Gambia: No Development Without Electricity, Water - Says Energy Minister

The Energy minister, Teneng Mba-Jaiteh, has underscored that there cannot be any development in the absence of electricity and water supply, while reaffirming government's commitment to the cause.

She was speaking Monday while leading a delegation of senior officials from her Ministry and the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) to selected water and electricity facilities within the Greater Banjul Area.

The minister and entourage visited the Kotu power station, the Sukuta water treatment plant, the under-construction 100-litre elevated Brufut water tank, and the Gunjur water plant under the multi-million dalasi Gunjur Rural Water Supply Project. Minister Teneng Mba-Jaiteh told the Daily Observer that the rationale behind the tour is to further assess the operations of the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC), both water and electricity within the Greater Banjul Area starting with Kotu power station to see how they are performing as well as the people who are working behind tirelessly to make sure that "we have electricity supply".

"As you can see there is a lot happening that most of the people are not aware of, but going down to see what they are doing and having a feel of it and also to respond to some of the constraints that they are establishing; I think that will help the sector," she told the Daily Observer.

In the area of water, the Energy minister spoke highly of the importance of the Sukuta Water Treatment Plant, a major scheme under the Kotu Ring Water Supply Project. She described it as an important project given the impact it would have on the people living around the area. "The project is almost completed and the problem of water will soon be a thing of the past for the locals there," she said.

Commenting on the Gunjur Rural Water Supply Project, funded by the government of The Gambia and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Teneng Mba-Jaiteh said the capital investment will go a long way towards improving the living standard of people by accessing clean drinkable water. "We are hopeful that in the next few weeks the people will have water coming out of their taps," she assured.

Indicating her impression with the 'quality of work' done at the site, she noted that the government has done a lot in responding to the needs of these coastal dwellers. She concluded by encouraging staff under the Ministry and NAWEC to keep up the good work, while reassuring of her support at all times. Taking the minister and entourage on a tour of the facilities at the Kotu power station, which is the oldest and nerve centre of the operations of NAWEC, the utility giant's managing director, Ebrima Sanyang, informed that capacity building and incentives top the challenges of his institution. He argued that without the right technicians, it is difficult to keep pace with the growing technology of new engines. "However, we continue to train more and more people. A lot of our mechanics are sent to Ghana pursuing their studies but again keeping them is a problem because the incentives are not there," he told the minister.

The NAWEC boss disclosed that the installed capacity at the station is close to 40MW, but barely half of it was being produced at the time due to what he called the 'ongoing maintenance' works that had shut down G6 and G4. He informed that even the others will follow suit once the funds are available. "G8 has been shut down since January 2011 due to mechanical problem. It has already been investigated and the problem has been established. The estimated cost of the rehabilitation is about 1.8 million Euro," he further disclosed. The director of Water and Sewage, Alhagie Dibba, informed that the Sukuta water treatment plant was commissioned in 1992 with a capacity of 270 liters per second at the time, but noted that in 2006, it was increased to 300 litres of the same speed to meet the demand.

Meanwhile, the tour continues today to the Brikama power station I (former GEG), Brikama power station II (Wartsila Plant), Brikama water treatment plant (Ballast), and T&D Expansion Work (Buffer Zone).

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