Tanzania has confirmed the construction of Stiegler’s Gorge Hydropower Dam Project will begin this July and construction is expected to continue for 36 months. Once complete, the project will add about 2100 of power to the East African nation’s power grid.
The massive project has stalled for decades due to many factors, including contentions about its location in the Selous Game Reserve, a 50,000 square kilometre area recognized as a World Heritage Site since 1982.
The project was initially slated for construction in cooperation with the Brazilian government but the arrangement fell through. However, following recent action by President John Magufuli, the Government of Tanzania has secured cooperation with Ethiopia to provide additional experts for the project.
This follows Ethiopia’s successful execution of the Grand Renaissance Dam project, a bigger initiative with an installed capacity of over 6450 megawatts.
Stiegler’s dam, which will be the single largest dam to be built along River Rufiji, is part of Tanzania’s master power plan for expanding its manufacturing capacity. Once completed, the project will be Tanzania’s biggest power plant and is expected to end power hiccups in the country.
As part of Tanzania’s power master plan, the project also envisions an interconnected regional grid of with countries including Kenya, Uganda and Zambia
According to a WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) report, the power plant would more than double current total generation capacity and by itself, supply more energy than Tanzania currently consumes. However, uncertainty abounds as to how much the Stiegler’s Gorge output would vary with the highly seasonal Rufiji River which is also Tanzania’s largest river.
With a depth of 134m, Stiegler’s dam is estimated to create a reservoir lake of 34 billion cubic metres of water and a surface area of 1,200 square kilometres, larger than the entire area of the Island of Zanzibar. The dam could also potentially supply Dar-es-Salaam and Morogoro with water.
Initial estimates have put the project cost at about $3.6 billion dollars but cost overruns may be expected.