The completion date for the highly awaited 600MW Karuma Hydro Power Project has been extended by one year. The contractor Sinohydro Corporation Limited has cited challenges such as land acquisition, delayed construction of transmission lines that has led to delays in the project. In the past the project also faced problems of cracks and shoddy works.
President Yoweri Museveni recently visited the project as announcements were made to signal the extension of completion deadlines. The project is located on the Nile River in Kyandongo District in mid-northern Uganda, 110km downstream of Lake Kyoga, and 270km from Kampala the Capital of Uganda..
The overall physical progress of works as of July 2018 stood at 80%. This translates into 67.3% for civil works. The $1.7b project cost is met by government of Uganda (15%) and EXIM Bank of China soft loan (85%). The project is expected to generate increased power for industrial, domestic use and for exports to the region.
The president toured the underground tunnels, the concrete dam, underground powerhouse, transformer, surge chamber of the project and addressed the workers, contractors and local leaders of the area. During the address the president commended the contractor for the good progress of the work.
He explained that he came to see the power house and dam structure before they were submerged by power as the project enters into its completion phase. On 12th August 2013 construction works was launched by Museveni and 16th December, 2013 was the project commencement date with a duration targeted at 60 months (five years).
He noted that he would return for the final commissioning of the project next year where celebrations are expected.
The president said the project was expected to generate 200MW by the end of this year, when two turbine units become operational.
The president asked the leaders of Kiryandango district to provide one square of mile of land for the construction of an industrial park. He said the park will have factories for food processing, juice making and other industries and will use the power stepped down from Karuma as it would be produced at high voltages.
He said power will be available to the local people and it should be used for productive activities. He urged Ugandans to use the power to do big business advising that big towns should start doing big business employing many people.
The president directed the ministry of education and sports to provide vocational skills to the youth of the project area using the technical school at Kiryandongo.
The president recalled that earlier developers had planned to build Karuma to generate 200MW which he rejected. He explained that the contract was given to Sinohydro Corporation, a big company that could handle the magnitude of the project.
The Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Mr. Zheng Zhuqiang expressed with gratitude that the project was a good example of China Uganda economic cooperation.
Mr. Zhuqiang said that by 2017 $150m (sh570b) has been spent on local content materials such as cement steel, wood, vehicles.
He said when the project was complete it would produce $200m (sh760b) in revenues annually equivalent to 1% of Uganda’s GDP. “Power is a bottleneck for the development in Africa. China is helping address this bottleneck,” he said. He noted that the Karuma project has created over 6,000 jobs.
The ambassador added that the Chinese Government was supporting the construction of Isimba Dam, Entebbe Airport Expansion and the Kampala to Entebbe Expressway and the construction of several industrial parks which will create over 30,000 jobs.
The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Eng. Irene Muloni explained that the construction of the power plant is in progress with 80% completion achieved while the transmission lines are at 42%.
Eng. Muloni said the construction of transmission lines delayed because of the challenges of land acquisition where only 70% of the required project land has been acquired to date. The minister noted that the ministry of finance has provided all the funds needed to carry out the Resettlement Action Plan.
She noted that because of the delay to acquire land for the transmission lines, the contractor has asked to revise the completion date of the project from December 2018 to December 2019.
“The contractor has indicated that the first two units of 100mw each will be commissioned by December 2018 while the last unit will be commissioned in July 2019. Full commissioning and commercial operations date is dependent on the earliest completion of the Karuma Interconnection Project expected by December 2019,” Muloni said.
She said the ministry together with the implementing agencies are to implement the Community Development Action Plan whose main objective is to address pressure on local social infrastructure, social services, livelihoods and natural resources. The three districts to benefit from the plan are Oyam, Nwoya and Kiryandongo districts.
Eng. Muloni disclosed that the contractor has agreed to donate two hospitals, a civilian one in Oyam district and a military one in Masindi district.
The contractor will donate one primary school in the project area, set up a study fund for orphans and hand over the contractors camps and offices to Government.
“The sites for the construction of the aforementioned facilities were identified and the EPC Contractor is to commence with construction works at the identified sites,” Eng. Muloni explained.
Mr. Joseph Oryem, LCI Chairperson Karuma Cell welcomed the positive impact of the project on Karuma Town Council. Oryem highlighted that there was good cooperation between Sinohydro Corporation and the community in garbage management, the contractor has constructed two boreholes for the community, they have built a new market for the community.
Mr. Oryem said other support provided by contractor included creation of jobs for the youth and opening up access roads especially Karuma Primary School access road. He called for the improved welfare of employees working at the project.
On key features of the project; on civil works of the dam the concreting works in all the dam blocks are completed except few blocks in the stilling basin with percent complete ticked at 100 %. On the surge chamber concreting is going on left and right surge chambers percent completed 75 %, power house work (69.4 %), lowering of turbine shaft and runner in unit 2, 3 completed.
On the power intake the installation of emergency gates for all the six units completed. Installation of gantry crane for maintenance gate in progress. The removal of bracings and painting for penstock is in progress.