Wednesday April 23 2014

Chinese firm short of 2,500 workers for Karuma project

Workers put up a billboard signalling the start of the Karuma Hydro Power

Workers put up a billboard signalling the start of the Karuma Hydro Power Project. According to information, the project needs to recruit more than 25,000 employees. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA. 


KIRYADONGO- The Chinese company contracted to build the 600-Megawatt dam on River Nile at Karuma has said it is short of manpower to execute construction works.

Sinohydro Corporation snapped up the $1.7 billion (Shs4.2 trillion) deal on President Museveni’s directive in June 2013, and says it has up to 2,500 vacancies.

The dam could cost upward of $2.2 billion or Shs5.5 trillion, according to previous estimates by a UK consultant.
However, a senior company official said Uganda could not provide the required professionals, a claim which state minister for Energy Simon D’Ujanga said ‘is unfounded’.

“Currently, we have two Crane operators. We would need more than 30. Uganda cannot provide us with enough skilled workers such as crane operators, electricians, welders and carpenters,” Mr Liu Jianguo, the Karuma Hydro Power Project deputy manager, told journalists who were on a field visit at the Karuma site on Thursday.

The implication is that should the company fail to get the skilled workers locally, it might choose to tap foreign nationals – paid higher expatriate rates – to pad the human resource gap.

Failure on deadline
In the alternative, the firm could altogether fail to beat the 2018 deadline set for commissioning the new dam.
In his response, Mr D’Ujanga, said the government was seconding more engineers to work at the site.

“We have more than enough semi-skilled workers. Bujagali hydro power scheme equipped many people with skills. The problem we have is with skilled workers. We are in the market to recruit more engineers,” said Mr D’Ujanga.

According to Sinohydro, the company will require more specialised labour when the engineering, procurement and construction project works, next year, reach the stage of building the powerhouse.

Presently, site workers are drilling two tunnels to connect to the planned power house.

To stem load shedding in the long term, Uganda has to complete not just the 600-megawatt Karuma HPP but other such projects including Ayago Dam within 10 years, official estimates show.

Mr Liu said when Karuma is completed, as expected in the next five to seven years, the Chinese experts on the project will remain around for an extra five years to train Ugandans on how to operate the powerhouse equipment.

Works on the project

Works on the Shs4.3 trillion ($1.7billion) started recently with the construction of two underground access tunnels and access roads.

The project will be funded 85 per cent by Sinohydro with a soft loan from Exim bank, whereas the Ugandan government will cater for the 15 per cent.

The access tunnels, measuring 1,400 metres, will transport materials to the power house. According to officials, the construction of a water diversion tunnel will be given first priority in order to complete the project within the time frame of 2018 (5 years).