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General News of Monday, 6 August 2012

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Environmental Protection, Preoccupying Issue

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This certainly explains why development projects such as Lom Pangar Hydroelectric Reservoir which the Head of State posed the foundation stone for its construction last Friday, August 03, has taken so long to came to its real execution stage. Whereas the energy needs of the country are so evident keeping no one indifferent, there had to be sustained reflection on how to erect a dam that will not bring more harm than good.

While approving the project and disbursing zero-interest financing of 132 million dollars, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors re-iterated the negative environmental impact the dam could have if not well harnessed. The Lom Pangar Hydroelectric Power Dam, so to say, is a complex project that could have significant environmental and social impacts. As such, the project required various interventions to assess, minimize, and mitigate potentially adverse impacts. On the basis of this, preparation was undertaken according to international safeguard standards as testified by the World Bank, one of the major sponsors of the project. A comprehensive Environmental and Social Impact Assessment was prepared to address environmental and social impacts during and after the project's construction phase.

President Paul Biya in his stone-planting speech underscored this element of the project, stating inter alia the creation of the Deng Deng national park in May, 2010 as part of the measures to ensure the protection of the forest and its habitat adjacent to the dam. Deng Deng is the country's second National Park and is the latest in swift actions taken to help protect the Cameroon's abundant but threatened wildlife. The park will shield a rich population of chimpanzees, elephants, buffaloes and bongos among others.

The conception of the project took into consideration the importance of this park dispelling fears from environmental national and international Non Governmental Organisations that the dam will penetrate the park and disrupt its ecosystem. And so, to avoid a situation where the flooding of the dam catchment area could affect a portion of the Deng Deng forest, a biodiversity hotspot explicitly protected under the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline arrangement, government accepted a costly adjustment to the pipeline route.

Decisions of this nature testify Cameroon's environmental awareness and the country's will to adhere to the canons of international environmental protection. From every indication, it is this environmental posture Cameroon took that coerced international financial bodies to accept to disburse finances for the project. This, certainly, couldn't have been otherwise considering the importance of the project to the development of the nation. "The Lom Pangar project helps the immediate needs of the people of Cameroon and their national economy," said Gregor Binkert, World Bank Country Director for Cameroon.

In effect, Lom Pangar Hydroelectric dam will play an important regulatory role in energy provision by storing water during the rainy season and releasing it during dry period. The reservoir will increase the guaranteed water flow to the Sanaga River from 720 to 1,040 cubic meters per second throughout the year, thereby reducing seasonal variability. In the short-term, the project will increase the year-round production capacity of the two existing Edea and Song Loulou hydropower plants on the Sanaga River by 120 MW.

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