, Mr. Malanda took over efforts to have the community claim fulfilled. Several correspondences with SNEL dating back to 1970 show a history of discussion regarding the claim and desire by the communities to ensure that the compensation was paid and that a revenue sharing scheme was put in place. In the 1970s, SNEL wrote to Mr. Malanda that the claim would be resolved. The communities twice engaged a lawyer on their behalf. In 2006, SNEL undertook a one-day investigation of the situation (the ABIBA Commission?), but no follow up was done to the knowledge of the communities. In 2008, the communities took their claim to the Provincial governor and to the national parliament to again seek government intervention and a resolution. Mr. Malunda has also submitted the renewed claim to government officials, SNEL, and MP Ngoma (who is invited to the London meeting).
Mr. Malanda and Mr. Sona both wrote repeatedly to SNEL and government authorities in order to have the community claim fulfilled. Several correspondences with SNEL dating back to 1970 show a history of discussion regarding the claim and desire by the communities to ensure that the compensation was paid and that a revenue sharing scheme would put in place. In 1970, SNEL wrote to Mr. Malanda that the claim would be included in the 1971 budget. The communities twice engaged a lawyer on their behalf, in 1975 and more recently in 2006. In 1975, a lawyer for the communities submitted their claim to the high court in Kinshasa, but SNEL persuaded the lawyer to withdraw the claim and settle out of court. But the issue remained unsettled. In 2006, SNEL undertook a one-day investigation of the situation (the ABIBA Commission?), but no follow up was done to the knowledge of the communities. In 1994, the communities wrote seeking connection to the electricity grid. But to this day, none of the villages, including Manzi located just 3 kilometers from the grid, are electrified. In 2008, Mr. Malanda took the communities’ claim to the Provincial governor and to the national parliament to again seek government intervention and a resolution. Mr. Malunda has also submitted the renewed claim to government officials, SNEL, and MP Ngoma (who is invited to the London meeting).
The 6 clans were absorbed into 12 pre-existing villages and one new village (Lubwaku, meaning “thrown away”) around the area. In addition, Camp Kinshasa, the former workers’ camp, is now inhabited by a mix of displaced families from the 6 clans, and by former project workers or children of former workers. This camp is located on land taken by SNEL for the projects, and in 2006, the population, an estimated 9,000 people, were told to abandon the camp. However, after intervention from local and international NGOs, the authorities indefinitely ceased their order to communities.
There is a committee of the 6 clans and another committee which embodies the 6 clans plus the community of former workers now settled at Camp Kinshasa. The population of Camp Kinshasa has grown over the years. However, the residents are not allowed to build on the site, so 3-4 families are cramped together in each house. There are no sanitation facilities, so residents use the boundaries of the camp to relieve themselves. There is only one water pump connected to the camp, but this is connected by a pipe to the SNEL personnel community located nearby, and the water pressure is too low during the day, allowing the community to draw water only at night time. During the day, residents must walk to the nearest stream. Camp Kinshasa is the only area where displaced communities have access to electricity.
The claims of the communities include the following:
1. Payment for the displacement compensation (the amount would need to be negotiated to consider that the original amount was probably inadequate at the time, inflation, rise in property value, and possibly a penalty for not paying compensation at the original time)
2. Preferential access to jobs for community members
3. Electrification of all affected communities (this is complicated by more resettlement)
4. A benefit sharing mechanism, namely royalties, which would provide an annual dividend to the communities
5. a “modern city” with schools, health care, roads, internet and other infrastructure. This could also be called a comprehensive community development plan.
Inga 1, 2 Rehabilitation
The Inga 1 and Inga 2 dams have been neglected and starved of maintenance budgets for decades. According to our tour guide at the Inga dams, one turbine of Inga 1 was previously rehabilitated, but he was otherwise unaware of any other major rehabilitation efforts. Only 3(?) of Inga 1’s 6 turbines are working, and only 4 of Inga 2’s 8 turbines are working.
Financing for physical rehabilitation of Inga 1 and Inga 2 are currently underway under two projects:
1. The PMEDE, jointly funded by the World Bank (300 million, approved May 2007), the AfDB (50 million, approved April 2008), and EIB (50 million, to be approved in May 2008). According to an AfDB official, the part of the project to expand the distribution network in Kinshasa remains unfunded. This was the only part of the project to increase access to electricity in DRC. According to our Inga tour guide, rehab work has not yet started.
2. A public-private partnership between SNEL and MagEnergy to rehabilitate 4 turbines at Inga 2. According to our Inga guide, only 1 turbine has been rehabilitated to date. During my visit, a newspaper announcement from MagEnergy was seeking partners to rehabilitate 2 more turbines.
Inga 3, Grand Inga
The government has reported that Inga 3 will begin in 2009, causing alarm for local NGOs. However, only the pre-feasibility study is complete. The further development of Inga (Inga 3 or Grand Inga, or both) is tied to an aggressive industrial development plan to attract energy intensive users to the Bas-Congo province. Pasteur Bakulu is highly concerned this will result in land giveaways, forced displacement and other negative impacts.
Inga 3 will draw from the same reservoir as Inga 1 and 2, and should not inundate the local communities (but must confirm this with an EIA). Grand Inga would inundate the Bundi valley alongside the existing reservoir. It seems that this is where the villages are located (we are trying to confirm their location with GPS units) and it is also a fertile valley where numerous farms are located. It’s not clear at which stage the government would initiate displacement.
According to an official at the Rural Electrification Department of SNEL, the department currently receives an annual program budget of $600,000. Nearly 40 million of Congo’s estimated 57.5 million people live in rural areas, and this works out to an annual investment of less than 2 US cents per person.