OPTIMISM is high in East Africa as construction of their 80MW hydroelectricityproject at Rusumo falls jointly undertaken by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda nears halfway.
By late last week, the status of construction of the power plant, under Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project (RRFHP), was at 47 per cent, according to ministers in the three countries of Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
The declaration was made on Friday when the Tanzanian Minister for Energy, Dr Medard Kalemani, Burundian Minister for Energy, Côme Manirakiza and Rwandan Minister for Infrastructure, Amb. Claver Gatete visited the project on the banks of River Akagera. The officials constitute the Project’s Council of Ministers (CoM).
The main construction works of the power plant are located at the Rusumo border between Tanzania and Rwanda. The project, which will cost 340 million US dolars, is funded by the World Bank and is being implemented by Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).
NELSAP-CU was authorised and delegated by the RPCL (Rusumo Power Company Limited), which represents the three countries.
According to Dr Kalemani, the project implementation stood at 47 per cent while completed works include power house (100 per cent), tunnel fitting ( 100 per cent) and switch yard (99 per cent).
The blasting on tunnel had also achieved 47 per cent with 400 metres out of 703 metres already covered while 303 metres still remaining.
The Minister said completion of the project would enhance regional cooperation, peace building and support sustainable management of the Kagera River Basin, promote growth and poverty reduction and also manage environmental aspects.
Energy Minister, Dr Medard Kalemani said the Extra Ordinary meeting Council of Ministers was happy with the project progress made so far, tasking the Board of Directors to closely supervise the contractor to complete the project on time.
“We have been satisfied with the project implementation progress made so far. However, we have tasked the Board of Directors to closely supervise the contractor and ensure that he works day and night to ensure the project is completed on or before February 13, 2020.
We rejected the contractor’s request for time extension,” he said. Rwanda Minister, Ambassador Claver Gatete said the progress was impressive, compared to how it was the last time they visited the project.
“We have seen a tremendous progress,” he said. “We have seen that the works on the dam are at a good progress, when compared to how it was last time and at a tunnel that will lead the water to turbines, we have seen that they have managed to overcome the challenges that had occurred and the basic works on the powerhouse have already been finished; the electro-mechanical activities are going to start,” he announced.
The officials also pointed out that the tunnel had “very” hard rocks and mentioned it as one of the challenges the contractors faced.
The horizontal tunnel, about 300-metre long beneath a Tanzanian hill, will lead the river into three turbines, transforming it into electricity. The works were supposed to finish by February 2020.
“However, it delayed to start and there were some challenges in its preparations which means that it won’t be completed on time and has been projected to finish in February 2021,” Gatete explained. The infrastructure minister said the project was one of the sources that will contribute to 100 percent electricity target by 2024.
“Like the President has pledged [in seven-year government programme], 100 percent of residents in Rwanda will have electricity by 2024, that is our target,” he said.
Moreover, within three years, Rwanda will have 80MW peat power, 55 MW methane gas power and Rusizi III power connected to the national grid.
This, Gatete continued, in addition to the other off-grid power sources that will be established, “will undoubtedly make the country achieve the target.” This is the third meeting on the project, following the one in July last year and in February this year, according to Dr Kalemani. He said they urged the contractors to increase the labour force and to “work day and night” so the countries meet the deadline and they will again meet after a few months to assess the progress. “This project is an example of good partnership by the three East African countries,” reminded Minister Kalemani. The Project has so far employed about 294 Rwandans, 268 Tanzanians and more than 100 Burundian casual labourers, many of them from the neighbouring districts.