By Ibrahim Kasita
THE 250mw Bujagali Hydropower Project commissioning date has been pushed forward after the contractor encountered unfavourable ground conditions, the project sponsors disclosed over the weekend.
Glenn Gaydar, the Bujagali Energy Ltd.; (BEL) project director, revealed that the works necessitated significant redesign, and construction of a new major structure related to the gated spillway in order to safeguard the integrity and safety of the dam.
â€œThe poor rock condition in the tailrace section of the gated spillway caused major changes to the works but we anticipate no changes in the project cost as the additional work will be covered under the normal project contingency,â€ Gaydar explained.
He, however, declined to state the new date for the commissioning of the plant, arguing that it would be communicated in due course after the necessary analysis had been completed.
This means that the electricity from the multi-billion project would not be online in October 2011 as it was envisaged. Works on the dam started in mid-2007 and it were expected to be completed in 44-months.
It is expected that when completed, the project would inject 250MW to the national grid, thus significantly reducing incidences of power load-shedding, which have plagued the nation.
It is also expected to reduce the reliance on expensive thermal generation. Gaydar said the construction was approaching 60% completion following good progress in all the major components of the dam, adding that the project had achieved significant progress in all major areas of the construction contract.
He confirmed the overall offshore works, which include fabrication of the electromechanical equipment, were over 95% complete, while construction, comprising mainly civil works, was over 50% complete. â€œThere is good progress on the dam and we expect to divert the river towards the end of 2010 so that River Nile flows entirely through the gates currently under construction, thereby allowing the eastern section of the dam, where the river currently flows through, to be constructed,â€ Gaydar said.
On the projectâ€™s social and environmental aspects, he said over $3m had been spent in agricultural extension services, health, education, fisheries, skills training including entrepreneurship and environmental conservation as well as other social programmes specifically targeted for vulnerable persons.
The objective of the social and environment program is to ensure that the integrity of the environment in the project area is enhanced and that the Project Affected People (PAPs) are empowered to become self reliant and thus be capable of improving their livelihoods.
BEL is building schools in Naminya settlement village as well as supporting other education initiatives in the other affected villages. BEL is also equipping and upgrading health centres as well as training, equipping and facilitating village health teams with the tools they need to deliver healthcare services more efficiently to the project affected people.
It has also helped to organise the fishing community in the project area and has equipped the fishermen with appropriate fishing gear.
BEL is also finalising a partnership arrangement with the National Water and Sewerage Corporation that will enable the project affected communities on both sides of the river get access to piped water. BEL has also initiated a special purpose company co-owned by the Industrial Promotion Services (K), Sithe Global Power, and the Government.
IPS and Sithe are affiliates of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and the Blackstone Group respectively.