21 January 2013

Tanzania: Foreign Firms Linked to Gas Row

Photo: Capital FM
A natural gas plant: Mtwara residents in Tanzania are protesting the governments plans to pump natural gas to Dar es Salaam through their town.

Arusha — SOME foreign firms with plans to tap the gas from Mtwara and channel it to various overseas destinations have been linked to the ongoing controversy surrounding the proposed pipeline for the same.

Deputy Energy and Minerals Minister George Simbachawene revealed here yesterday that since the discovery, some foreign conglomerates have been trying to tell the world that Tanzania is not capable of harvesting its share of gas resources in the Indian Ocean due to lack of infrastructure.

He told an extraordinary meeting of the Eastern Africa Power Pool that some "irrationally gullible local politicians" have become easy puppets of foreign conglomerates who have been painting such bad image of Tanzania's gas discovery.

With power ministers from 11 countries around Africa in attendance, the meeting is aimed at addressing possible cooperation in the field of electricity and other power resources in Eastern and Central Africa.

The deputy minister told the meeting that the construction of the pipeline, to take eight months, would possibly solve Tanzania's power woes by next August, adding that the gas in the south is expected to last for over 50 years.

"The country spends around 2 trillion/- every year to import oil to cater for its energy needs that would be solved by the gas discovery," said Mr Simbachawene.He explained that the gas found within Tanzania's ocean precincts, which extends to just 22.2 kilometres or 12 nautical miles into the sea, is just 15 per cent while the rest, accounting for 85 per cent of the gas resources, lies further into the international waters.

"This means that if other international firms would move to tap our gas resources just as we are busy here demonstrating against our own country's development, Tanzania stands to be the biggest loser in history because even the 15 pc will be piped away along with the other portion," said Mr Simbachawene.

He warned that foreign firms were trying hard to ensure that Tanzania do not tap its gas resources and prove their point that the country was not capable of handling the venture.

"It is my sincere hope that the political parties that are deep into this are not aware that they are being used, the deputy minister said, adding that if they were doing this purposely, it spelt trouble for the country.

Mr Simbachawene did not rule out the possibility that some politicians feared having no campaign agenda for the 2015 general elections if the gas discoveries and utilisation will provide a lasting solution to the country's electricity problems.

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