Construction of Uganda's largest power plant enters final phase

Construction of Uganda's largest hydropower plant has entered its final phase, with installation works taking over physical building.

Working in tunnels below River Nile in the northern Ugandan district of Kiryandongo, Chinese engineers and their Ugandan counterparts carefully install machinery for the 600 MW plant.

They work in day and night shifts to ensure that the 1.688 billion U.S. dollar Karuma Hydro Power Plant is completed within the next year.

"More than 85 percent of the work is complete. It's not an easy job because it involves designing the structure, installation and connecting cables," Li Huiting, the deputy project manager, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Li is optimistic that by the end of this year, the installation of the first out of the six units would be complete.

Construction of the plant, the first in east and central Africa to be built underground, started in August 2013.

In addition to the anticipated capacity of 600 MW, the project has had a major skills transfer, especially among the youth, according to the government.

Chinese engineers and technicians work closely with their Ugandan counterparts, Li, the deputy project manager, said.

More than 6,000 youths have been employed at the construction site, according to Sinohydro, a Chinese company contracted to build the plant.

Andrew Kamagara, a local engineer, told Xinhua that he was originally a water engineer but has since expanded his knowledge base.

"I used to be scared of the structural bit, but when I came to Karuma Hydro Power Project I gained that information and it increased my confidence in structural design," he said.

Tezita Muzahamu, another employee, told Xinhua that he has gained skills in metal welding besides rock blasting.

"I had a rough idea about welding, but right now I am an expert," Muzahamu said. "Even if Synohydro goes and there is no blasting job yet, I can make my own workshop and start making my things."

Development in villages near the construction site has also shown the positive effects.

Severino Opio, the local council leader of Karuma village, told Xinhua that some of the youths employed at the construction site have been able to buy land and build houses.

Karuma is a major stopover of buses to the central and northern part of the east African country. Supermarkets, saloons, hotels have sprung up, thanks to the construction of the power plant.

At the national level, the power plant is seen as a major investment that will address the country's rising demand for electricity.

Since 2005, the share of Uganda's population with access to electricity has increased from 9 percent to 22 percent, with the total number of customers having grown from 292,000 to more than 1.1 million, according to government figures.

The country's power generation and installed capacity is estimated at 930 MW, according to government data.

It is estimated that 1,131 MW will be required to meet the national electricity demand by 2020.

Editor: 董平