Parliament Proposes Independent Technical Assessment for Isimba Hydro Power Project

Parliament has recommended the establishment of an independent technical evaluation team for Isimba Hydro Power Project to ascertain its integrity.

The House chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa on Wednesday, 12 April 2023, adopted the report of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources presented by the Chairperson, Dr. Emmanuel Otaala.

The Isimba Hydro Power Plant whose construction commenced in 2015 and was commissioned in 2019 has an installed generation capacity of 183.2MW. It was constructed by China International Water and Electricity Corporation for US$567.7 million.

However, in August 2022, the dam was flooded necessitating an emergency shutdown to protect the equipment, and the Power House facility and save the lives of the staff on site.

Following the shutdown, there were country-wide blackouts which caused anxiety.

Following the debate on the matter in Parliament, the presiding Officer referred the matter to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources for further investigation.

Otaala in his report said that there is need to put in place an independent technical evaluation team for Isimba Hydro Power Project to ascertain the Integrity of the project before the facility is fully handed over to the Government of Uganda since it defects.

Otaala said that to date, the exact cause of the flooding of the Powerhouse has not been established and investigations are still ongoing.
“However, it is generally believed that it was caused by the use of a new construction method that could have triggered the malfunctioning of the sluice gates,” he said.

He said that although Isimba was commissioned in 2019, some works have not yet commenced and there are many defects to be rectified.

The committee observed that Isimba has been riddled with several challenges such as having at least 300 defects that are yet to be resolved including structural defects at the spillway, incomplete works on the log boom meant for safety measures, and lapses in supervision.

Otaala said that the periodic extensions for the project completion date for over four years and the recent flooding of the Powerhouse continue to cast doubt on the overall integrity of the dam structure and whether the project will be able to operate optimally and achieve its lifespan of at least 50 years.

The committee recommended that the contractor should be penalized for non-performance as per the contract.

The committee also recommended that all defects identified including the spiral case and draft tube concrete treatment, and defects on the embankment dam should be expeditiously addressed within the Defects Liability Period.

The district liability period was due on 31 March 2023.

Moroto County MP, Hon. Samuel Okwir questioned the nature of the government contract stating that the interests of all parties need to be taken care of.
“I have questions on how the contracts in this country are drafted. If you look at the SGS, Lubowa Hospital, the coffee deal, do we take care of the interest of this country?” he questioned.
Ibanda North MP, Hon. Xavier Kyooma said the shutdown of the dam was a temporary measure and there is a need for government to come up with a solution or else the flooding might reoccur.

The Minister of State for Minerals, Hon. Peter Lokeris said the ministry will provide an update the House on the current status of the Dam.