By Ibrahim Kasita
Preparation works for the construction of the $1.4b Karuma hydropower project has started ahead of the lending terms agreements. Uganda entered a bilateral agreement with China to speed up the construction of hyhro power dam.
President Yoweri Museveni launched the project in mid-August.
A few weeks ago the Ugandan delegation was in China to finalise the project financial terms. A contract has been executed with China’s Sinohydro Corporation to construct both the power plant and transmission line.
During the launch, Irene Muloni, the energy minister, said Exim Bank of China will provide 85% of the project funds while Uganda will provide 15%.
Officials from the EXIM Bank of China on Wednesday toured the 600 megawatts (MW) dam site to conduct due diligence before the release of the loan.
“We expect that the financial agreement between the Government of Uganda and China is completed soon to speed up the construction of the project,” said Song Yi Jun, the Sinohydro Corporation project manager.
“We have started preparatory works which include constructing access roads, building temporary camps and mobilising equipment,” he said.
“We expect that once the EXIM Bank releases the concessionary loan, the project will commence fully in January.” Yi Jun said there are 50 Chinese engineers and consultants at the site and the number will grow to about 500 at the peak of the project works.
“They will provide the technical know-how to Ugandan engineers who will operate and maintain the plant when completed,” he said.
“The project will directly employ 3,000 Ugandans at the peak. There will be other jobs created by our suppliers who will be contracted to offer different services and goods.”
The kind of workers expected are welders, joineries, carpenters, porters, project accountants, electrical and mechanical engineers, cooks, cleaners and masons.
Local residents are encouraged to start businesses to serve the needs of the workers. Power lines The project also covers the associated transmission lines to evacuate the generated electricity from the power plant to the national grid.
One transmission line will run from Karuma to Kawanda substation, about 260km away, with a voltage of 400kV. Another one will run from Karuma to Olwiyo in Nwoya district, about 40km away, also with 400 kV.
The third line will run from Karuma to Lira substation. The Government has financed the implementation of the resettlement action plan through the energy ministry.
“We have resolved almost all the grievances raised by the persons affected by the project and we expect the project will start with no outstanding issues,” Henry Bidasala, the assistant commissioner in the energy ministry, said.