Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli yesterday revealed the trouble the government went through to secure the construction of the proposed Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower station.
The government will build the giant 2,113-megawatt station in the Rufiji Basin using internal resources at an estimated cost of $2.9 billion (Sh6.5 trillion).
Speaking at State House in Dar es Salaam during the signing of the contract to build the dam, Dr Magufuli said potential financiers were initially reluctant to lend Tanzania money to build the dam.
The project has attracted stiff opposition from environmentalists and wildlife conservationists around the world, who say that it will endanger Selous Game Reserve, one of the world’s largest animal sanctuaries, which is also a Unesco world heritage site.
President Magufuli also revealed how his government rejected a proposal for a public-private partnership in implementing the project, saying it would have been contrary to plans to build a state-controlled power facility.
“They (financiers) agreed on forming a public-private partnership, but the problem was that such an arrangement would not have given us control of the resultant electricity…they can decide to switch off power and deny us the electricity needed for major undertakings such as the standard gauge railway,’’ he said.
A readily available option, according to the President, was to seek Egypt’s support, given the country’s experience in constructing large dams.
Egypt’s state-controlled Arab Contractors signed the contract to build the dam in the next three years.
President Magufuli also clarified on the size of the proposed complex, saying it would occupy not more than two per cent of Selous Game Reserve.
The dam will be the fourth largest in Africa behind similar facilities in Ethiopia and Nigeria.
Yesterday’s signing ceremony was beamed live and was preceded by prayers by 18 religious leaders from various denominations.
Also present was Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly, who said the project signified strong bilateral relations between the two countries.
Tanzania and Egypt share the Nile River along with nine other Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia.
Signs that Egypt would have landed the lucrative project became apparent when President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited Tanzania last year at Dr Magufuli’s invitation.
A team of experts from Egypt was then invited to discuss the project with their Tanzanian counterparts.
The government has, however, said that a tender was floated, and the Egyptian firm offered the most cost effective bid.
There were plans over the years to construct the Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric dam, but it was not until yesterday that they became a reality.
Energy minister Medard Kalemani said the proposed dam would be the 60th largest in the world.
The dam will have a volume of 35.2 billion cubic metres and will be 1,025 metres long and 131 metres high. It’s nine turbines will be able to generate 2,113MW of electricity.