The start of construction of the 600MW Karuma hydropower dam edged closer to reality with the ground breaking ceremony taking place yesterday in Kiryandongo District.
President Museveni, who presided over the ceremony for the multi-billion shilling project, hailed the good partnership between the Chinese government and Africa. “I salute this partnership with China,” Mr Museveni said.
The dam is being constructed by Sinohydro, a Chinese firm. Mr Museveni said Chinese lending is free from strings attached unlike other developed countries. He said lack of sufficient electricity has been a bottleneck for economic growth. Karuma has been hobbled by wrangling between the government departments, politicians and intending contractors for months with accusations of corruption clouding the procurement process.
That unrest is now over. The President reminded his audience that building of the power project will be financed by a loan from Exim Bank of China and Uganda. Exim Bank of China will contribute 85 per cent while Uganda will contribute 15 per cent.
The whole project will cost $1.4b (Shs3.5 trillion) while a separate $250m (Shs641b) will be spent on the construction of power lines to evacuate generated electricity. “It is my pleasure to perform the ceremony of the groundbreaking, it is a pity that the project was delayed due to shoddy work in the procurement,” Mr Museveni said. He said the money which the government would be using to construct the dam will now be spent on development of other infrastructure, like roads and rural electrification programmes.
The minister for Energy, Ms Irene Muloni, said the major transmission lines will be from Karuma to Kawanda power sub-station, Karuma to Kamdini and Karuma to Lira substation. She said the project required 466 hectares of land and 621 people were affected by the project with 478 fully compensated. She attributed the delay in compensating the remaining people to land wrangles mainly in Awoo village, Mutunda Sub-county.
Kibanda MP Sam Otada asked government to expedite payment of the remaining claimants.
Mr James Omale, one of the affected residents, said the government has failed to compensate him for the 13 graves of his relatives. He said he had been promised to be paid Shs2.5m in April, but he has not yet received his package. “I was given a paper indicating that the money will be on my account in April but up to now I have not seen it,” Mr Omale said.