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Isimba hydro plant to start power generation in 2016

Power generation at the 183MW Isimba hydro power plant in Kayunga and Kamuli districts will start in 2016, with 16 per cent of the work currently completed.

The contractor, China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE), recently presented a status report to stakeholders on the project so far and noted that the work progress was on schedule as planned.

The report was presented to speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga, the minister of energy and mineral development, Irene Muloni, and the Chinese ambassador to Uganda, ZhaoYali, who were on a joint tour and assessment of the project.

In September 2013, the government of Uganda, through the ministry of energy and mineral development, signed a contract with CWE for the construction of Isimba hydropower plant to generate 183 megawatts. They were also mandated to construct the Isimba–Bujagali interconnection line (132KV), with construction of both expected to be completed in 40 months since its commissioning by President Museveni in October 2013.  

The progress report on the project indicates that feasibility study on geological investigations was undertaken, the basic design engineering report was approved, turbine model test was approved, and the hydraulic model test was approved. Construction of the employer camp which is designed for both office operations and domestic use is complete.

A water treatment plant, power supply system, site hospital, fueling station, site lab, aggregate crushing system, batching plant and an explosive magazine are all complete. Trail blasting at quarry, first-stage diversion and foundation excavations are also being implemented. Commenting on the project, speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga noted that over 1500 local Ugandans were to directly benefit as employees.

“Kamuli and Kayunga will now become investment destinations for industries and other social benefits, the ministry of lands and urban development should now start land surveys and demarcation for urbanization in terms of domestic and commercial allocations,” Kadaga said.

Engineer Irene Muloni, the energy minister, said that as government, they were keen on ensuring that the progress of the project was not hampered and that quality work was done. Muloni said the first turbine would be up and running by the end of December 2016.

“Demand for power is very high; therefore, expansion and extension of transmission must be speeded up if the president’s call for value addition and industrialization is to be achieved,” said Muloni.

Muloni also revealed that as government, they had paid the 15 per cent of the government direct funding to the public project, which is $85m, and were waiting for the remaining 85 per cent loan financing from Export and Import (EXIM) China bank which is part of the total $600m for the entire project.

“Financing from the EXIM China bank which will contribute the remaining 85 per cent ($483m) is yet to be approved by parliament but as government, we decided to give the contractor our side of the bargain because they needed to order for the turbines which take time to manufacture,” Muloni told Kadaga.

The Chinese ambassador to Uganda, Zhao Yali, said he had instructed the Chinese company undertaking the construction works to ensure high quality standards so that the power plant could be efficient and effective for many years to come. Zhao said CWE and Sino-Hydro that is undertaking construction of Karuma power project (both Chinese companies) have contributed immensely to Ugandan economy through employment, taxes and sharing of knowledge and experiences.

“It is not true that Chinese companies employ only their fellow Chinese; in fact the Ugandans are more than the Chinese; we came here to create job opportunities,” Zhao said. 

However, the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, called for more stakeholder engagements for community development action plans, stating that her office had received several complaints from project-affected persons and those employed by CWE to work on the project.

“I have received complaints from my people ranging from those who were affected by the project, and workers on the project who say [they] work for seven days a week; they do not have enough protective gear, have low wages and language barrier,” said Kadaga.

Kadaga tasked the contractor to come up with a more reasonable wage arrangement for employees, address the issue of language barrier and ensure that there is equal distribution of jobs and any other benefits between Kamuli and Kayunga districts. She also requested the ministry of energy to speed up compensation of project-affected persons.

“I have no peace of mind, I cannot now spend a night at my own home because the moment they see me, they come complaining, please work on this issue,” Kadaga said.

In response, Muloni said 75 per cent of those affected by the project had been compensated and the remaining 25 per cent would be paid soon with the process for payment already underway. She added that 25 per cent of those affected by the transmission line had been paid and the remaining would all be cleared by April 2015.

Other major projects being undertaken by government are Karuma hydro power project with an installed capacity of 600MW and Ayago hydro power project also producing 600MW. Once completed, the high demand for energy to spur economic growth and development will be achieved.

The author works with the ministry of energy and mineral development.

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