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Cameroon: SAILD Set to Improve Socio-Economic Impact of Lom Panga Dam on Locals
Category :- Environment Author :- N Gelmin S 
Posted on June 15, 2020, 2:02 pm
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Over 4500 hydro-electric dams have been constructed in countries worldwide over the last 20 years with main focus on electricity generation. The non-governmental organization Support Service for Grassroots Development Initiative (SAILD) in collaboration with the Global Forest Watch Grants Fund is out to pay attention to the socio-economic impacts of developmental projects on the local population.

Lom Panga Dam in Cameroon

The organization is geared at carrying out rural developmental projects with main objective to support farmers and communities living in areas where natural resources are exploited in their entrepreneurial and agro-pastoral initiatives of their socio-economic and cultural development and to enhance a sustainable management of the resources on which the locals depend.

The impacts of the Lom Pangar Damp construction on the locality have been one of the concerns of SAILD for over 7 years now. They have come up with a number of measures needed to improve the environmental and social impacts of the damp project to the locality.

While the Cameroon’s Lom Pangar Dam is financed with prime aim to generate hydro-electric power due to constant power shortage in the country, the project has recorded unavoidable negative impacts on the local population. According to the year 2000 report on the world Commission on Dams established by the World Bank and UCN, aside from the economic benefits of the dam, its construction and functioning has left significant social and environmental impacts.

Lom Panga dam overflow

Upon estimating the environmental cost of the dam, it is said to have been channeled on the upstream of the confluence at Djerem to limit the downstream impact. But, the project report shows that Lom Pangar had a rich natural landscape that has been tampered with in the process of constructing the dam.

Situated in the east region of Cameroon, the Lom Pangar dam site was covered with a wild forest with over 90 percent full of wildlife habitats with over 8.4 percent with an open natural area of shrubs and wooded savannahs.

The area harbored a large settlement and about 0.6 percent river bodies. Following the construction, there has been a drastic change. Now, only about 52 percent of the land forest of left with 4 percent and about 44 percent land now occupied by other activities.

According to statistic gathered for the period of 7 years, over 36,000 ha of forest have been lost. Meanwhile, a good number of people were displaced and resettled in other areas where most of them are faced with land disputes due to limited space for their desired activities. Meanwhile, some free parts of the locality are flooded with water from the artificial lake created by the dam’s impoundment.

Fishing in Lom Panga

In the same light, it has cost a wide range of habitat loss. According to the investigations carried out in the areas, there existed a high potential for remarkable species. Protected and endemic wildlife life like gorillas, chimpanzees and blackcolobus were pushed away due to the large forest destruction.

Aside from the forest and wildlife loss incurred, the aquatic species of the area which used to enjoy conducive water bodies now suffer from the toxic emission that is released within the dam from chemical and mechanical activities.

Talking about the social impacts of the damp, the land used and displacement have caused the people to lose their traditional meals. The change of diet is due to the inability to cultivate their usual crops. The people are now said to be depending on rice and other food stuff that the community cannot afford.

The dispersal of the population has caused a loss in some cultural values and identities. The locals have revealed that the dam project led to the destruction of sacred sites like sacred trees and medicinal plants that were used to cure certain ailments.

It has made life and fishing difficult for fishermen. Before, about 8 percent of the population depended on fishing with simple local methods but the method is now more technical and is cumbersome.

However, the dam has increased fishing output in the area. The amount of fish caught is no longer ending in the locality but also sold in other regions of the country. Still, the community is said to be struggling to cope with the new techniques and rapid change.

As compensation for the hampered natural land and for the conservation of the rich natural biodiversity, the Deng Deng National Park (PNDD) was created covering over 682, 64 ha landscape in 2013 with goal to safeguard animals, plant species and their habitats including river regulations.

Fish caught in Lom Panga

However, this has also limited the access of the over 14 percent population that depended on hunting for a living.

Looking for ways to mitigate the negative impact of the dam, SAILD propose that all stakeholders involved in the activities like electricity development Corporation (EDC) should accelerate measures to compensate the population while the Ministry of Wildlife and Animal Industry (MINEPIA) should enhance a safe and easy fishing as well as forest activities for the locals.

The population is also to be trained by all stakeholders involved; the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), MINEPIA and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) to drill the locals in income generating activities.     

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