JINJA - The longstanding energy crisis in the East African region is bound to reduce after the long awaited construction of Bujagali Hydropower Dam in Uganda was commissioned on Tuesday.
With plans to transform into an industrialized economy, the five-member East African Community (EAC), which includes Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is expected to take advantage of the dam. All EAC member countries are currently faced with a power crisis.
His Highness the Aga Khan who is the investor behind the $750-million project said his single largest investment would drastically tame the power crisis in the region.
The 250-megawatt dam, set for completion in forty-four months, will play a key role in mitigating the region’s acute energy gap, the spiritual leader of the over 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims said.
Bujagali power project is expected to create over 1000 jobs during construction, according to experts from Bujagali Energy Limited.
“This marks an intricate process of planning. The energy challenge would require a multiple response. Hydropower is clean energy that has little impact on environment,” Aga Khan said.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni joined the Aghan Khan on Tuesday to lay a foundation stone for the mega power project in Jinja.
Considered as the largest power plant in Sub Saharan Africa, the public-private project would initially reduce Uganda’s current 150MW power deficit before rolling out to the East African region.
The Aga Khan said the project will promote sustainable development as it is a renewable source of generation, reduces carbon dioxide emission and deforestation.
Clearing of vegetation from the quarry area, land survey of access roads, site construction and building construction are all in progress.
The project is funded by World-Bank Group. Uganda has contributed $90m, which it intends to recover as soon as the World Bank approves the loan.
However, critics anticipate that with the availability of sufficient power and the recent discovery of petroleum in Uganda, the cost of the region’s imports and production will drop.
Museveni said that a grid interconnection between places with abundant power and those with deficit environs would be built.
He said his government would plan power supply ahead of an impending huge demand to avoid a similar crisis the country has experienced. For the last 15 years, Bujagali project failed to take off after environmentalists reasoned that it would bare adverse effects on the environment including reducing water levels in Lake Victoria.
Museveni lambasted environmentalists and accused them of frustrating the project because they are ‘amateurs.’
He said that his government would also explore the possibility of exploiting gas and geo-thermal to increase power supply for the East African region. Gas was recently discovered on Lake Albert.