DAR ES SALAAM, July 22 (Xinhua) -- The official construction of Tanzania's mega Rufiji hydropower project, which is expected to produce 2,115 megawatts (MW) and promote the country's socioeconomic growth, will be launched by Tanzanian President John Magufuli this coming Friday, a senior official has said.
Hassan Abbasi, director of the Tanzania Information Services Department and chief government spokesperson, told Xinhua in an interview Monday that the decision marks a major step of the government to fulfill its commitment of bolstering the energy sector for broader national industrialization as promised during the presidential campaign in 2015.
Abbasi said the launch of the 3-billion-U.S.-dollar hydropower project will take place at the Rufiji hydropower project site in Rufiji, formerly known as Stiegler's Gorge Dam.
The project, located southeast of the country's largest Selous Game Reserve, which covers an area of 50,000 square km and borders the Coast and Morogoro regions, will be the implementation of a 1980 plan that could not be put into effect because of resource constraints, the official said.
Despite the provision of adequate power supply to the country by adding 2,115 MW to the national grid, Abbasi said larger reservoirs to be constructed will contribute to multiple areas, including flood control, water supply, irrigation, fisheries and recreation.
"The project is expected to unleash a myriad of untold benefits to hardworking Tanzanians," said Abbasi, adding that an estimated 12,000 people will be directly employed during the three years of the project's implementation.
The official said the project will also boost the tourism industry through sports fishing, boat rides and photographic safaris.
Another benefit of the project will be changing people's lives through various socioeconomic activities in such areas as agriculture, aquaculture and fishing, said Abbasi.
The dam, once completed, will also create a permanent reservoir with a total storage capacity of 34,000 million cubic meters, said the official, adding that the reservoir would be a potential permanent reliable source of water.
In April, the Tanzanian government made an advance payment of about 309 million dollars to an Egyptian company for the construction of the hydroelectric project.
Doto James, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, handed over a check for the amount to representatives of Egypt's state-owned Arab Contractors.
The payment was part of an estimated cost of 3 billion dollars to be wholly funded by the Tanzanian government, said James.
In the same month, Tanzania's CRDB Bank Plc and the United Bank for Africa signed a 737.5-million-dollar bank guarantee with the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO) for the implementation of the mega hydropower project.
In May 2018, the Tanzanian government's budget proposal contained an allocation of 307 million dollars for the construction of the project.
The government of Tanzania signed a 3-billion-dollar landmark deal with Arab Contractors on Dec. 12, 2018.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, Magufuli reiterated his dismissal of environmental concerns, saying the project will be eco-friendly.
He said only a tiny fraction of the Selous Game Reserve, a world heritage site, would be used to build the proposed hydropower dam.
The project has attracted intense scrutiny with conservationists both at home and abroad calling for a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment before it is implemented.