The true cost of HEP projects in Africa

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Does a massive HEP project really deliver on their promise? The massive size and imposing nature of hydro electric power stations have for a long time been viewed as a mark of development in Africa with the belief being that they offer not only a sustainable source of energy but also control flooding of rivers and provide water all year for irrigation, who can argue with that? I recall this from my own high school geography class and the field trips we made on at least one occasion to view with awe this feat of engineering.

Recent research suggests that the extended time lines and cost overruns are just a few of the negative economic repercussions of these massive projects that in some cases have put their overall benefits into question. This even before considering the social and environmental aspects that have been advanced in the past.

Researchers and scholars have found that the actual cost of a large HEP dam exceeds the budgeted amount almost always without regard to environmental, social and debt servicing costs as well as costs related to inflation. According to an Oxford research in 2014 that considered cases of 245 large dams (of walls exceeding 15m high) built in 65 countries around the world, the actual cost even run to averages of +90% higher than the budgeted amount at the time of project approvals.

Apart from the related environmental costs associated with large dams proved by the World Commission on Dams, researchers explain that risks associated with these projects are too large to an extent of having negative ramifications on a country’s economy.
Considering the arguments from proponents and opponents of
large dam projects, the question, therefore, is not whether large
HEP projects have any benefits as many would point out,
but that the overall return could be negative in nature if care is not
taken. How decision makers and policy makers approach the issue is
important for Africa and the world as a whole.