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Bumbuna Dam, Sierra Leone

In a territory rich in diamonds, gold, iron, rutile and bauxite, the dam is feeding the mining industry rather than providing electricity to the population. The expression ‘When Bumbuna is completed’ become for Sierra Leone’s people a way to say ‘never’.


In a territory rich in diamonds, gold, iron, rutile and bauxite, the ideation of Bumbuna dam was accompanied by a series of promises made by the politicians in power: jobs for everyone and free electricity, tourism and economic prosperity, monetary compensation. However, the expression ‘When Bumbuna is completed’ become for Sierra Leone’s people a way to say ‘never’[1, p.15].  The first Sierra Leone’s nation-wide hydropower inventory was financed by UNDP in 1970, which identified 22 potential sites. In 1982 the Italian Salini Costruttori (locally known as SalCost) began the construction works for a dam co-financed by the World Bank, the Government of Italy and the African Development Bank.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Bumbuna Dam, Sierra Leone
Country:Sierra Leone
State or province:Tonkolili District
Location of conflict:Bumbuna
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Aluminum/Bauxite
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The project, situated some 350 Km from Freetown, consists of a rockfill dam with a semi-outdoor power station, located on the right bank downstream at the toe, housing two Francis Turbine units with a total installed capacity of 50MW; two 9 m. dia. diversion tunnels; two bell-shaped spillways. [4]

Project area:392,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,100,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:6,146
Company names or state enterprises:Salini Impregilo from Italy
Relevant government actors:Italian Government (funding institution)
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
African Development Bank - Banque Africaine de Développement
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Social movements
International scientists
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The dam took 30 years to be completed and it serves the mining industries, while the vast majority of Sierra Leone's population lacks of electricity
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Mazzei, L., Scuppa, G. 2006. The Role of Communication in Large Infrastructure. The Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone. World Bank Working Paper 84. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank

[2] D’Angelo, 2014 Changing Environments, Occult Protests, and Social Memories in Sierra Leone. Social Evolution & History, Vol. 13 No. 2, September 2014 22–56

Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone and World Bank. Bumbuna Hydropower project: Resettlement Action Plan for the reservoir and dam area
[click to view]

[3] Awareness Times. 2008. President Ernest Koroma, Afsatu & Co. Overcome

[4] Politico SL Free Media Group (2020). Christiana Saccoh
[click to view]

[5] Sierra Leone Telegraph. 2020. Abdul Rahsid Thomas
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:AB - ICTA
Last update03/09/2020
Conflict ID:2839
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