Tanzania denies deal for construction of grand hydropower project DAR ES SALAAM

Oct.
24 (Xinhua)

The government of Tanzania has said it is not aware of any deal to award the
tender for the construction of the Stiegler’s gorge hydropower project to
Egyptian company Arab Contractors.

“I haven’t seen those reports”,
Gerson Msigwa, Director of Presidential Communication at State House, said on
Tuesday. 

Msigwa was commenting on reports from the presidential
palace in the Egyptian capital Cairo saying Arab Contractors have apparently
outbid over 50 other international companies to build what is officially known
as the Rufiji Hydropower Project at Stiegler’s gorge along the Rufiji River.

President John Magufuli telephoned his
Egyptian counterpart, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, on Sunday to formally
inform him about the decision to award the tender for the mega project to the
Cairo-based construction company, according to a statement from Egyptian
presidential spokesman Bassam Rady.

Egyptian media reported on Tuesday added that
Al-Sisi has accepted Magufuli’s invitation to attend a ground-breaking ceremony
to mark commencement of the construction work at a date to be announced later.

The Tanzanian government invited bids last
year to build a 2,100-megawatt (MW) hydroelectric plant inside the Selous Game
Reserve, a World Heritage site renowned for its animal populations, despite
opposition from conservationists to the long-delayed project.

The Arab Contractors company announced on
Monday that it has won a tender to execute the biggest hydroelectric dam in
Tanzania, in partnership with Egyptian cable maker ElSewedy Electric.

The two companies submitted an offer to build
a hydroelectric dam in the Stiegler’s gorge, with investments worth about 3
billion dollars, according to latest media reports from Egypt.

However, the project has courted local and
global controversy, with conservationists calling for a comprehensive strategic
environmental assessment before the project is implemented.

“The impact on Tanzania’s largest river
would affect many ecosystem services it provides. It would affect tourism in
Selous downstream in some of the most abundant wildlife areas in the game
reserve,” conservation group WWF said in a report last year.

President Magufuli has dismissed the concerns,
saying only a tiny fraction of the Selous would be used to build the proposed
hydropower dam.

A hydropower dam at Stiegler’s gorge was
considered by the Tanzanian government since the 1960s, but the project never
took off due to lack of funding. 

Magufuli considers the project as key to
solving the country’s energy needs, saying it would lead to the generation of
cheap, abundant electricity to power the government’s industrial drive. 

Magufuli recently slammed a new environment
audit of the project by a team of Tanzanian experts and ordered his government
to change recommendations of the report in favour of broader “national
interests.” 

“I have already issued instructions that
they should change the recommendations of the report by the so-called Tanzanian
environmental experts,” the president declared.

He dismissed recommendations of the experts,
which he said call for environment screening of all construction materials and
other objects brought to the site of the project to minimize any possible
impact to the surrounding area.

GNA

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