In Summary

Development of Karuma dam, according to Electricity Regulatory Authority, is at 80 per cent. But the evacuation lines meant to transmit power are still facing some resistance, Christine Kasemiire writes.

It is only seven months until the waters of River Nile are let loose to rapidly move the turbines of Karuma dam to dispatch power. Through the tunnels and back to the river, the water runs its natural path.
Development of Karuma dam, according to Electricity Regulatory Authority, is at 80 per cent. But the evacuation lines meant to transmit power are still facing some resistance. Evacuation lines are critical because if absent, and the dam is complete, the country will still pay for the power generated much as it is not being supplied.

Nevertheless, Ms Pamela Nalwanga, principal public relations manager Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) asserts that the lines will be ready in time to evacuate the power from the 600 Megawatt Karuma dam, come December, when it is commissioned.

“We are working very fast to make sure it is done. It will be done before December,” she says.
Three evacuation lines are being developed to transmit power from Karuma dam and onto the national grid.
Karuma- kawanda is being connected by a 400Kilovott (kV) line, while 132kV lines move from Karuma- Lira and Karuma- Olwiyo.
Construction of the evacuation lines, according to UETCL costs $246.4m (Shs920b).

The lines seem to be moving in tandem with development of the dam. Karuma-Kawanda line and Karuma- Olwiyo are about 85 per cent complete, while Karuma- Lira is 80 per cent complete.
“Only 20 towers are yet to be erected for the Karuma-Olwiyo line and 40 towers are remaining to see the Karuma-Lira line set up,” she said.
If you have travelled to the northern region, you must have seen the giant grey electricity towers otherwise known as pylons moving to Kawanda through the abandoned land.
Some of those pylons currently have strings/wires while some are naked and seem abandoned.

Whereas stringing has taken off on the Karuma-Kawanda line, Lira and Olwiyo are yet to be strung.
Land acquisition, compensation challenges
Land acquisition challenges have been and still remain a big impediment to development of many energy projects in Uganda.
Ms Nalwanga says stringing will take place after the land has been acquired for the two lines.

Shs1123b was set aside in the resettlement action plan to compensate or resettle PAPs.
The power transmission company has earned a migraine from land disputes and absentee landlords especially in areas of Lira and Nakasongola.
“Some landlords own land in Lira but live in Kampala so tracing them for compensation is complicated,” she explained.
Some people who sold land prior to commencement of the project want to reclaim it to benefit from compensation since they still have the land title.

This makes it hard and time consuming for government to determine who the right Project Affected person (PAP) should be.
As the delay continues, the naked pylons, are vandalised. Vulnerable pylons are vandalised for angle bars, which are sold for scrap. Angle bars are the cross metals between a pylon meant to hold it firm in the air. Once vandalised, the pylon could fall in the occurrence of strong winds.

Cost of repairs
Last year, about Shs500m was invested into repairing vandalised towers of the Karuma evacuation lines. This increases the cost incurred during construction of the project.