By Jackson Oboth
Over the weekend, I was privileged to join a group of journalists on invitation to witness progress on the Construction of Karuma Hydropower Project being undertaken by a Chinese firm, Sinohydro Corporation Limited.
At the entrance of the 600MW project we were quick to notice the developments mushrooming around the area in terms of residential quarters as well as a four stored mega structure along the Kampala –Gulu Highway which already houses a mega Supermarket stocked with a wide array of products.
At the project site, one would be tempted to think there is not much activity going on until we were ushered at the entrance of the Main Access Tunnel (MAT) which is 1322m long excavated through tonnes of rocks leading to where the underground caverns (Powerhouse, Main Transformer Cavern and Surge Chamber) are located. Driving through the tunnel offers the feeling of having a train ride through one the underground tunnels in central London. The excavation work on the caverns is going on smoothly. Explaining the task, Mr. Xu Sheng Jian, Head of Technical Department, said excavation of the Main Transfer Cavern has been completed on 20 March 2016.
“The Powerhouse excavation work is going on as scheduled. We have excavated 75% of the benches so far. As you can see, there is beehive activity with Engineers working around the clock to finish this critical milestone of the project. Inside these benches is where each of the six generators will be installed. Each generator with a capacity of 100 MW will rest in the benches, housed in each hole measuring 23×19.6meters (LxW). The excavation work of the Powerhouse is expected to be completed by October this year” Mr.Xu said.
Exiting from the MAT tunnel, we were driven downstream across the Gulu highway where the #8, #9, #10 adits, two Tailrace tunnels and outlet have also been excavated. The twin parallel tunnels running at 8.4 kilometers and 8.6 kilometers respectively are intersected by the above three access Adits. According to Mr. Xu, the excavation work on the two tunnels is on schedule “ 86% upper layer and 22% lower layer has been completed with only smoothening aspect remaining. The two tunnels shall be running through by 10 November 2016, approximately 30 days ahead of schedule.
Mr. Xu then took us to the dam itself where 35% of the concrete construction has been completed. The dam with a height of 14m after completion is divided into Non-overflow blocks, spillways, fish ladder and sand flushing blocks. Tonnes of rebars are welded together for reinforcement for the concrete works to ensure the capacity and functionality of the structure after the second stage of river diversion when the upstream of dam shall be flooded.
From this tour, we noticed that Sinohydro is committed to international work ethics and the works being undertaken at Karuma Project are to the contractual and highest standards given the company’s demonstrated commitment to excellence in hydro-power constructions worldwide.
In light of the recent media reports of shoddy work going on at the dam, Mr Xu maintained that Sinohydro is aligned to all its contractual commitments with the Government of Uganda and will continue to do so.
“We can confirm that internationally recognized procedures are being strictly followed in the construction of this dam”, he added.
According to Xu, Sinohydro is the world’s largest hydro-electric dam contractor having around 50% share of the world’s current hydro-electric projects and also involvement in approximately 195 dam projects in 60 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, the Pacific and Latin America and is a major State Owned Enterprise owned by the Government of China.
Sinohydro has world-class capabilities in design and construction with over 130,000 employees globally. Sinohydro has constructed many famous hydro-related projects, the total installed capacity over 130,000MW and have enlisted world-class partners in the Karuma Project – with, for example, Alstom for the turbines.
Sinohydro is acclaimed for its National-class ‘patented technology’ which involves smooth blasting and construction of tunnels in Karuma Project which are attested to by the smoothness of the sides of the caverns and tunnels witnessed at the site.
Besides, Karuma Project boasts of providing direct employment opportunities for over 3400 staff and hundreds of thousands of more indirect employment through the services and goods supplied to the site. Karuma site covers a total area of 568.6 hectares with numerous work sections spread across having approximately 1,000 units of equipment and machinery utilized.
“Given the significance of the Project in enhancing national energy capacity anticipated to accelerate development in Uganda, Sinohydro is committed to working in harmony with all stakeholders for the timely completion of Karuma dam. Sinohydro re-confirms its commitment to the Government and people of Uganda in delivering a ‘world-class hydro-electric project’ which will be on-time and on-budget”, Xu concluded.