Proposed dam would meet industrial energy needs, rather than those of rural poor, and would flood 30,000 hectares of tropical hardwood forest, threaten biodiversity, and submerge part of oil pipeline.
BIC is working with civil society groups in Cameroon to encourage a transparent, participatory approach to energy sector development in Cameroon, that prioritizes the needs of the poor and protection of the environment. BIC is monitoring the involvement of the World Bank in the Lom Pangar project and energy sector development in Cameroon, and working to ensure that concerns and recommendations of civil society organizations reach decision-makers. BIC staff visited the Lom Pangar site in October 2005 and co-authored a report on the project that was issued in June 2006.
The proposed Lom Pangar hydroelectric project involves the construction of a reservoir dam in Cameroon’s East Province, 4 kilometers from the confluence of the Lom and Pangar rivers on the Sanaga River basin. The 45 meter-high dam will create a reservoir covering an estimated 610 square kilometers. This dam would constitute the fourth hydropower installation on the Sanaga basin, designed to regulate the river’s flow in order to increase energy outputs from downstream dams. The Government of Cameroon claims that the project, which will flood village settlements, farm and grazing land, portions of the Deng Deng hardwood forest reserve and biodiversity hotspot, as well as sections of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, is necessary to resolve the country’s energy shortage.
While there is no dispute that Cameroon is in need of additional sources of energy (only about 5% of households have access to electricity), the question of how that energy should be generated and who should benefit from it has yet to be resolved. Lom Pangar was not selected on the basis of any comprehensive national energy demand and options assessments. The country’s largest electricity consumer, ALUCAM, an aluminum smelting company jointly owned by the Government of Cameroon and the Canadian company Alcan, has stated that its future in Cameroon hinges on the construction of Lom Pangar. ALUCAM intends to triple its production and requires a massive increase in energy supply to do so. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Cameroonian public would benefit either from the power generated by the Lom Pangar dam or from the subsequent expansion of the aluminum industry.
A host of concerns surround the Lom Pangar project, including a lack of transparency and insufficient opportunity for public participation in the preparation of the project and evaluation of its impacts, a lack of proper energy sector planning before project selection, risks to the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline (a portion of which will be submerged by the Lom Pangar reservoir), threats to the protection of the Deng Deng forest reserve, and dubious development benefits for the affected population. Despite these issues and impacts, the Government of Cameroon appears eager to move forward with the project and is seeking financing for the construction of the dam and associated investments.
The role of the World Bank
While the World Bank has not yet been asked to finance the Lom Pangar dam, the Government of Cameroon requested that the World Bank review the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project to determine whether it aligns with World Bank environmental and social policies. The Bank agreed to carry out this review, but it has not disclosed its comments on the project’s EIA, which were submitted to the government in December 2005.
The World Bank has an interest in the Lom Pangar dam, both as part of its ongoing energy sector dialogue with Cameroon and in the context of its continued responsibility for monitoring the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, which would be impacted by the dam’s construction.
Lack of transparency and public input
Despite the government’s claims that Lom Pangar is being developed in compliance with the World Commission on Dams, there has been a lack of opportunity for public input into the selection and design of the project. No energy sector strategy, cumulative impact assessment, or analysis of the costs and benefits for Cameroon of expanding the aluminum sector, has been publicly disclosed.
The Lom Pangar dam is the first major infrastructure project to be subject to Cameroon’s new environmental impact legislation (passed in February 2005). As such, it is exposing a number of weaknesses in the new process. There does not appear to be a consistent understanding within government about the timeline for public comment and government review of EIAs, established in the decree. The public was provided with less than 60 days to respond to the EIA documents (posted on December 31, 2005) before public hearings, and were not provided with the comments of the World Bank or the Panel of Experts on the EIA. According to the new legislation, EIAs are validated on a non-objection basis; if the Ministry of Environment fails to provide its decision within the requisite period, the EIA is automatically deemed valid. This procedure makes it possible for high-impact projects to proceed without proper due diligence.
Poor energy sector planning
The World Commission on Dams recommends that the construction of large dams should be defined in a National Energy Policy Plan that is formulated through an open and participatory process in which alternate sources of energy are to be explored. In Cameroon, however, no such process was undertaken before the selection and preparation of Lom Pangar. The harms experienced by local communities and ecosystems affected by other dams in Cameroon, and the vulnerability of the country’s already hydro-dependent energy supply to climate change-induced drought, must be considered in the decision to support any future hydroelectric project.
Dubious development benefits for local population
After their negative experience with the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, communities in the East Province are wary of another large infrastructure project and the promises of development that accompany it. According to many local residents, the pipeline left broken promises and damage to local property and resources in its wake. Although there are fears that Lom Pangar will do the same, the proposed dam is being presented as the only development option for the East Province and thus the only possibility for much-needed improvements such as infrastructure and basic social services. Given the magnitude and urgency of the needs, the local population cannot easily turn down an offer of infrastructure development, even if it is accompanied by the environmental and social costs that the dam’s construction will incur.
Risks associated with the Chad-Cameroon pipeline and the Deng Deng forest
As currently designed, the reservoir created by the Lom Pangar dam will flood at least several kilometers of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, which traverses the East Province on its way to Cameroon’s Atlantic coast. In addition to compounding the social harms that accompanied the construction of the pipeline, the development of the Lom Pangar dam could pose new safety risks and further disrupt local communities and ecosystems, since the portions of the pipeline in areas that will be submerged will have to be reinforced or re-routed. The cumulative impacts of the interaction of these two large infrastructure developments are not fully understood.
Furthermore, Lom Pangar’s likely impacts on the Deng Deng call into question promises made by the World Bank, the Government of Cameroon, and other pipeline supporters, that the area’s biodiversity would be protected. The Deng Deng Forest (part of the greater Guinea Forest) not only has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in Africa, it is also one of the last remaining hardwood forests on the continent. For these reasons, an effort was made to protect the forest from direct and indirect impacts of the pipeline. Under pressure from local and international civil society activists, proponents of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, including the World Bank, took measures designed to reduce damage to forests in eastern Cameroon, rerouting the pipeline around a large portion of the Deng Deng. Lom Pangar’s construction could undo that work by flooding of portions of the forest and by creating new access to forested areas, while inducing a heavy influx of people into the project area. Exposing protected areas to these threats will result in a serious violation of trust for all those involved in ensuring that environmental safeguards were respected for the Chad–Cameroon Pipeline.
Official DocumentsWorld Bank comments on Lom Pangar EIA (Français), December 16, 2005 (Acrobat pdf 69 KB) (World Bank website)
Matrix of World Bank comments on Lom Pangar EIA, December 16, 2005 (Acrobat pdf 318 KB) (World Bank website)
EIA studies on Lom Pangar (IUCN website)
Environmental Study of the Lom Pangar Dam, October 2005, IUCN website (Acrobat pdf 11.7 MB)
Civil Society AnalysisLom Pangar: 10 questions autour d’un barrage, June 8, 2006, Journal Babangida (CED Cameroon website)
In Whose Interest? The Lom Pangar Dam and Energy Sector Development in Cameroon, June 2006 (Acrobat pdf 967 kb)
Drought Could Cripple Cameroon’s Hydro-Heavy Energy Sector, Report from the International Rivers Network, May 2005 (Acrobat pdf 128 KB)
CorrespondenceOpen Letter to the Government of Cameroon, November 15, 2005 (GVC website)
Open Letter to the Government of Cameroon (Francais), November 15, 2005 (Acrobat pdf 124 KB) (IRN website)
PressALCAN affirm support to ALUCAM extension project by Lukong Pius Nyuylime, Cameroon Tribune, November 1, 2006 (Cameroon Tribune website)
Cameroon orders environmental study of dam project Afrol News, April 29, 2006 (Afrol website)
ENERGY-CAMEROON: A Dam Good Idea, or a Bad One? by Sylvestre Tetchiada, Inter-Press News Agency, January 30, 2006 (IPS website)
ENERGIE-CAMEROUN: Un projet de barrage sur le Lom ne satisfait pas les ONG (Francais), by Sylvestre Tetchiada, Inter-Press Service News Agency, January 27, 2006 (IPS website)
Déficit énergétique au Cameroun : Lom-Pangar, le barrage à problèmes (Francais), by François Bimogo, Cameroun Online, January 5, 2006 (Cameroun Online website)
Lom-Pangar Dam Project: NGOs Decry Lack Of Transparency, by Nformi Sonde Kinsai, The Post Online (Cameroon), January 2006 (The Post Online website)
ALUCAM to Increase Production Capacity, Cameroon Tribune, October 27, 2005 (Cameroon-Info website)
Cameroon orders environmental study of dam project, Afrol News, April 29, 2004 (Afrol website)
Power privatisation in Cameroon, the Chad oil pipeline and skewed development, by Akong Charles Ndika, Pambazuka News, February 19, 2004 (Pambazuka website)
Useful WebpagesGlobal Village Cameroon – Lom Pangar page
Lom-Pangar Panel of Experts presentation (UICN-BRAC website)
International Rivers Network – Lom Pangar Page
World Bank- Ali Mahmoud Khadr, Country Director
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433, USA
Tel: +1-202-458-7860 Akhadr@worldbank.org
World Bank- Paulo F. Gomes, Executive Director
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433, USA
Tel: +1-202-458-1153 firstname.lastname@example.org
World Bank- Markus Repnik, Country Office Manager
World Bank Street 1. 792,
No. 186, Yaounde, Cameroon
Tel: +237-220-16-30, Fax: +237-222-07-22
ALUCAM- André Victorin Atangana, Directeur Chargé de Missions auprès du Directeur Général
Tel: +237-346-43-11, Mobile: +237-999-89-93
Fax: +237-342-91-58 / 346-47-33
BP 54 – Edea, Cameroun
Alcan- Jacques Dubuc, Directeur Communication et Affaires Publiques
Global Village Cameroon (GVC) – Emmanuel Wirsiy and Dieudonne Thang
Le Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement (CED) – Samuel Nguiffo
BP 3430, Yaoundé, Cameroun
Tel: +237-222-38-57, Fax: +237-222-38-59