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Congo Authorities Urge Chinese and Spanish Bidders to Join in Building the Inga-3 Hydropower Project on the Congo River

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EIRNS—The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) Agency for the Development and Promotion of Grand Inga (ADPI), in charge of developing the Grand Inga, world’s largest hydropower generation plant, has urged the bidders for the Inga-3 — Pro Inga, led by ACS and Eurofinsa, both based in Madrid; and Chine d’Inga, led by China’s two largest hydropower companies, Three Gorges Corporation and Sinohydro — to come together to form a consortium to build the 4.8 GW plant estimated to cost $12 billion. The Grand Inga scheme, of which Inga-3 is a part, would have a generation capacity of 40 GW and would be developed in seven phases beginning with Inga-3, which itself would have two phases. In Oct 2013, the DRC sealed a deal with South Africa whereby South Africa is committed to buy 2,500MW of the 4,800MW to be generated by Inga-3. As of now, DRC’s power generation capacity is about 2 GW of power, and that of South Africa is close to 50 GW.

Grand Inga, which consists of Inga-3 thru Inga-8, is a mighty project, and once built it will have twice the capacity of China’s Three Gorges Dam, which contains the world’s single-largest hydropower generation plant. Grand Inga is unique in many aspects.

The Inga dams are located in the western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, about 50 km upstream of the mouth of the Congo River where it flows into the Atlantic, and 225 km southwest of Kinshasa on the Congo River. The Congo River is the world’s second largest in terms of the volume of water it carries (42,000m3/s), after the Amazon, and the second longest river in Africa (4,700km-long), after the Nile River. It empties into the equatorial Atlantic Ocean creating what is famously known as the Congo Plume. The plume is a high productivity area arising from the rich nutrient flow from the river, and is detected as far as 800km offshore. The plume accounts for 40%-80% of total carbon productivity and is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, the International Rivers journal pointed that out.

It is the uniqueness of the river that makes the dam unique. The Congo River has large rapids and waterfalls close to its mouth, while most rivers have these features upstream. The dam site is on the largest waterfall in the world by volume, Inga Falls. Inga Falls is a series of falls and rapids that drop in elevation via small rapids. The main falls are 4 km wide, dropping to about 21.4 meters near a bend, and forming hundreds of channels and rivulets and many small islands. At the Grand Inga site, the Congo River drops 96 meters in a run of 14.5 km. Once built, Grand Inga is expected to draw in about two-thirds of Congo River’s water flow.