Although the progress of construction works of 80MW Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project (RRFHP) are at 59 percent, Ministers in charge of Energy in Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania have rejected the suggestion of the contractors that it will be completed in July 2021.
On Friday, Minister of Infrastructure, Amb. Claver Gatete, Burundi's Minister for Energy, Eng. Come Manirakiza, and Tanzania's Energy Minister, Dr Medard Kalemani, visited the project located on the River Akagera, at the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, and about 25 kilometres from Burundi.
This project was supposed to end in February 2020, but contractors want an extension claiming that there have been challenges.
The three countries formed the Rusumo Power Company Limited, which authorised Nile Basin Initiative through its subsidiary programme Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) to implement the project.
The trio linked efforts to secure $340$ million from the World Bank for the construction of the 80MW power plant, and $128 million from the African Development Bank for the transmission lines.
The three countries share the Kagera River Basin, which covers an area of about 60,000 square kilometres, a sub-basin of the River Nile system.
The three ministers, who constitute the project's Council of Minister (CoM), said the project managers should do what they can for it to be completed sooner.
"They just told us that the construction works will be completed in July 2021, but we have told them that it is a very long period, we want the electricity sooner; so we have urged them to do all they can for it to be as soon as possible," Minister Gatete said.
"The next meeting will announce the actual time of the completion of the project, which is sooner than July 2021," he added.
"What we have seen is that there is willingness, and there is capacity for the companies doing this work to make it faster. Every time we come back here, we see progress, it gives us hope," he announced.
Gatete also revealed that the project encountered problems during initial stages of its construction in 2017. "The project was supposed to be completed in February 2020, but it was delayed for about nine months."
"But now, all needed equipment is here, since the equipment will not come from elsewhere, this gives us hope, since the companies constructing have already got used to it and increased the workforce, this gives us hope too," he explained.
Dr Medard Kalemani, Tanzania's Energy Minister said that they hoped the people of Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi will enjoy the fruits of the project as planned without delay.
Kalemani also highlighted that there will be transmission lines for electricity, within 94km from Rusumo to Nyakanazi (Tanzania), 161km to Rwanda, and 194km to Burundi.
The works on the plant and those on the transmitter should be going parallel, he said.
Emile Patrick Nkezabera, 31, a resident of Kirehe District, who has been working at the project since December last year, where he earns Rwf5,000 daily said the project has been an opportunity to earn a decent living.
"For about a year I have been working here, I have bought a modern breed cow which is about to give birth this month. This project has boosted our lives because when the remuneration comes, we get enough money that can help you to do something," he said.
Rusumo project contributed to raising the livelihoods of people affected by the project, through a $670,000 Livelihood Restoration Programme, which is successfully implemented in both Rwanda and Tanzania.
The project established Local Area Development Plan (LADP), a $15.5 million benefit-sharing programme, designed to equitably boost regional economic and social development in the areas of Kirehe and Ngoma districts in Rwanda, Ngara District in Tanzania and both Giteranyi and Busoni districts in Burundi.
In both Tanzania and Burundi, the benefit-sharing programme was mainly injected in crop and livestock agriculture, water supply, bee keeping, among others.
Rwanda's $5 million was used in rehabilitation of 30km of Cyagasenyi-Gasarabwayi-Nganda feeder road in Kigarama and Musaza sectors, and construction of Kigina Health Centre in Kirehe District.
In Ngoma District, the project constructed 9.54km Kigabiro-Rurenge-Gatore feeder road, 28.7km mixed water pipeline supplying 10,500 population in Gatonde and Gahima cells, and 33km of Gituku-Murama water supply system.
Besides boosting local businesses, the workforce of the project constitutes of 290 Tanzanians, 320 Rwandans, and 120 Burundians.
The workers are accommodated near the construction site, 5km from the Rusumo border in Tanzania, but there is also ongoing construction of permanent housing for 25 staff who will work at the power plant once operational, where they will live with their families.
The meeting also announced new management of the project, with Darren George Protulipac being the Project Manager.
A special committee of 12 experts was elected to learn how the project can be fast-tracked.
Meanwhile, the project's Council of Minister (CoM) also elected new chairperson, with Medard Kalemani of Tanzania handing over to Come Manirakiza of Burundi after one year of tenure.
The rocks in the tunnel being dug inside a Tanzanian hill nearby the river water is hard and requires using the blasting, but this has not been easy for the residents neighbouring the area.
"The tunnel is at two-third complete, however, since June, we have had a problem, due to the use of blasting that caused too much noise in the area, but which vibration also affected people's houses, 22 houses were reported damaged," Minister Gatete stated.
"There are activities we have to do first in order not to disturb residents, although we want electricity, we do not want to get it in a disturbing way. Now they will have to find a proper way of blasting and not harming people's houses," he added.