Drought worsens power crisis in Tanzania
22 Sep 2011 14:32
Source: alertnet // Kizito Makoye
By Kizito Makoye
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AlertNet) ï¿½ A persistent drought affecting
much of Tanzania has depleted water levels in the Great Ruaha River,
plunging much of this hydropower-reliant country into power cuts that
are hurting businesses, tourism and government revenue.
The drought, attributed to the effects of climate change, has
substantially crippled the operations of major hydropower facilities
along the river. Clearing of trees and vegetation by villagers in the
river delta is contributing to further water loss.
According to the state-owned utility firm TANESCO, hydropower can
generate up to 561 megawatts ï¿½ 71 percent of the countryï¿½s overall
production ï¿½ but the drought has reduced current capacity to just 120
The water level at Mtera dam, the largest hydropower reservoir, is
receding by almost 3 cm every day, according to TANESCOï¿½s chief
engineer, Julius Chimola.
Chimola, who oversees operations of the dam, says the water is now
only 1.4 metres above the minimum level required to run the turbines.
Local villagers complain that the drought has made it almost
impossible to fish in the river any longer, depriving them of their
ï¿½It is very difficult to make a living here. There are no fish to
sell. We can also hardly do any farming (because) it is too dry,ï¿½ says
Mtera resident Juma Magambo.
LITTLE RAINFALL AHEAD
The worst is probably yet to come as meteorological authorities
predict insufficient rainfall in the coming months, especially in the
central and southeastern zone of Tanzania where the major hydropower
generation plants are based.
ï¿½We expect some short rains in late October and November but I do not
think it is going to make any difference as far as electricity
production is concerned,ï¿½ says Agnes Kijazi, head of the Tanzania
Tanzaniaï¿½s electricity supply has long been erratic because of the
national gridï¿½s reliance on hydropower, which is dependent on rainfall.
But the current power crisis is creating increasing difficulties for
people from all walks of life.
Shopkeepers in Tabora, barbers in Morogoro, garment dealers in Arusha
and top hoteliers and CEOs of multinational companies in Dar es Salaam
have all felt the pinch of going without electricity as TANESCO
schedules power cuts.
In the sprawling suburb of Kariakoo in Dar es Salaam, an array of
noisy generators testifies to business ownersï¿½ efforts to woo
customers whenever there is no electricity.
Traders say the number of customers has dwindled by the day since
power rationing was introduced.
ï¿½Nothing goes as planned here without electricity,ï¿½ complains Japhet
Massawe, a butcher who has temporarily switched to selling fried Nile
perch from Lake Victoria because his meat storage facility cannot
Mariam Hamisi, a 26-year-old who runs a hairdressing salon in the
Sinza area of Dar es Salaam, says she has incurred huge losses since
the chaos began.
ï¿½It is very hard. Imagine ï¿½ power goes off at eight oï¿½clock in the
morning until evening. Sometimes it goes off indefinitely,ï¿½ complains
ï¿½Worse still, all the machines you see here need electricity. How on
earth can I make a profit?ï¿½ she asks.
The power crisis is also hurting the countryï¿½s factories and its
hospitality and tourism industry.
According to the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI),
manufacturers have suffered losses of over 16 billion Tanzanian
shillings (about $10 million) since May.
CTI official Hussein Kamote said the ongoing power cuts have had a
dual effect, hurting business while denying the government tax
revenues. Recent statistics indicate the government has lost more than
4.8 billion shillings ($2.9 million) in taxes in four months.
Members of the Hotel Association of Tanzania, an umbrella organization
of 80 major hotels, said they were incurring extra costs for fuel to
In a recent interview published online, the associationï¿½s chairperson,
Damas Mfugale, said that power cuts were damaging the image of tourism
ï¿½Visitors donï¿½t appreciate traffic lights not working, elevator
breakdowns, and no lights in hotel rooms,ï¿½ Mfugale said.
The government is planning a number of measures to improve the power
situation, including exploitation of abundant natural gas supplies
found near Songosongo island in the Indian Ocean.
The Songosongo gas has the potential to meet nearly half of the
countryï¿½s peak demand for electricity, says engineer Joyce Singano of
Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation.
The 424 billion shilling ($258 million) Songosongo project comprises
an offshore gas field and a processing plant with the capacity to
produce over 105 million cubic feet (about 3 million cubic metres) of
natural gas per day.
Operated by PanAfrican Energy Company, an international private
investment firm, the project has a 229 km (143 mile) pipeline
connected to an electricity plant in Dar es Salaam. PanAfrican
currently sells about 200 MW of power to the government.
By expanding the existing gas infrastructure and producing its own
natural gas to fuel power generation plants, thus reducing oil
imports, Tanzania expects to save about 67.2 billion shillings ($41
million) annually, according to World Bank estimates.
Switching from hydropower generation to fossil fuel use, however, is
expected to increase the countryï¿½s emissions of climate-changing
Kizito Makoye is a journalist based in Dar es Salaam
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