14 June 2013
The World Bank has proposed funding towards construction of a long-awaited hydropower station on the Congo River which reports say could provide 40% of Africa’s current electricity consumption.
The Grand Inga scheme would eventually have a capacity of 40GW- twice that of today’s largest hydro project, the Three Gorges Dam in China, and the equivalent of nearly 30 modern nuclear reactors, according to Smartplanet.com.
Two existing plants named Inga 1 and Inga 2 were built over 30 years ago along the Inga Falls, the world’s largest waterfall by volume located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but currently produce less than one gigawatt between them.
Since then, civil war, politics and costs have delayed harnessing the full potential of the Congo but last month a World Bank spokesperson confirmed it would provide $50m "for project preparation and development," subject to board approval.
Inga 1 and Inga 2 currently produce less than 1GW. (Credit: Alaindg/Wikimedia)
Inga 3, stage one of the ambitious six-stage Granda Inga project, would generate 4.8GW and cost $20bn, according to The Guardian newspaper, whcih also stated construction could start in 2015.
South Africa has already committed to buying half of Inga 3’s output, with the remaining output most likely supplying mining operations in the DRC instead of nearby homes, causing an outcry from anti-dam organisations such as International Rivers.
According to reports, Grand Inga would have minimum impact on the environment because the main flow from the Congo won’t be disturbed: water would be instead diverted into a new channel across which a mile-long dam could be built.
China, Spain, and Korea have expressed interest in the scheme.