Mozambican organisation Justiça Ambiental (JA!) last Wednesday (December 21st) submitted a petition with more than 2,600 signatures from Mozambican citizens to demand that the controversial Mphanda Nkuwa dam project, proposed for the Zambezi River, cease immediately.
The terms under which the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric project was conceived, and under which it is proceeding, do not comply with the fundamental objectives of the Mozambican State enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution of the Republic, especially with regard to human rights and equitable development. Furthermore, this project entails very high environmental, ecosystem, climate, seismic, social and economic risks, which have not yet been properly assessed and studied by the Mozambican government. Despite these risks, and the numerous requests for clarification and information submitted by Justiça Ambiental to the government and to the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office (GMNK), the project has been moving forward, in this new phase, since 2018, in an accelerated manner and without due public scrutiny.
Furthermore, the project is also in violation of articles 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which establish peoples’ right to the free disposal of the use of natural resources and prevent them from being deprived of their use; the right to choose the model of economic development, social and cultural with strict respect for their freedoms and identity; and the right to a balanced environment conducive to their development.
It should be noted that, although the project has been under way for 4 (four) years in this new stage, no public consultation related to the project has yet been carried out, nor has any consultation taken place with the local communities that will be directly and indirectly affected by it. This is in clear violation of several guidelines and principles followed by Mozambique regarding the protection and promotion of the right of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
With this petition, the more than 2,600 undersigned Mozambican men and women demand that an open, inclusive and comprehensive dialogue is promoted and that the Mozambican government fully clarify the outlines, objectives and rationale behind this “priority” project, including:
• Where does the investment come from and what is the trade-off?
• Why is this project a priority for the country, considering our levels of poverty and inequality; that thousands of children have no place in school, and that there aren’t adequate health services for everyone?
• What is the reason for insisting on this project, which has already been abandoned so many times? What other interests exist behind a project of this dimension?
• Have other energy alternatives been considered? If yes, which ones?
• Who will be responsible for compensating the communities that have had their future mortgaged for the past 20 years, unable to invest in their community and in necessary infrastructure due to fear of losing their investments, since in 2000 they were advised by the government not to build any new infrastructure?
• What is the real purpose of the dam and what supposed gains do they believe the country would reap in the short and long term, including how do they intend to generate financial returns?
We also demand the elaboration of scientifically valid and impartial studies that respond to all the questions that have been raised since the approval of the environmental impact study in 2011, such as:
• Uncertainty about the flow regime under which the dam will operate (base-load or mid-merit);
• Lack of definition on the area chosen for resettlement of the communities directly affected by the dam;
• Poor sediment analysis elaborated with insufficient data, which does not allow for a valid scientific analysis;
• Weak seismic analysis, without concrete data and with results and conclusions that contradict other studies by renowned specialists;
• Weak analysis of the potential impacts of climate change and changes in upstream water demand, which will affect the project’s economic viability;
• The fact that the guidelines of the Worldwide Commission on Dams were not considered or followed, particularly with regard to social and environmental rights and justice, among others;
• Viable energy alternatives for the country, comparing and analyzing the respective benefits and impacts;
• How the project will ensure that the gains generated by the dam will not be appropriated by a small economic and political national elite, and by large multinational companies.
We furthermore demand that an open, inclusive and comprehensive dialogue be promoted around clean, fair and accessible energy solutions for all Mozambican men and women, so that we can embark on a sustainable development that ensures the protection of the important ecosystems that guarantee life on the planet.
Justiça Ambiental also calls for this matter to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, considering the growing and concerning scenario of intimidation and threats that we have observed in the context of our work in the District of Marara, including accusations of terrorism, demand for “authorisation to work on site”, and indication that local communities should not receive legal training on their rights or information on the impacts of dams. Several members of the communities that will have to be resettled to make room for this mega-project have also reported threats, intimidation and ‘warnings’ not to speak out against the project.
In addition to the signatures collected in the District of Marara, in Maputo City and throughout the country, more than 70 national, regional and international non-governmental organisations also signed the petition in online format, in solidarity.
It’s time to say STOP to a development model that enriches our elites and large multinational corporations, at the expense of most of the population and of nature. Let’s together demand clean, decentralised energy projects that benefit the Mozambican people!
Read the full text of the petition on the Justica Ambiental webpage: