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Damming Cameroon

D 10 mars 2018     H 04:55     A     C 0 messages

Cameroon’s government is touting the construction of three new dams along the Sanaga River and its tributaries as a way to increase hydro-electric generation as part of the country’s ambitious plans to become an emerging economy by 2035. The river is the country’s primary water source and already has two dams downstream from the new sites. The forest along the confluence of the Lom and Pangar rivers is being cleared to prepare the second phase of construction of the Lom Pangar dam, a government hydropower project that will produce 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity upon completion. Forest communities complain that their needs are being disregarded as Cameroon’s government pushes to bring electricity to more of the country. There is growing anger among forest communities at large-scale development projects that displace villagers and cause hardship.

Farmer Gregore Nvogo vented his anger at the news of the construction of more dams along the Sanaga River. "We will continue to lose our forest, our land, and our fishing opportunities," he said. "The Lom Pangar dam has virtually submerged our forest and land for agriculture, pushing us to cultivate far away." Nvogo said that villagers can no longer find animals to hunt nearby, nor fish close to the village. "Where do we go now ?" he asked.
Local community leaders say that it is difficult for them to monitor the projects’ impact on the forest and the indigenous population because they are not included in discussions about those issues. "Forest that used to serve as an important safety net for the poor rural community is no longer under our control," said Paul Gbalene, the traditional chief of Djoameodjoh, one of the forest communities in the East affected by the dam projects.
Environmentalists are sounding alarms too. "If all these projects take place, you would have a good chunk of the forest and wildlife in the Congo Basin disappearing," said Manfred Epanda, the African Wildlife Foundation’s Cameroon coordinator.

"We have observed a surge in investment activities in forest areas with the increased presence of Chinese and other foreign business operators in Cameroon, and this is disturbing because the rights of these forest communities are constantly violated, leading to clashes," says Bernard Njonga, coordinator of Support Service for Local Development Initiatives (SAILD), a Cameroon-based non-governmental organisation.

Environmentalists say it is unwise to concentrate a series of dams along the river. Augustine Njamnshi, of the Cameroon chapter of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, said that increasing Cameroon’s dependence on hydroelectric power will put the country at risk of economic breakdown if drought hits the river basin in the future. "This will be tantamount to an economic suicide leap," Njamnshi said. He said the government would be better advised to pursue a wider range of renewable energy sources. "With an abundance of sunlight, Cameroon just needs the political will to turn its energy deficiency into energy surplus, accessible not only to the remote parts of the country but also to neighbouring countries," he said.

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