By Ayiga Ondoga
THE Karuma hydro-power project, worth about Sh.4.3 trillion ($1.7billion) has commenced with the construction of two big underground access tunnels and access roads at the site.
The eight month old construction of the 600 megawatts dam was commissioned by President Yoweri Museveni in August 2013, who said 85% of the funding will be procured by Sinohydro Corporation Ltd, a Chinese firm with a soft loan from Exim bank and the Uganda government will cater for the 15%.
The two access tunnels which are to measure 1400 metres from upper stream to down stream are to be for transporting materials to the power house, according to the deputy project manager, Liu Jianguo.
Jianguo said another diversion tunnel for water which be 607 metres will be constructed later on the northern side of River Nile after the completion of the two tunnels and power house on the southern side.
“We are constructing the tunnels underground because the project site is surrounded by Murchision National Game Park which the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said its fauna and flora should not be destroyed.
He observed the construction of the water diversion tunnel will be the first priority around march 2015 in order to complete the project within the time frame of 2018(5 years).
Jianguo stated that most of the required machinery for the construction works cranes, excavators, bull-dozers and steel bars among others are already on site and the remaining ones are in transit from China.
“We have so far recruited 168 workers both Chinese and local people from Uganda out of the required man-power of 2500 which is to constitute both permanent and casual workers needed for the project,” deputy project manager revealed.
Jianguo added, “But the problem, we have is lack of skilled man-power from the local people like machine operators, electricians and crane operators. This is putting more costs on us through training on job during the project duration.”
State minister for energy, Eng. Simon D’Ujanga said the people affected by the hydro-power project were compensated worth Sh28 billion with exception of one family because of land ownership which they are trying to resolve.