The long-awaited Rusumo Hydropower project will produce 80 megawatts, instead of the initially projected 90 megawatts, as a measure to help protect the environment, it has emerged.
The project will serve the East African countries of Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi equally.
Speaking at the annual Fourth Nile Basin Discourse Forum on Friday in Ngoma District, the Project Manager, Abdulla Kabirudin, said consultants were exploring the most environmental friendly strategy on the dam construction.
"Initially, the plant was planned to produce 90MW as the intermediate option, with a high environmental impact which would as well require resettling 9100 households. At the moment, a consultant is assessing the run-of-river option of producing 80MW, which is also believed to be the most environmental friendly option," said Kabirudin.
With the consideration of run-of-river option, the dam would cost approx. $300 million, contrary to the $400 million that would be spent on the intermediate option, he said.
According to Kaburudin, less that 1000 people will have to be compensated if the run-of-river option is considered.
In an earlier interview with The New Times, the State Minister for Energy and Water, Emma Francoise Isumbingabo, confirmed the three governments were considering scaling down the targeted output to 80MW - to be shared equally between the three countries.
Speaking on Friday, at the same event, a social development specialist with the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (NELSAP), Mwikali Wambua, called on local leaders to communicate to the residents that the final study on Rusumo was yet to be approved.
The resettlement study is being conducted by SN-Lavalin International and, according to Eng. Julie Forget, who works for the firm. She said with the new plans there was a possibility that Ngoma District may not be affected, contrary to what would have happened if the intermediate option were to be applied. The latter option would affect both Ngoma and Kirehe districts.
The power plant will be located at Rusumo Falls on the border between Tanzania and Rwanda.
Transmission lines will extend from the power generation plant to Gitega (Burundi), Kigali (Rwanda) and Nyakanazi (Tanzania).
The Governor of the Eastern Province, Odette Uwamariya, expressed enthusiasm in the project saying that her province would provide everything possible to ensure that the dam was realised.
NELSAP is an investment pool under the Nile Basin Initiative, an intergovernmental water-resources group, comprising nations along the 4,200 mile-Nile river.
According to Sendama, the construction of a full capacity plant would cause flooding and necessitate the resettlement of more than tens of thousands of households.
"The countries agreed to maintain the initial estimate to generate 80 megawatts because it has less environmental impact, and would require resettling fewer families," Sendama said, adding that the decision helped secure funds for the project.