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Covid-19 delays Rusumo Hydroelectric project

DELAY in completing the Regional Rusumo Fall Hydroelectric Project (RRFHP) was partly caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been disclosed.

Rusumo Hydro Plant Manager, Eng Patrick Lwesya said the deadline for completing the scheme was set for February, this year, but was interrupted by the global coronavirus.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the deadline had to be rescheduled to December, 2021, though so far to-date they have attained about 74 per cent towards completion.

Once operational, the project will generate 80 MW of renewable clean energy, relatively low cost power to the national grids of the three countries, which share it equally; adding that each country would receive an additional 165 GWh per year.

Eng Lwesya said the additional power will benefit about 1,146,000 people in the three countries of Burundi as (520,000 residents approximately 5.4 per cent), Tanzania (159,000 estimated as 0.34 per cent) and Rwanda (467,000 equivalent to 4 per cent).

The project, he said, will address acute shortage of electricity experienced by the three countries, which negatively affect their economies. 

Reached for a comment, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), Dr Alexander Kyaruzi said the main problem was that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some countries involved in the implementation of the Rusumo Hydro project remain under lockdown.

However, Dr Kyaruzi noted that about 541 villages out of 662 in Kagera Region had already been connected with electricity, equivalent to 81.7 per cent. He said the remaining 123 villages would get electricity by year 2021, while customers connected to electricity

increased from 56,671 during 2015 to 89,172 by June 30th this year.

The Chairman further said the region is implementing four mega projects that will enable it generate enough electricity, adding that the process is in the final stage to also link it its additional villages to the national grid.

Expounding, he cited the mega projects as the RRFHP that will generate 80 MW, Kakono-Missenyi (87MW), Murongo-Kikagati-Kyerwa projects (16 MW) that had so far attained 36 per cent implementation and the Msongezi 39MW.

However, Dr Kyaruzi appealed to investors to establish industries to exploit the opportunities that will be brought about by the availability of reliable power in the region.

Shedding light on the project, the board chairman expressed satisfaction on the RRFHP implementation, saying it will enhance regional cooperation, support sustainable management of the Kagera River Basin, and promote growth and as well as reduce poverty in the areas.

“Shortage of electricity in these countries and indeed the entire Nile Basin region has resulted into an underdeveloped manufacturing sector, hence limited options for business development necessary for income generation.

“Electricity is a catapult which Tanzanians should utilize by establishing medium and large industries…President John Magufuli has vowed to continue with the implementation of major power projects that would stimulate economic growth and improve social welfare within the country targeting to reach 5000MW,” he pointed out.

Recently, addressing a campaign rally at the Gymkhana Grounds in Bukoba Municipal Council recently, Dr Magufuli said his government had in the past five years focused on strategies, which generate and supply power in the country, adding that if elected for the second term, his government will complete all pending projects and generate more power.

He said his government is currently implementing the 2115MW Julius Nyerere Hydropower project that upon its completion, Tanzania will be able to sell electricity to neighbouring countries.

The idea of constructing the dam was first conceived by the founding President Julius Nyerere, but had to be shelved due to financial constraints.

President Magufuli’s government has however, been keen to have the project up and running, as it sees this as a solution to the country's power outages.

Dr Magufuli mentioned other projects in pipeline, with their expected power production capacity in brackets including RRFHP (80 MW), Murongo project (14 MW), Kakono waterfalls in Missenyi to (87MW), Kinyerezi II gas power plant (248MW) and Kinyerezi I (325MW).

He stated that his government will also use natural gas in Mtwara to produce 300MW in the region, Somanga Fungu gas plant in Lindi (330MW), Kinyerezi III (600MW) and Kinyerezi IV (300MW).

“The completion of all major power generation projects in the list will enable the country to sell electricity to other countries, ensuring reliable operation in the country. Thus the idea of depending on power from a neighbour will be history,” he said.

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Author: MEDDY MULISA in Bukoba

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