The African Development Bank (AfDB) is under pressure from environmental lobby groups to withdraw support for the Grand Inga hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says a Business Day report.

Lobby groups say that the $80bn project – aimed at generating 40 000MW of power on the Congo River – is overpriced and susceptible to corruption and other risks.

The project – driven by three construction giants from Spain and China and expected to be funded by the AfDB and the European Investment Bank, among others – has been embroiled in controversy since it was announced. This led to the withdrawal of the World Bank as a potential sponsor in 2016.

In 2014, the SA Government approved the ratification of the Grand Inga Treaty with the DRC, which would entail SA buying more than half the power generated by the first phase of one of the world’s biggest hydroelectric projects.

In the DRC, the project will displace 30 000 people in communities living along the Congo River, separating local farmers and fishermen from the river that sustains their livelihoods, but with no tangible benefit for the Congolese people.

The vast majority of the power generated from the dam will supply international corporations and the DRC’s biggest buyer, SA.

Researchers at the University of California published a recent modelling study which estimated that the project will cost SA consumers R4.3bn a year.

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