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Mékin Hydroelectric Dam, Cameroon


Description:

The construction of the Mékin Dam, in the south region of Cameroon, was completed in april 2018, after seven years of works, and it has already started the test to inject energy into the distribution system. The Dam is located after the confluence of the rivers Dja, Lobo and Sabe, in the north border of the Dja Natural Reserve, declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1987.

The objective is to supply energy to the surrounding towns of the Dja and Lobo department and the tests have started with the communities of Meyomessala and Sangmélima . The plant is supposed to have a production capacity of 15 megawatts and a transmission line of 33 kilométres to supply electricity in eight communes.

The project has been celebrated by some sectors of the Cameroonian population as the energetic deficit is a constant in the country and light cuts are usual. Nevertheless, there has been an important controversy because of the consequences that the construction will have on the surrounding area.

In 2015, a joint World Heritage Centre and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) monitoring mission was carried out  in the area, finding that “the construction of the Mékin dam represents a major threat to wildlife and habitat within the property”. [1] According to the report, construction work was almost completed but any measures to mitigate the negative impact had been undertaken, as the Hydro Mékin Society didn´t have an environmental expert in its team to coordinate the implementation of the PGES of the project”.

The joint mission draw some recommendations that were only partly taken into consideration by the company. In 2018, a new research carried out by FCTV Cameroon (Cameroonian Foundation Living Land- Foundation Camerounaise Terre Vivante) with the support of  Global Forest Watch in the area of  Bengbis showed that the creation of the dam has supposed the flood of severan hectares of forest, with a high impact on the populations and the environment.

“Even in the case of situations already expected by the Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) in order to avoid, eliminate or reduce these impacts, we have to underline that there has been a considerable delay in the effectiveness of the application of these steps” (...) Between the situations that haven’t been addressed, they found:

-The disappearance of harvests  (tomato, legumes) and medicinal plants. -The disappearance of traditional fish, specially that carried out by women, because of the increase of the flow. -The loss of resources from the fruit trees, like the wild mango, and the destruction of cacao and manioc in the flooded area. -The loss of the right of use over the land, affecting especially to women. -The augmentation of mosquitos and the malaria rate. -The difficulties of movement for the population because of the flood of the bridges over the Dja and the Lobo, what makes impossible for them to sell their farming products on the Bengbis and Meyomessala markets.

Besides all this, in June 2017, the town of Bengbis suffered a big flood due to the dam: the town was completely isolated due to the flood of the two bridges and the roads were impracticable. Now, the government has to rebuild the two bridges and some villagers will have to be relocated. 

All this has made even more difficult the life for the communities near the Dam. This, united to the already bad conditions of life, has led populations over poaching, what it is a risk for the Dja Reserve.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Mékin Hydroelectric Dam, Cameroon
Country:Cameroon
State or province:Région du Sud
(municipality or city/town)Meyomesala
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Dams and water distribution conflicts
Deforestation
Specific commodities:Electricity
Water

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The project has been developed by the China National Electric Engineering Corporation (CNEEC) for Hydro Mékin Society. The original cost of the project was about 25 billions FCfa -financed by China- but some sources said that the real cost has been of nearly 89 billions [5] http://www.camer.be/65272/11:1/cameroun-bon-a-savoir-gestion-des-projets-cameroon.html

The main dam and auxiliary dam constitute a reservoir of approximately 11.010 km2 with a volume of about 2×108m3.

The objective is to supply electricity for the Dja and Lobo department by a plant with a production capacity of 15 megawatts and an energy distribution line of 33 kilometres.

Level of Investment:44,283,782
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises: China National Electric Engineering Corporation (CNEEC) from China
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Public Works
International and Finance InstitutionsChina Exim Bank from China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Foundation Camerounaise Terre Vivante: https://fctvcameroon.org

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature https://www.iucn.org/

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
World Heritage Centre (Unesco)
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsThreat to Dja natural reserve
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: displacement
Other socio-economic impactsThe loss of livelihood for residents can potentially lead to increase poaching as the only way of surviving in the Dja Reserve.

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:FCTV (Foundation Camerounaise de la Terre Vivante) requires to the Government and the entreprise that all the impacts -already evaluated in the ESMP- are immediately addressed in order to get that the project respect the people of the area.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:It is not an environmental justice success because the impacts haven´t been correctly adressed. Nevertheless, these probable impacts were identified in the Environmental and Social Management Plan done by the enterprise. That is a first step, but it hasn´t been completed.

Sources and Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Dja Faunal Reserve. Factors affecting the property in 2018
http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3761

Rapport de mission de suivi reactif conjointe UNESCO/ UICN à la reserve de faune du Dja.
file:///C:/Users/auror/Downloads/RAPPORT%20FINAL%20MISSION%20SUIVI%20REACTIF%20DJA%202015_FINAL.pdf

L'état réagit face aux inondations du barrage hydro électrique de Mékin
http://afrique.le360.ma/autres-pays/societe/2017/07/05/13146-cameroun-letat-reagit-face-aux-inondations-du-barrage-hydro-electrique-de-mekin-13146

Cameroun: Panique a la localité de Bengbis Sud, inondée para l'eau du Barrage de Mekin.
http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroun-panique-la-localite-de-bengbis-sud-inondee-par-leau-du-barrage-de-mekin-293691.html

Bon a savoir gestion des projets
http://www.camer.be/65272/11:1/cameroun-bon-a-savoir-gestion-des-projets-cameroon.html

Le Barrage hydroélectrique de Mekin bientôt operationnel en depit des larmes des riverains
https://fctvcameroon.org/2018/04/29/le-barrage-hydroelectrique-de-mekin-bientot-operationnel-en-depit-des-larmes-des-riverains/

Other documents

Mekin Hydroelectric Dam Source: UNESCO / UICN
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/barrage_de_mekin.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Aurora M. Alcojor, Carro de Combate.
Last update07/05/2019

Images

 

Mekin Hydroelectric Dam

Source: UNESCO / UICN