Watering down justice : energy justice in the Inga dams case in the DRC

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: The focus of this thesis is energy justice and sustainability science, and the argument is based on a case study of the Inga dams. Substantial further development of hydropower is planned at the Inga dams, located on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While the project will add macro-economic benefits through the additional power, benefits are limited for people living nearby, a pattern magnified by the in-migration during dam construction. Erstwhile construction workers are now largely unemployed and therefore directly natural resource dependent, so that they stand to be affected by environmental changes when the next dam is built. The dynamics surrounding the Inga dams suggest injustice, so a study was conducted using energy justice theory to evaluate this. Field work was done along the Congo River, in Kinshasa, Boma, Inga and Muanda. The methods used were interviews, focus groups, participant mapping, a survey, transect walks and participant observation, and the data generated was analysed using open-ended qualitative coding and some descriptive statistics. The existing Inga dams were found lacking in terms of energy justice. Distributional justice is limited as, while local people at Inga receive electricity, housing and water free of charge, service provision is of varying quality and benefits follow a pattern of social stratification. On the national level, only 13.5 % of the population have electricity access, and this causes sustainability challenges. Further, justice as recognition is insufficient, as only traditional right-holders are recognised, but there are many others that are affected. Procedural justice is most severely lacking, as affected people were not consulted or compensated during construction. There are further concerns connected to the new dam that is planned, Inga 3. The primary benefit to be expected for local people is employment, and this is short term in nature. Recognition is unlikely to expand beyond traditional right-holders. There are plans for consultation and compensation, but the extent to which this will meet local expectations is not clear. As such, there are various limits to energy justice with both existing and planned dams. Nevertheless, they are perceived in strongly positive terms across study sites. Even if limited, the potential benefits of the new dam mean that local people must accept its negative impacts, a watered down version of justice. This increases their vulnerability, and highlights the importance of ensuring that the project is aligned with the principles of energy justice so it is sustainable.

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