In 2012, the World Bank approved a $203 million loan for Niger’s Kandadji Dam. This paved the way for a dozen-odd financiers to complete the $785 million financing package for the project, to be located on the Niger River. The future of Kandadji is in doubt, however, given problems with the resettlement process and construction delays following a dispute with the company hired to develop the project.
And Kandadji isn’t just any project; Kandadji was presented as a way to produce 130 MW of much-needed power to the capital, Niamey, and to harness the river’s flow to expand Niger’s irrigation potential. The World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, described the project as “a transformational development project that will deliver significantly more opportunity to communities, more food, water, and electricity, and less poverty in the poorest region of Africa.”
The World Bank also took pains to plan for the human cost of the dam’s construction. Conscious of the troubled legacy of the impacts such projects have wrought on resettled communities, the World Bank took on the admittedly herculean task of overseeing the process to resettle over 38,000 people located around the river’s fertile banks. The compensation package would include resettling these traditionally flood recession farmers into new houses, providing access to irrigation, and sharing revenues for local development projects.
The process began in 2012 to resettle a first wave of nearly 5500 people. Many were initially optimistic about the project’s promised benefits, but their enthusiasm was short-lived. While some have seen their living conditions improve, irrigation plans for resettled communities were poorly conceived – unsurprising, as the World Bank itself has noted that irrigation schemes of this sort rarely work in Africa. The World Bank acknowledges the difficulties with the resettlement process, noting that “[t]he ongoing relocation for the first resettlement phase remains considerably delayed, and will require extensive enhancement measures.”
Meanwhile, many resettlement communities are struggling with a lack of potable water, as recorded in a new documentary on the resettlement process. In it, Haoua Harouna, from the host community of Gabou, says “I’ve been looking for water for three days in vain. I’m thirsty. I haven’t found any, nor have my friends. There isn’t enough water for the population. We used to get water from neighboring villages, but it’s become salty and undrinkable.”
Read more on the website of International Rivers