By Frank Mugabi
CONSTRUCTION of the 250MW hydropower dam at Bujagali falls has entered its final phase. On Friday engineers started diverting the River Nile at the site to create a dry bed, where the damâ€™s final embankment will be erected.
Bill Groth, the construction manager at Bujagali Energy Limited (BEL), said the river was being re-channeled to run through a newly-constructed spillway. By mid May the river bed will be dry, but the water will be brought back when construction is finished.
â€œWe need about six weeks to accomplish the entire procedure (of diverting the river) to allow work on the left embankment to commence,â€ Groth said.
The first 50MW of electricity will be produced by October 2011 and by April 2012, the plant will be producing to capacity.
The plant is also anticipated to shift reliance from the costly thermal power to the more reliable and less expensive hydro power to spur the countryâ€™s social and economic development.
When the power plant is complete, Load shedding and electricity tariffs are expected to reduce.
Due to the ongoing construction, the age-old picnic and tourism site has been closed to the public. It is considered unsafe and soon the rapids will disappear.
Instead fun lovers are encouraged to go to Kalagala Falls which is located downstream, which is as beautiful as Bujagali. Kalagala can be accessed through the Jinja-Kayunga road.
White water rafters are no longer allowed to pass through Bujagali. Instead, they start downstream the Bujagali dam and can go beyond Kalagala falls.
â€œWe have blocked access to Bujagali falls. But we encourage rafters and other water users to shift their activities downstream,â€ Kenneth Kaheru, the BEL deputy construction manager, said.
The project employs about 2500 people, of whom 2200 are Ugandans. Most of them work as welders, carpenters, concrete finishers, equipment operators and truck drivers.