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Why Karuma Dam commissioning has been extended again

Officials listen to one of the technical persons as they visited part of the dam’s infrastructure on Jan.16.

Contractor, Ministry of Energy say it will be ready in November 2020

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | The commissioning of the 600MW Karuma Hydropower Dam has again been extended to November 2020 to allow the contractor deliver a fit for purpose project.

This is the third time that Karuma Dam commissioning has been extended.  The dam was set for commissioning in Dec.2018 but the activity was extended twice – in July and later at the end of 2019.

In an interview with a team of journalists at the site on Jan. 16, Eng. Proscovia Margaret Njuki, the Board Chairperson for Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) and Simon Kasyate, the corporate affairs manager said major hydro mechanical and electro mechanical parts are already in place but a lot of work remains to be done on the employers camp, and a few other electro mechanical installations. The duo said the project is now at 95% completion.

“We understand the owner of the project, the Ministry of Energy, extended the commissioning date for the pending works mainly based on land acquisition for the transmission line,” Njuki said.

The UEGCL executives said there are other quality assurance issues that needs to be worked on including repairs on the dam as well as cabling.

“One can say comfortably that the project is moving on well albeit a few bends that are in the process of being straightened like any other project worth its name,” Kasyate said.

The Auditor General’s office has previously raised queries regarding the delays on commissioning the project which is hinged on Uganda’s industrialization agenda.

But UEGCL officials are hopeful that this time around the dam will be commissioned come Nov.2020.

“We have an incredible respect for the Auditor General and his opinion when it comes to the reports that he issues…if that is his opinion we welcome it and give it the respect it deserves,” Kasyate said.

Earlier Eng. Harrison Mutikanga, the chief executive officer for UEGCL, 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 – excessive rain – which slowed down some of the construction works.

Recent media reports indicates that the Chinese contractor Synohydro had asked for Shs615bn extra money to work on the completion of the project but the government refused, saying the cost was not supported with the required documents. The government only accepted to extend the project timeline but with no extra costs.

Njuki and Kasyate insisted that no extra cost will be met by the government as agreed between the contractor and the owner of the project, the ministry of energy.

Located on the upstream of River Nile in Kiriandogo District, the dam is expected to cost government US$1.7bn. Out of this, 85% is a soft loan from the China Export and Import Bank.

UEGCL executives said delivering the project to its excellent standards is key in driving the social economic transformation of the country given that it is one avenue of driving Uganda’s industrialization agenda and job creation.

Karuma dam is expected to feed into the 2023 Uganda’s target of having 1300MW installed capacity of electricity.

Currently, the east African nation has electricity generation capacity of 1254MW against a peak time demand of 670MW. This leaves more than 500MW unutilized.

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

-December 2020: New deadline for dam’s completion

-US$1.7bn:          Cost of the project

-95%: Physical progress as at January 16, 2020

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