Concerns about Mphanda Nkuwa Dam; Letter to Eskom

Friday, February 20, 2004

February 20, 2004

Trevor Courtney
Strategic Water Planning Manager
South Africa

Dear Mr. Trevor Courtney,

Gustavo Manez informed me that you were interested in knowing more about our concerns about the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam.

Livaningo has been monitoring the Mphanda Nkuwa process for the last three years and trying to raise questions so that this dam does not result in a bad deal economically, socially and environmentally for our country. Along with other civil society groups and citizens from Mozambique, we believe the project should follow WCD principles and strategies: with comprehensive needs and options assessment, full impact assessment and public participation at all stages of the project.

In general terms, our main concerns about Mphanda Nkuwa are the following:

1. No options assessment was performed

The decision to go ahead with Mphanda Nkuwa was taken without considering alternative energy sources. This process is therefore not based on any rational planning regarding the development of a country’s power sector.The studies performed so far have also failed to analyse whether other methods exist to provide electricity at a lower cost for Mozambicans, 95% of whom do not have access to electricity. Even if the project is strictly for export, South African may not be in need of Mphanda Nkuwa’s electricity if the Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor technology goes ahead and is able to provide cheaper energy.

2. Public participation and access to information

The Feasibility Study commissioned by UTIP claims that the Mphanda Nkuwa process has been done following WCD recommendations and principles with regards to public participation. Nevertheless those who will be affected by the dam, who live in the 500 km strip from Mphanda Nkuwa to the ocean, do not know about its impacts, and are thus unable to give their informed consent. Public participation does not mean only public meetings in the urban areas, it should reach those whose livelihoods will be affected.

In any case, public participation as described by the WCD goes beyond informational meetings in urban areas.The Mphanda Nkuwa process so far has been marred by a consistent lack of access to information. As a consequence, Livaningo sent a petition based on the Mozambican Petitions Act to the Assembleia da Republica (our Parliament) to request the release of various documents related to the Feasibility Study, which we had previously been denied access to by UTIP.

3. Lack of assessment of the true impacts of the dam

The dam will have impacts on the shrimp fishing industry, which represents 25% of Mozambique’s exports. Shrimp fishing may soon come to an end if environmental flow releases are not instituted. The studies made so far do not consider these important losses.
In addition the Dam will impact the subsistence agriculture of an indeterminate number of farming populations downstream of the dam.

4. Protection of biodiversity and tourism

The dam will make it much more difficult to institute environmental flow releases from upstream Cahora Bassa Dam, thus impacting the ecology of the Zambezi delta. This delta is the richest wetland in East Africa, and has been recently declared a Ramsar site (the highest protection tool in international law for wetland areas). In addition, Mphanda Nkuwa will significantly reduce the flow of sediments carried by the river, which will also significantly influence the future of the delta. These impacts will not only affect the region’s rich biodiversity, but will also endanger the great tourist potential it offers.

5. The dam will not bring electricity to rural communities

We are concerned that virtually none of this project’s power will benefit rural Mozambicans, as we understand all of its output is to be exported and used to power future mega projects in Mozambique.

6. External debt

Mphanda Nkuwa will increase the levels of debt of Mozambique.

Livaningo has been diligently trying to promote a national multi-stakeholder dialogue on the WCD in our country, though without success due to government’s lack of interest. Yet, three years after the WCD report was made public, our neighbour South Africa has an open national WCD process where all sectors can debate on dam issues. We think that it is time for Mozambique to do the same.

We ask for the respect of WCD priorities by all parties involvement in our electricity sector. We believe this is critical to avoid projects that will worsen our economy, harm our people and environment, and to ensure a good and efficient planning approach that avoids the mistakes of the past.

Please let me know if you would like to have any further explanation on these matters.

From my side I would appreciate if you could inform me what is the role of Eskom is in the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam and what is Eskom’s position regarding the consideration of the WCD strategic priorities for this case.

Looking forward to your reply. Thank you in advance.

Anabela Lemos
Deputy-Director, Livaningo