1005 HYDRO-POLITICS AND HYDRO POWER: THE CENTURY LONG SAGA OF THE GRAND INGA PROJECT
Keith Gottschalk, Fulbright Scholar and former head of the Political Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape
A century ago engineers proposed building the world’s largest hydro-electric power station on the Inga rapids of the Congo River. The scheme would have generated 40 000 megawatts, making it the largest hydro-electric power generating facility on Earth. Importing just 9 540 MW from the Congo would make new nuclear power stations in South Africa unnecessary.
Hundreds of Congolese were forcibly removed at the start of this project, but half a century passed before two precursor dams were built. A third of a century later, presidents Zuma and Kabila signed three treaties to generate more electricity. This triggered an environmentalist pushback, with green NGOs and activists campaigning against any new large dams. Political battles intervened between Eskom’s nuclear division and its renewable energy division. This lecture will discuss the saga of the Grand Inga dam and provide updates on the latest skirmishes.