30 June 2005

Zambia: Zengamina Hydro Power Project, a Dream Come True for North-Western

IN 1964 just before Zambia gained her independence, the potential for power generation was identified at the point where the Zambezi rapids start just a few kilometers away from the source of the mighty Zambezi river in Kaleni, Mwinilunga, North-Western Province.

But this potential could not be tapped as there seemed to be no funds to start the project which required millions of dollars.

However, today, 41 years later, the dream of having power tapped from the Zambezi rapids, which is known by the locals in Mwinilunga as Mpola yamusangala (named after the village headman in the area) has become real.

Work at the site where two turbines and two generators will be installed started in March last year and construction work of a canal to take the deluge of water to the turbines and generators is progressing well.

The project, dubbed Zengamina hydro power project (named after the current chief Nyakaseya), is being undertaken by Mwinilunga Ventures Limited constructing company.

Mwinilunga Ventures project manager, Ezron Yosa said at the site that Zengamina hydro power project had been made possible through contacts made by the white missionaries who had been contacting friends in Europe.

"The potential for power generation here was identified a long time ago. People started planning this project in 1964 but since there was no money to invest in it, the project could not take off. Through the contacts of the white missionaries, some funds are now being sourced from individual Christians in Europe who have contributed money from their pockets to start the project," said Mr Yosa.

He said the money which had been made available so far would only provide half of the power capacity of the plant.

It is for this reason that the people of Mwinilunga are appealing to the Government to provide some funding under the National Rural Electrification Programme in order to complete the project.

Mr Yosa said the half capacity that would be made available would only provide power to a few places like Kalene Mission Hospital, which despite being recognised as a big hospital, had no power to cater for hospital work like theatre operations.

Apart from Kalene Mission Hospital, Mr Yosa said electricity would also be supplied to surrounding areas such as Ikelenge, Sakezhi and Kalene schools, chiefs Nyakaseya's and Ikelenge's capitals and Hillwood farm.

Mr Yosa said when the project was implemented fully, power would be provided to other vicinities.

"We hope under the rural electrification programme when the project is implemented to the full, power will be provided to other areas like Ijimbe, Salujinga, Muzeya, Samahina and Kafweku. We hope things will workout as required," said Mr Yosa.

Technical site agent, Lawrence Sigedt, hinted that a five meter deep position where the turbines and generators would be installed was already taking shape while a penstock area is also being prepared.

"We are now putting down pedestals where the penstock pipes will be laid leading to the power house. We have three sections of construction in the first phase samp, penstock and canal construction," said Mr Sigedt.

He said for all the work being done like breaking of the hard rock, hand tools were being used and for this reason, so many local people including men and women had been recruited.

"For all the work apart from blasting the rock with explosives, we are using hand tools. As you can see, there are no escavators. This is why we have recruited many local people so that they also benefit from the cake. We are as much as possible using local labour and materials on construction," said Mr Sigedt.

He said that work on the first phase of the project was scheduled to be completed by December while the second phase would wait until more funding was made available.

"With the mood and determination shown by the workers, we will be on schedule . We are working frantically to meet the target," he said.

The stretch where the pylons to distribute power to points are to be erected has been cleared.

There are two shifts for the project one shift starts at 06.30 hours and finishes at 11.30 hours. The other shift starts around 12.00 hours and finishes around 17.00 hours.

One thing that draws attention at the site is that all the people recruited for the job dedicate about half an hour for devotion and the prayers are conducted by Mr Yosa.

"As part of the work programme every day, we have a time for devotion. When the first shift knocks off at 11.30 hours, it does not desperse right away. It meets with the in-coming shift for prayers. This is good for all of us," Mr Yosa said.

Mr Sigedt said once the Zengamina hydro power project was completed, it would be one of the biggest privately owned hydro electricity supplier in North-Western Province.

He said many people in the surrounding areas of Mwinilunga where the power is expected to be supplied had already started applying for electricity to be installed at their homes and business premisses.

"People are very happy with this project. Business men and some villagers who have money have already started applying for the electricity to be supplied to their homes. This will be an achievement for the local people of Mwiniluga," said Mr Sigedt.

Indeed, the people of Mwinilunga have the cause to be happy with this hydro project because electricity, wherever it may be, contributes tremendously to development of all kinds.

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