THE government has defended the move to construct a natural gas pipeline to Dar es Salaam, saying the pipe will allow for future connections to other regions, including Mtwara and Lindi where the gas originates.
The Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, told a press conference in Dar es Salaam that the government has constructive plans that will enable all Tanzanians to benefit from the natural gas drilled in the country.
Prof Muhongo noted further that out of the 35 cubic feet of natural gas discovered so far in the country, 78 per cent is found in the Indian Ocean deep sea, an area that cannot be claimed by any region. "So, the gas belongs to the nation as a whole," he said.
The minister, who was responding to last month's demonstrations by residents of the municipality of Mtwara, who were against construction of the pipeline, supported by some politicians, blamed the politicians for playing politics in an issue of national interest.
"It is wrong to conclude that Mtwara and Lindi produce most of the natural gas discovered so far. Regional boundaries stretch to 12 nautical miles only from the shoreline. The gas found in Mtwara Region's soil is only 14 per cent and that of Lindi is only seven per cent while Coast accounts for one per cent of the total reserve," he said.
Prof Muhongo added that natural gas has been discovered in sedimentary rocks which are aged between 119.9 and 23.03 million years and that the rocks are so old that neither the current generation nor the previous one can claim exclusive ownership.
"The pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam will be installed with tie-offs in Mtwara, Lindi, Kilwa and Mkuranga in a bid to ensure that these towns are enabled to access the gas whenever it is needed," he said. He said that the decision to build the pipeline to Dar es Salaam was an economical one as most of the electricity production facilities are located in Dar es Salaam.
And moreover, he said, most of the industrial activities are located in the city which contributes up to 80 per cent of the national revenue per annum. "In this endeavour, we are also guided by our development plan which indicates that by the year 2015 we should be able to produce 2780 MW of electricity and thus by bringing natural gas to Dar es Salaam over 990 MW will be produced and a further 520 MW will be generated at Somanga Fungu in Lindi Region," he said.
Prof Muhongo noted that Mtwara Region does not have a strong economy that can utilize the gas intended to be transported to Dar es Salaam. Therefore it was illogical to claim that it should not be taken out of the region. "The natural gas power production facilities installed at Mtwara town have a capacity of producing up to 18 MW and the two regions of Mtwara and Lindi have so far managed to make a maximum use of 12 MW only which indicates little demand," he stressed.
Prof Muhongo noted that the government has a good plan for Mtwara Region where areas for industrial parks or estates where fertilizer, liquefied natural gas and petrochemicals industries will be built have been earmarked.
"These industries will give a facelift to Mtwara Port and create employment to people in the area and this is important to the people of the area as it will help transform their livelihoods and economy," he said. The minister said that the government had also earmarked a special area in Mtwara Region which will be made a Freeport Zone to allow for improved business conditions in the area.