Chi­nese power project in Uganda trans­form­ing lives

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - XIN­HUA

KIRYANDONGO, Uganda — Deep in the tun­nels dug be­low River Nile in north­ern Uganda, Chi­nese en­gi­neers to­gether with their Ugan­dan coun­ter­parts as­sem­ble tur­bines that will gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity at the coun­try’s largest hy­dropower plant.

In other parts of the tun­nels, lo­cal work­ers un­der close su­per­vi­sion of Chi­nese tech­ni­cians weld met­als as con­crete trucks come in and out of the tun­nels, and out­side the tun­nels, it is equally busy as work­ers build sev­eral struc­tures.

Zheng Zhuqiang, Chi­nese am­bas­sador to Uganda said that thou­sands of youths have gained skills as a re­sult of the con­struc­tion of the Karuma hy­dropower plant. Con­struc­tion started in 2013.

“Over 6,000 Ugan­dans have been em­ployed by the project. Lo­cal em­ploy­ees ac­count for 13 per­cent of man­agers, 50 per­cent of tech­ni­cal work­ers and 87 per­cent gen­eral work­ers,” Zheng said dur­ing a re­cent in­spec­tion tour of the con­struc­tion site by Ugan­dan Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni.

By the end of 2017, more than $150 mil­lion was paid for lo­cal pro­cure­ment of diesel, ce­ment, steel, wood and ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to Zheng.

The am­bas­sador said when com­pleted, the plant will gen­er­ate 4 bil­lion kilo­watt hours an­nu­ally and pro­vide more than $200 mil­lion in rev­enue to the gov­ern­ment, which is close to 1 per­cent of the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

De­nis Ruban­gak­ene, a worker at the con­struc­tion site, said that work­ing un­der close su­per­vi­sion from his Chi­nese in­struc­tor, he has now gained skills in metal weld­ing.

“I have come to re­al­ize that th­ese peo­ple do not bother much about cer­tifi­cate and the level of ed­u­ca­tion as long as you can man­age to do the work they give you,” Ruban­gak­ene said.

He said he has now gained ex­pe­ri­ence and can start his own metal weld­ing work­shop when the con­struc­tion project ends.

“For me, I am very sure, when I reach Gulu I will open my work­shop. The project has given me some­thing to do in the fu­ture,” he said.

An­drew Ka­m­a­gara, a lo­cal en­gi­neer at the site, said the con­struc­tion project has ex­posed him to other fields that he never thought of join­ing.

He said al­though orig­i­nally he was a wa­ter en­gi­neer, the Chi­nese have ex­posed him to struc­tural en­gi­neer­ing, a skill he now en­joys.

“At school we mostly learnt about the­ory but when we came here, more the­ory was added, but with the prac­ti­cal bit,” Ka­m­a­gara said. “I will be go­ing away with a lot of struc­tural knowl­edge. I have gained that in­for­ma­tion and it in­creased my con­fi­dence in struc­tural de­sign.”

Mean­while, vil­lages neigh­bor­ing the con­struc­tion site have started de­vel­op­ing, ac­cord­ing to Sev­erino Opio, lo­cal coun­cil leader of Karuma vil­lage.

He said the lo­cals em­ployed at the site are now buy­ing land and con­struct­ing more per­ma­nent houses.

He said safe wa­ter points have been ex­tended closer to the vil­lages by Si­no­hy­dro, the project con­trac­tor.

“I used to col­lect wa­ter from very far and that meant I ei­ther had to leave my child in the house or carry him with me to fetch the wa­ter. But this bore­hole was built in the com­mu­nity so it helps us re­duce the time spent col­lect­ing wa­ter,” Ly­dia Buteme, a res­i­dent of Karuma vil­lage said.

At the na­tional level, the 600 mW power plant will be a game changer in the pro­vi­sion of ad­e­quate elec­tric­ity to power the coun­try’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Irene Mu­loni, min­is­ter of en­ergy and min­eral de­vel­op­ment, said con­struc­tion of the power plant will be com­pleted by the end of next year.

“Con­struc­tion of the power plant is 80 per­cent com­plete and the trans­mis­sion part is 42 per­cent com­plete,” Mu­loni said, not­ing that the first two units of the plant each gen­er­at­ing 100 mW will be com­pleted by the end of this year.

Mu­sev­eni thanked China for fi­nanc­ing the con­struc­tion of the power plant, not­ing that it will be im­por­tant in pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate elec­tric­ity to fast track the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try.

“I want to thank the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment be­cause we made a con­tri­bu­tion from the gov­ern­ment of Uganda money, but the big­ger money came from a soft loan from China,” Mu­sev­eni said.

Uganda con­trib­uted 15 per­cent as coun­ter­part fund­ing while the China Ex­port and Im­port Bank is pro­vid­ing fi­nanc­ing of up to 85 per­cent. The to­tal cost is $1.4 bil­lion for the gen­er­a­tion plant com­po­nent of the power plant.

Uganda’s power gen­er­a­tion and in­stalled ca­pac­ity is es­ti­mated at 930 mW, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data. It is es­ti­mated that 1,131 mW will be re­quired to meet the na­tional elec­tric­ity de­mand by 2020.

When Karuma and the 183 mW Isimba Hy­dro Power Plant are com­plete, the 2020 de­mand would be sur­passed. The Isimba Power Plant is also fi­nanced and con­structed by China.

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