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Inga 3 and Gran Inga complex hydropower project on Congo river, DRC

World Bank withdrew from what might become the largest hydro scheme in the world per generation capacity. A first step towards stopping ever more centralized energy control and promoting micro schemes


The hydropower exploitation of the Inga river is a complex power generation scheme, which comprises the Inga I and Inga II hydroelectric facilities (already been built), the Inga III, and finally the Grand Inga. The first two schemes were constructed respectively in 1972 and 1982 and provide today the largest amount of grid electricity, despite their poor maintenance conditions. The third one is still at exploration stage, as the first phase in the construction of the 5 dam complex Grand Inga hydropower scheme, located 225 km from Kinshasa, and 150 km upstream of the mouth of the Congo into the Atlantic Ocean. The dam complex has an expected generating capacity of 42,000 MW, with 52 turbines each with a capacity of 750 MW, which will make it the world’s largest dam in terms of hydro-electric production. This is more than Congo can use today and much of the energy will be exported. It would be developed in seven phases beginning with Inga 3, which itself would have two phases. According to International Rivers, its two components would displace about 35,000 people (10,000 for Inga 3 “Basse Chute” and 25,000 for Inga 3 “Haute Chute”) [1]. In addition to building the dam wall and Inga 3 hydropower plant by 2022, the project proposes a power line that would stretch more than 5,000km from the project to South Africa, through Zambia and Namibia.  The costs are estimated around $14 billion only for Inga 3 and between $100 and $150 billion for the entire Grand Inga complex.  Plans for the Inga dams date back to the '50s, when investors from France, Belgium, China, Brazil and also some African countries expressed interests. In 1972 and 1982, the Mobutu government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, then called Zaire finalized the construction of the first two schemes, Inga 1 and 2, with a total potential generation capacity of 2,132MW. Up to now, these two schemes have never operated to full capacity; according to International Rivers, in 2013 the dams were reported to have produced only 40% of their capacity.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Inga 3 and Gran Inga complex hydropower project on Congo river, DRC
Country:Congo, Dem. Rep.
Location of conflict:It will be located 225 km from Kinshasa, and 150 km upstream of the mouth of the Congo into the Atlantic Ocean
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Grand Inga scheme would have a generation capacity of 40,000MW and would be developed in seven phases beginning with Inga 3 (of 4,800MW), which itself would have two phases. Its two components would displace about 35,000 people (10,000 for Inga 3 “Basse Chute” and 25,000 for Inga 3 “Haute Chute”).

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project14,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:35,000 displaced people by Inga 3 (around 60,000 by Grand Inga)
Company names or state enterprises:Sinohydro Corporation Limited (Sinohydro) from China - The company is still a bidder in the project as of August 2016.
SNEL from Congo, Dem. Rep. - Bidder in the project, together with Sinohydro
Eurofinsa from Spain - Bidder in the project with ACS
AEE Power Holdings (AWW) from Spain - Operation & Develpoment
China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG ) from China
State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) from China
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (ESCAMP ,WB) from United States of America
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (USAID) from United States of America
African Development Bank (AfDB)
French Development Agency (AFD) from France
European Investment Bank (EIB)
Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) from South Africa
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Rivers
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsTransparency International, in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, ranked RDC as one of the world’s most corrupt countries and stated that the country suffered one of the most deadly conflicts of the twenty-first century.
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:There is a growing lobby within and outside the DRC that holds that a widely distributed series of small renewable energy projects is more sensible. International Rivers hold that "The potential for microhydro is there, [...] The recently published Renewable Energy Atlas for the DRC [3] clearly shows the tremendous potential renewable energy options for each of DRC’s 11 provinces. Such energy projects would be much cheaper and quicker to build, and would supply electricity to more communities and households spread through the country much sooner than Inga 3 ever could. The national grid network is antiquated and not extensive enough, but microhydro does not need to rely on it to begin supplying power locally. Unfortunately, there is insufficient effort to obtain financing for renewable energy projects."[2]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although the World Bank announced its withdrawal from the project, other founders are still in.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[3] Renewable Energy Atlas, created by UNDP, Netherlands Development Organization SNV and the Congolese Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity
[click to view]

[11] Global Energy Interconnection - Ch. Deng, F. Song, Zh. Chen, February 2020.
[click to view]

[1] International Rivers - The Inga 3 Hydropower Project
[click to view]

[2] Business Day 13th May 2016- Congo’s Grand Inga plan faces a watershed
[click to view]

[4] The Guardian, May 28th 2016 - Construction of world's largest dam in DR Congo could begin within months
[click to view]

[5] Al Monitor - Will the Democratic Republic of Congo be Egypt's newest ally in dam disputes?
[click to view]

[6] International Rivers - The Women of Inga: A Portrait of Resilience, June 2017.
[click to view]

[7] International Rivers - Unpacking the Economics of DRC's proposed Inga 3 dam, Tim Jones, June 2017.
[click to view]

[8] International Rivers - South Africa and DRC plan to press ahead with Inga 3 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, June 2020.
[click to view]

[9] Further Africa - Mark-Anthony Johnson, August 2020.
[click to view]

[10] The East African - Patrick Ilunga, June 2020.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

France 24, The controversial potential of the huge Inga Dams
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dennis Schüpf - EJAtlas Intern
Last update13/10/2020
Conflict ID:2381
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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