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Karuma dam 93% ready

Mutikanga (R) engages Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda during the visit on Feb15.

This is a liberating project, says PM Rugunda as NRM bosses visit site

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE |The 600MW Karuma Hydropower Dam under construction on the River Nile in Kiryandongo District in northwestern Uganda is 93% ready and the remaining work is progressing well.

Harrison Mutikanga, the chief executive officer of the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), which is the official government agency supervising the project, gave the update on Feb. 15 to a visiting high level team from the ruling NRM party.

The members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of NRM were led by the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.

Speaking after the tour of the project, Rugunda said now that Karuma is about to be completed, Isimba (183WM) is completed, Bujagali is working, electricity is no longer a problem and, therefore, more investors; local and foreign are welcome to do business.

“It is good to come and see Karuma in its final stages,” he said. “This is a liberating project because power has been one of the leading bottlenecks for Uganda’s economic development. There is no reverse gear.”

He said they saw many happy workers at the site who testified to having acquired skills and money from the project so far.

Harrison Mutikanga said the dam could have been completed much earlier but several challenges delayed it. He cited bottlenecks in procurement of project services, delays by the government to handover land for the project, and even unfriendly weather – too much rain – which slowed down some of the construction works.

“We would have started producing power at the end of last year which means we have lost what would have been the potential revenue accruing from the sale of this power,” he said.

However, he said the remaining works and physical progress are going on well. He said a few technical works remain in the powerhouse that will house the six turbines and related infrastructure.

The official commissioning of the dam is now set for December this year. It had earlier been set for July. Initially, construction of the dam was expected to end in December 2018.

The government wants this project accomplished to meet the growing electricity demand by domestic and commercial consumers and to, hopefully exploit economies of scale and Karuma Dam’s better investment financing plan to drive power consumer tariffs down.

Commenting on the delays of the project, Rugunda said Karuma is one of the few projects that had been generally well resourced but the movement and administration of resources, procurement and recruitment of personnel sometimes affected the speed of implementation of the project. Despite that, he said, the government is happy that by the end of year, the project will be done.

“We will be able to even sell power even to the region,” he said.

The NRM Deputy Secretary General, Richard Todwong said that the visit was part of the NEC’s routine work of moving around the country to monitor the progress of different projects that government is undertaking. The event was one of the opening activities of NEC’s three day retreat at the neighboring picturesque Chobe Safari Lodge.

“We are so much impressed with the achievements that we have observed; we encourage other Ugandans to come and pay a visit to this project; it is a national souvenir that we are proud of as NRM.”

In August last year, when President Yoweri Museveni visited the site for the first time since its construction started in 2013, this is what he said:

“I came here to see the progress of work and what I will not be able to see in future; the power house and the dam before being swallowed by water. Karuma is a Uganda Government dam, built with our own money with a soft loan from China.”

The dam, which is being constructed under the ground, is constructed by Sinohydro Corporation Ltd from China and is expected to cost US$1.7bn, financed by the government of Uganda (15%) and the soft loan from China Export and Import Bank (85%). The loan is being paid by the government of Uganda starting 2013 for the period of 30 years.

Quick facts about Karuma dam

  • August 12, 2013:     Construction starts
  • December 2018: Official commissioning date
  • July 2019:    New suggested date for official commissioning
  • December 2019: New date set for official commissioning
  • US$1.7bn:                Cost of the project
  • 93%: Physical progress as at Feb.15, 2019
  • 4274 (86%):       Number of Ugandans employed
  • 702:                   Number of Chinese employed

NEC visited the site as one of the opening activities of its three days retreat at Chobe Safari Lodge.

  • The project has an underground powerhouse, which shall receive water to move the turbines through ‘a mosaic of tunnels and ducts’ making it the first of its kind in Africa.
  • There is a total 26.5 km of underground tunneling and other civil works.
  • Transmission lines: The project will have three major transmission lines; 400 KV Karuma-Kawanda line that is 248km long; 400 KV KarumaOlwiyo 55 Km long and the 132 KV Karuma-Lira 75km transmitting the power produced.

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