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  Alucam Aluminum Smelter
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Cameroon desperately needs more electricity to keep pace with its existing demand. With a growing national energy crisis, the Cameroonian government is intensifying efforts to build the Lom Pangar Dam. Despite extremely low levels of electrification for Cameroonian households (less than 5%), Lom Pangar would allow the energy–hungry Alucam aluminum smelter to expand its production at the expense of residential consumers and local businesses. The Alucam smelter (owned by Canadian based Alcan and the Government of Cameroon) already consumes about half of Cameroon’s electricity and is seeking to double its production while continuing to receive below–cost electricity rates subsidized by residential ratepayers. Serious impacts would also be felt by the communities affected by construction of Lom Pangar, including increases in illness and disease, social strain caused by in–migration of fishermen and others, and increased poaching in the protected forests.

Lom Pangar Dam would have significant impacts on the World Bank sponsored Chad–Cameroon Pipeline. The dam’s reservoir would flood part of the pipeline, which was not designed to support the weight of the reservoir. More importantly, the reservoir would flood the protected Deng Deng Forest, and negate environmental protections designed to offset impacts caused by the project. While the World Bank has noted in official reports that Cameroon is overly hydro–dependent and a comprehensive assessment of Cameroon’s energy needs should be conducted, the Bank has so far remained officially silent on Lom Pangar.

Lom Pangar would also increase the vulnerability of Cameroon’s economy to climate change. Cameroon is already 95% dependent on hydropower for its electricity. Lom Pangar would be the fourth dam built to help regulate the Sanaga River for the benefit of the country’s two primary hydropower dams, Song Loulou (384 MW) and Edea (264 MW). These run–of–river hydropower dams have experienced significant reductions in power generation due to dry seasons exacerbated by drought. The dam, proposed for one of the Sanaga’s most important tributaries, could significantly alter the river ecosystem, as well as submerge one of Africa’s most bio–diverse hardwood forests. Reduced power dependability because of drought is already an issue, and could worsen with climate change. Small businesses and residential customers will remain at risk of blackouts and power shortages.

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In Whose Interest? Report on Lom Pangar Dam in Cameroon
This joint report reveals how the aluminum industry in Cameroon is being prioritized over the energy needs of the country’s majority population, at great social and environmental risk, and without a participatory planning process for energy development. (PDF, 1MB)
 
06–27–06