Nigeria: ERA Goes Tough on Dam Project, Insists on EIA or no Deal
Foremost environmental rights advocacy group in Nigeria, Environmental Rights Action (ERA) has gone tough on the Zungeru Hydro Dam project being pursued by the Nigerian government to boost power supply in the country.ERA which also doubles as the country’s wing of the Friends of the Earth, has cautioned the Federal Government from going ahead with the construction of the hydro dam project without informing the Nigerian public on issues bothering on the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The project which is expected to add 700 megawatts to the national grid was commissioned on Tuesday, May 28, by President Goodluck Jonathan and is to be implemented by a Chinese consortium, CNEEC- Sinohydro Consortium, with funding from the Nigerian government and Exim Bank of China. Its completion is billed for 2018.
The dam construction will bring to four, the number of hydro-electric dams located within Niger State in Northern Nigeria. Others within the region are located at Shiroro, Jebba and Kainji.
In an online statement to AkanimoReports on Wednesday, ERA said, ”the hype around the dam project is centered on a 1982 feasibility study yet, there is a ‘strange silence’ on the issue of EIA which is supposed to intimate the Nigerian public on the immediate and long term impacts of the dam on communities in Wushishi.
“While we support government’s desire to up power generation in the country, we insist that this cannot be done at the expense of the environment and the people. By remaining silent on EIA, government seems to be closing its mind to the potential social dislocation and environmental impacts of the project”.Executive Director of the group, Godwin Uyi Ojo. who made this known added, ”it would have been expected that the Nigerian government at this point start exploring alternatives in decentralised renewable energy that are small scale and managed by the local beneficiaries themselves. The emphasis on mere feasibility studies and nothing on EIA indicates that government is in a hurry to show it is taking steps in the area of electricity generation but not considering the very important issues of impacts that communities are likely to suffer”.
Ojo is insisting that the 2012 floods caused by release of excess water from a failing dam in Cameroun and some others in Nigeria was a clear signpost that the time for gigantic energy infrastructure is over, adding that in more advanced climes, big dams are being faced out because of their impacts whenever there is a breach.
”Studies and occurrences have shown that bug dams are neither sustainable nor environment-friendly”, he said.
Continuing, he said, ”not only do we demand that the government make public the EIA on the Zungeru Hydro Dam project which must have inputs from neighbouring communities and the general public, the document must also be subject to public presentation. We also reiterate our opposition to big energy projects that continue to fail and cause havoc across the globe. The time for engaging in risky projects is gone. Sustainable alternatives are the way to go.