(MENAFN- AFP) Building of a massive new hydroelectric dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo won't begin until 2017 at the earliest, the World Bank said Thursday, signalling a fresh delay in the key project.
"Work should get underway in 2017," the World Bank's DR Congo manager Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye told a press conference.
That timing remains provisional "because there are still a lot of technical questions to be resolved," added Ndiaye, whose organisation last year approved $73 million to support the multi-billion dollar Inga 3 dam on the Congo River.
The Congo is Africa's most powerful river and already a major producer of hydroelectric power, but the Inga 3 would be unprecedented.
The Inga 3 Basse Chute project near Matadi would divert Congo River waters into a 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) channel and then pass them through a 100-meter (330-foot) high hydropower dam on the Bundi Valley before releasing the water back into the river.
The intake would be above the existing Inga 1 and Inga 2 dams, and the outflow downstream from both.
Inga 3 is expected to generate 4,800 megawatts of power, equivalent to the output of three third-generation nuclear reactors and boost power supplies to a region starved for electricity.
Social and environmental groups have called for more studies into the effects of the planned project, saying the power is mainly destined for industrial users in South Africa and that renewable energy possibilities should be weighed.
The new projected date for the commencement of work pushes back a schedule of late 2016 which the World Bank announced last year.
That previous timetable was already a year later than earlier government projections that construction would begin this year.
"In recent months there has been some delay in the advancement of the project," said Ndiaye. "But since January, decisions have been made by the government to strengthen governance of the project."
"There is a new dynamic which has been created and which makes us a bit more optimistic," he added.
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