Keywords : Chollet Dam, Cameroon ,Congo
We cannot successfully discuss the environmental and social assessment and the construction of the chollet dam without first discussing the Dja/Ngoko River. This is because the proposed construction of the Chollet dam is to be constructed on the Dja River (also known as Ngoko River), which flows through Cameroon and Congo before joining the Sangha River, itself a tributary of the Congo River.
The Dja River, is a river in west-central Africa that runs through Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. It rises southeast of Abong Mbang in southeastern Cameroon. It flows southeast through Moloundou, Republic of the Congo, to Ouesso, emptying into the Sangha River (a tributary of the Congo River) after a 450-mile journey (720 km). The Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987, is located along the river’s upper course and protects one of Africa’s largest tracts of tropical rainforest. The river below Moloundou is navigable by small boats all year and supports local fishing.
Chollet Dam Construction
A phase of the Chollet hydroelectric project is underway. Yaoundé and Brazzaville have chosen China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) to build the new facilities more than a decade after Cameroonian and Congolese authorities announced the implementation of a hydroelectric project on their border. According to the Cameroonian side, the Chinese company was chosen through a “restricted” international tender that was launched in December 2019.
On April 12th, 2021, the Congolese Minister of Energy and Hydraulics, Serge Blaise Zoniaba, the Cameroonian Minister of Water and Energy, Gaston Eloundou Essomba, and CGGC officials signed the concession agreement. The Chinese firm is now in charge of conducting an environmental and social impact assessment and the construction of the dam, hydroelectric plant, access roads, substations, and evacuation lines for Chollet’s electricity.
CGGC will construct a 108-meter-high dam on the Dja River, under a BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) contract. According to the inter-state steering committee formed to oversee the project, which will cost an estimated $700 million, it could be completed by 2025.
Chollet’s electricity will be transported to Cameroon and Congo via two lines. The two Central African countries have not ruled out selling some of the electricity to neighboring countries, particularly the Central African Republic (CAR) and Gabon. Furthermore, the new infrastructure is being built as part of a sub-regional interconnection project involving Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, and Central Africa. Financial institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) support sub-regional interconnection.
The bank, which is based in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), is funding, for example, the cross-border electrification of nine communities in the Central African Republic using electricity generated by the Mobayi hydroelectric plant in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This project is expected to be carried out in three (3) phases.
Phase 1: The feasibility study, environmental impact assessment study, and related assessments are all part of this phase.
Phase 2: The dam, power station, and related infrastructure are all being built in the second phase. In both Cameroon and Congo, work includes constructing substations, high-voltage power lines, and access roads. During this phase, indigenous staff in both countries will be trained to sustainably operate infrastructure and manage the environment.
Phase 3: The commissioning and operation of the project and the signing of the project agreement are all part of the third phase. When the Gezhouba Group transfers the power station to the two governments, the two governments are expected to form a special purpose vehicle company to own and operate it.
Pros and Cons of Chollet Dam
Dams everywhere in the world have advantages and disadvantages. Although the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in most cases, the disadvantages pose a significant threat, especially in the areas of displaced people and their means of livelihood. For the chollet dam, the issues are the same as with other dams. Let’s, therefore, look at some of the Pros and Cons of Chollet Dam.
Pros of the Chollet Dam
1. Hydroelectric Power: The main goal of the Chollet Dam is to generate a hydroelectric power supply for the benefit of both countries involved in the project. When water passes through a dam and through a turbine, hydroelectric power is generated. Because it is relatively reliable and stable, and most hydroelectric power plants have low maintenance and operational costs, hydroelectricity is one of the most studied forms of alternative energy. Hydroelectric power generates about 16% of global electricity needs. The Chollet Dam is expected to produce 600 megawatts of power to ease the electricity problem in Cameroon, Congo, and perhaps even in Gabon and the Central African Republic (CAR)
2. Control of Waterways: Flooding can be devastating for many communities, particularly if nearby water resources are difficult to manage. The Chollet Dam will help divert waterways to other areas, keeping the people living around the Dja/Ngoko communities safe or allowing more of their lands to be developed. It’s expected that the Constitution of the Chollet dam will be designed to help in flood control and will equally be designed to reduce floodwaters by impounding water and safely diverting it to other locations.
3. Source of Irrigation: A dam creates a reservoir that can be used as a great water source, particularly for agricultural and industrial purposes. Dams have been used for irrigation for centuries. By controlling the water supply of the mighty Nile River, the Aswan High Dam in Egypt protects local farmers from harsh desert droughts and famines. Dam water irrigates about 10% of cropland in the United States, according to FEMA. Locals around the Dja River are into farming as a means of livelihood. Therefore, the Chollet Dam will help their farming activities in the area of irrigation, which will allow them to engage in their farming activities all year round.
4. Environmental Protection: Some dams help protect the environment by trapping hazardous materials in water and capturing sediment containing harmful or toxic substances. Some dams also have mine tailing impoundments, which help facilitate the processing of minerals in an environmentally friendly way. FEMA says dams also help facilitate the nation’s waterways, make river transportation seamless and easy, and reduce the risk of water-borne accidents or other problems, negatively affecting the environment. While the Chollet Dam will not aid water transportation, it can surely help protect the environment and help reduce water-borne diseases.
5. Employment opportunity: The construction of the Chollet Dam also presents opportunities for people to be gainfully employed as skilled and unskilled labours will be hired to construct the dam. Also, the dam’s operation will also provide a job for hundreds of people since the operation, maintenance, and running of the facilities will be an everyday activity. Apart from the creation of many direct jobs, several indirect jobs will be created too. This includes the supply of raw materials, providing food for the site workers, amongst others. Employment opportunities indeed lead to economic development and economic prosperity.
6. Generation of IGR: The Chollet Dam equally can increase the internal revenue generation of both countries involved in the project, Cameron and the Republic of Congo. This is because there are possibilities of selling some of the electricity to neighboring countries of CAR and Gabon. This will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the revenue generation of both countries involved in this project.
Cons of Chollet Dam
1. Risk of sediment buildup: When water rushes through a dam and its internal turbines, it can trap sediment layers and cause them to congregate, polluting the water and disrupting the ecology of the water environment. While this indeed remains an unseen and uncertain problem, it can not be completely ruled out as there have been cases of such in some other dams around Central Africa
2. Environmental Damage: The nutrients in the soil in water are replenished by rushing floodwaters, which is beneficial to all plant and animal life in rivers and other waterways. The delicate natural ecosystem can be significantly disrupted when water is diverted due to a dam. Some plants and animals will adapt to the new conditions, but many will not and will be wiped out in the new environment. For example, Scientists noticed a significant drop in fish production around the Aswan High Dam in Egypt after the dam was built, as the amount of nutrients and food was now less than before the dam. Some dams have built fish ladders to aid fish migration, but some fish cannot use the ladder properly, particularly if they are accustomed to fast-moving water. This could also be one of the demerits of the construction of the Chollet Dam.
3. Displacement of people: The construction of dams often brings about complex and challenging displacement operations and the relocation of thousands of people. This is to avoid the negative environmental or construction impact that the dam can have on the people who are naturally settled around the location for the siting of the dam. Although, when involuntary displacements are unavoidable, a resettlement plan is expected to be elaborated and implemented. This plan is equally expected to be conceived as a development plan that will provide the displaced populations with the necessary preparation and assistance to capitalize on the benefits of the dam project. The losses incurred by the displaced populations must be compensated for according to their actual value. This is one of the disadvantages being expected of the Chollet Dam.
Other possible cons of the construction of chollet dams include
- Risk of the introduction of new diseases as schistosomiasis
- Loss of control/income of land to be inundated by the reservoir
- Massive influx of people during dam construction
- Reduced availability of river water downstream (especially during dry season) to the downstream user
IIt’s difficult to imagine what civilization would be like without dams to control waterways and create water reservoirs. Despite the fact that dams are an essential part of modern infrastructure, their benefits and drawbacks in terms of society and the environment are of no small measure.
- Branche, Emmanuel. (2015). MULTIPURPOSE WATER USES OF HYDROPOWER RESERVOIRS, pp 100-104.
- The Pros and Cons of Dams. Available at: https://alcina-africa.org/are-we-using-ecosystem-restoration-as-a-snooze-button-on-rainforest-conservation/ (Accessed: 19th September 2017),
- CAMEROON-CONGO: China’s CGGC wins the construction of the Chollet dam (600 MW). Available at: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.afrik21.africa/en/cameroon-congo-chinas-cggc-wins-the-construction-of-the-chollet-dam-600-mw/amp/ (Accessed: May, 2021)
4. Chollet Hydroelectric Power Station. Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chollet_Hydroelectric_Power_Station (Accessed: 2021)
Author : Oguntola Oyeniyi