Rusumo power plant 47 per cent complete – officials

Energy ministers from Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda inspect construction works at Rusumo power plant on Friday. / Jean de dieu Nsabimana

The status of construction of 80MW power plant, under Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project (RRFHP), is at 47% percent, according to ministers in the three countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

The declaration was made on Friday when the Burundian Minister for Energy, Côme Manirakiza, Rwandan Minister for Infrastructure, Amb. Claver Gatete and Tanzanian Minister for Energy, Dr Medard Kalemani, visited the project on the banks of River Akagera.

The officials constitute the Project’s Council of Ministers (CoM).

The main construction works of the power plant are located at the Rusumo border between Tanzania and Rwanda.

The project, which will cost $ 340 million, is funded by the World Bank, and is being implemented by Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

NELSAP-CU was authorised and delegated by the RPCL (Rusumo Power Company Limited), which represents the three countries.

Minister Claver Gatete said the progress was impressive, compared to how it was the last time they visited the project.

“We have seen a tremendous progress,” he said.

“We have seen that the works on the dam are at a good progress, when compared to how it was last time, and at a tunnel that will lead the water to turbines, we have seen that they have managed to overcome the challenges that had occurred, and the basic works on the powerhouse have already been finished; the electro-mechanical activities are going to start” he announced.

The officials also pointed out that the tunnel had “very” hard rocks, and mentioned it as one of the challenges the contractors faced.

The horizontal tunnel, about 300-metre long beneath a Tanzanian hill, will lead the river into three turbines, transforming it into electricity.

The works were supposed to finish by February 2020. “However, it delayed to start  and there were some challenges in its preparations which means that it won’t be completed on time and has been projected to finish in February 2021,” Gatete explained.

The infrastructure minister said the project was one of the sources that will contribute to 100 percent electricity target by 2024.

“Like the President has pledged [in seven-year government programme], 100 percent of residents in Rwanda will have electricity by 2024, that is our target,” he said.

Moreover, within three years, Rwanda will have 80MW peat power, 55 MW methane gas power, and, Rusizi III power connected to the national grid.

This, Gatete continued, in addition to the other off-grid power sources that will be established, “will undoubtedly make the country achieve the target.”

This is the third meeting on the project, following the one in July last year and in February this year, according to Dr Kalemani.

He said they urged the contractors to increase the labour force, and to “work day and night” so the countries meet the deadline, and they will again meet after a few months to assess the progress.

“This project is an example of good partnership by the three East African countries,” reminded Minister Kalemani.

The Project has so far employed about 294 Rwandans, 268 Tanzanians and more than 100 Burundian casual labourers, many of them from the neighbouring districts.