Karuma hydro power plant suffers fresh quality control queries

Sinohydro, the Chinese Company building the Karuma hydro power station has been told to fix fresh engineering setbacks in four major parts of the plant.

The parts include the dam section and its power intake as well as underground caverns and tunnels which will lead large volumes of water to six giant electricity generating turbines and later back into River Nile.

Albert M. Byaruhanga, the Karuma Hydro Power Project Manager, said some of the tunnels are improperly lined and are not conforming to the required dimensional design of the project.

 He said the dam section and its intake are facing fresh concrete and finishing challenges, a year after several cracks were repaired on it.

Byaruhanga said the engineering challenges are resulting from poor workmanship of Sinohydro as well as the contractor's personnel gaps.

He said they are afraid the engineering challenges might become problematic to the operation of the plant in the long run if left unattended to at the building stage.

On Wednesday, the board of Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) visited Karuma Hydro Power Project site to investigate some of the engineering flaws on the 600-Megawatt power plant.

Dr. Eng. Harrison Mutikanga, the Chief Executive Officer of UEGCL said after visiting some of the affected underground tunnels that they uncovered some quality control issues in the concrete mix designs, alignments of some of the tunnels as well as environmental, health and safety concerns for workers in the plant.

The contractor has also been told to enhance health and safety of workers by providing them adequate ear, nose and eye protection gears.

UEGCL board members said that several concrete and welding works going on underground can easily compromise the quality of oxygen being supplied to workers in underground tunnels.

Eng. Proscovia Margaret Njuki, the chairperson UEGCL board told Sinohydro to ensure that repairing the engineering challenges does not cause undue delays to the project.

Last year, construction of the dam suffered four months of delays due to major cracks which emerged in its dam section.

The cracks were blamed on the quality of water used in mixing its concrete and the way the contractor transported the concrete after mixing.

Construction of the power station has now reached 71 percent completion rate after the cracks were repaired using internationally accepted mechanisms.

The plant is being built under a $ 1.7 billion concessional and commercial loan agreement from the Export and Import (EXIM) bank of China.

Its construction commenced in 2013 and is scheduled for commissioning in December next year.

UEGCL said several engineers are in China to undertake industrial inspection of hydro mechanical equipment including water control gates and electro mechanical equipment such as generators, routers and transformers which are being manufactured by Chinese Firm GE to prevent further delays arising from non-conformity.

The Company is however concerned that slow pace of land acquisition for the transmission lines from Karuma to Kwanda, Karuma to Lira and Karuma to Olwiyo might delay the project from commissioning. It says land acquisition is suffering major setbacks in many areas due to compensation issues.

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