Tanzania is set to commence construction works on a hydro-power dam at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve after the government made a US $310m down payment to two Egyptian companies-Arab Contractors and El Sewedy Electric Co with whom they signed a deal with in December last year.
Dotto James, Permanent Secretary of the country’s Ministry of Finance and Planning, handed over the advance payment to Mr. Mohamed Hassan, a representative of the Egyptian companies. He later said that the disbursement was equal to 15% of the total project cost which is projected at US $2.9bn and the Tanzanian Government would cater for the entire cost mostly by tax revenues.
The 2,115-megawatt dam project situated at Rufiji River, covering about 50,000 square km is expected to be completed within the next three years offering 6 000 direct jobs while ensuring reliable and affordable power supply at a time when Tanzania is gearing towards an industrialized middle income economy.
Criticisms over the project
Even though the dam is set to increase Tanzania’s power capacity from the current 1.5 GW to approximately 3.6 GW, it has been subjected to severe denunciations from international observers.
An independent report on the scheme aired in February this year, predicted that the cost of the project would shoot up from the estimated US$ 2.9 billion to almost US$ 10 billion in practice. It also claimed that the money would rather be spent developing the country’s wind and solar potential.
In December, when Tanzania hired the contractor, World Wildlife Fund warned that the project “risks damage to a wetland of international importance, the Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa Marine Ramsar Site, and it could also bring a negative impact on the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people living downstream”.
The government of Tanzania has however disallowed the censures, saying that the dam would actually conserve water and sustain the elephants, black rhinos, giraffes and other wildlife population at Selous Game Reserve.