As part of its regular activities, the Independent Panel of Environmental and Social Experts of the Lom Pangar Hydropower Project travelled to Cameroon in July 2010, issuing recommendations for strengthening protections and safeguards associated with project preparations.
The panel met with the Electricity Development Corporation (EDC), companies and contractors involved in the project preparation and planning, local communities and civil society organizations. The experts interviewed stakeholders in the project area in Cameroon’s Eastern Region, while taking stock of studies, surveys and technical work associated with the planned regulating dam, power plant and transmission line.
The resulting recommendations cover the management of a range of identified impacts of the project on nearby communities and biodiversity. To ensure accurate monitoring and evaluation of the project’s impact over time, the experts call for a detailed socio-economic baseline in the project area, with solid data on the most vulnerable households.
The expert panel report also puts an emphasis on capacity-building and recruitment at EDC. To manage the project, including the social and environmental challenges, EDC will require new skills for existing staff, plus additional experts in social safeguards and environmental protection.
Challenges surrounding the project as identified in the report include adequate compensation for losses and displacement, and ensuring that affected communities can restore livelihoods as quickly as possible to a level which is equal or better to their livelihood before the project.
The Panel report takes exception to a proposed site for the resettlement of the village of Lom Pangar, stating that because the site is two kilometers from the Deng Deng National Park (a five-kilometer buffer zone is recommended) and advises EDC to give priority to alternative sites. A new site, beyond the buffer area, and closer to the village of Ouami, will be prepared for the new Lom Pangar village.
The project includes the creation of a 58,000-hectare Deng Deng National Park as an offset to the biodiversity impact of the Lom Pangar dam and reservoir. Among other recommendations, the expert panel report calls for strict adherence to regulations limiting the poaching of bush meat, outlining protective steps.
The report also focuses on the construction site for the owner’s camp, recommending practices for worker safety, waste disposal, and transport of hydrocarbons. Any construction activity that falls under the ESMP for the construction of the dam and other infrastructures needs to respect the provisions of the ESMP, and environmental and social management obligations needs to be included in the construction contract.
The panel report stresses that local populations should enjoy priority in securing jobs linked to the project, with effective programs to inform local residents of job opportunities and compensation levels.
The World Bank, which is advising Cameroon’s Electricity Development Corporation on the preparation of the Lom Pangar Hydropower Project according to Bank policies, has been working with its country partners to incorporate the recommendations on social safeguards and environmental protections.
An expert panel report from March emphasizes the need for a timeline covering the full sequence of activities associated with resettlement. Among other things, the report stressed the need to prepare areas that will receive resettled communities well in advance. These activities have been underway in the preparation for the move of the 57 households of Lom Pangar.