Banks meet over $80 billion Congo dam plan

Seven African governments and the world's largest banks and construction firms are meeting in London to plan a US$80 billion dam project on the Congo River, which its supporters say could double the amount of electricity available on the continent, the Guardian reported on Monday.

Generating twice as much electricity as the Three Gorges project in China, governments and banks expect the dam to export electricity across the continent and beyond. But environmental groups and local people warned the power could bypass the most needy and end up consigning enormous debts to one of the world’s poorest countries.

The Grand Inga project’s prospects of being completed by 2022 have risen significantly in the last year, the report said, as countries, banks and companies have found they can earn high returns from the global carbon offset market and UN climate change credits. But advocacy groups say the plans ignore local people and could leave Congo with massive debts rather than a sustainable industrial base.

"The project would be a magnet for corruption in one of the world’s least stable regions," Terri Hathaway, Africa campaigner with International Rivers, was quoted as saying. "Inga will centralise a vast store of the region’s electric and financial power, a development model that can foster tensions and civil wars."

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