Mozambique’s mega dam to displace many

A $4.5 billion hydropower project planned to be built across the lower Zambezi river in Mozambique’s Tete province could displace an estimated 1,400 families and affect 200,000 people downstream, according to reports. The Mphanda Nkuwa dam, which would be Southern Africa’s largest, has been touted as a key way for Mozambique to address energy poverty and achieve universal energy access by 2030. But environmental groups warn it could negatively impact communities and ecosystems. Local people claim they have not been consulted on the project and have only heard about it through unofficial sources.

Despite climate impacts and increasingly erratic rainfall potentially making the dam unviable, the World Bank’s private investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the African Development Bank are both supporting its construction.

Environmentalists have criticised the dam’s supporters for ignoring the negative impact it could have on local communities and ecosystems. Scientists have also pointed to the potential risks of climate change, which could threaten the project’s viability.

The IFC has argued that the project will “accelerate the transition to clean energy to combat climate change in Southern Africa”. However, local people remain unconvinced and are calling for greater consultation and transparency over the project’s development. The controversy over the Mphanda Nkuwa project highlights the complex trade-offs involved in large-scale energy development in the Global South, where the need for power can clash with environmental and social concerns.

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