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Karuma Hydro Power Project construction site | Coastweek

KIRYANDONGO (Xinhua) -- A worker goes about his work at the Karuma Hydro Power Project construction site, [RIGHT] a view of the Karuma Hydro Power Project site in Kiryandongo district, Western Uganda. The 1.4 billion dollar Karuma Power Plant along River Nile in northern Uganda is being financed by the Chinese government and is the first underground power plant in the East African region. Xinhua/Zhang Gaiping
Chinese engineers skill Ugandan counter-
parts in hydro-power plant construction

KIRYANDONGO, Uganda (Xinhua) -- Construction work was always her childhood dream. Three years back, straight after university, Sumaya Manzi got a placing at a Chinese construction firm, Sinohydro.

Having studied construction management at university, she was placed by the Chinese engineers at the laboratory section, a key post for the construction of the 1.4-billion-U.S. dollar Karuma Hydro Power Plant along River Nile in northern Uganda.

China is financing construction of the hydro power plant, the first underground power plant in the east African region. When completed, the plant is expected to provide over 600MW of electricity.

Under the watchful eye of her Chinese supervisors, Manzi is in charge of material engineering.

“I deal with concrete materials, cement, aggregate, fly ash. We oversee the quality of the materials used to produce the concrete. Everything goes through me here at the laboratory,” she told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“I am learning a lot from the Chinese engineers. I started as a graduate, I never had a lot of field skills. I am now getting to know things on the ground, not on paper,” she said.

Manzi is optimistic that with a few more years of experience in the sector, she will be able to work on the construction of any hydropower plant.

She is not alone, many engineers are gaining skills from their Chinese counterparts.

Pittson Omar is a civil engineer and does draftsman’s work at the construction site of Karuma Hydro Power Plant.

Working under the supervision of Chinese engineers, Omar does design work at the dam.

“I do construction drawings and follow them to see work progress on the site. I am learning a lot from the Chinese. In Uganda, we were used to square or rectangular structures, but now we have to adjust to circular ones,” he said.

Omar said they are gaining skills in adjusting to different kinds of hydro power plant construction standards, from British, American to Chinese.

“We teach them basic skills like drawings and calculations so that they can fully understand our drawings,” Shi Yayuan, one of the Chinese designers of Karuma power plant said.

“Hydro power plant construction is very complicated, you need to see the geology situation. So we need to often go to the site to see how best the structure can be designed,” Shi said.

A few hundred kilometers away, another Chinese company—China International Water and Electric Corporation—is constructing a 568 million dollar project dubbed Isimba Power Plant Project, which will help ease the severe power shortages in Uganda and accelerate the development of local economy.

Wang Yongtian, head of construction at Isimba Hydro Power Plant told Xinhua that one of their priorities is to build the capacity of local engineers in constructing hydro power plants.

“We will try to hire more locals to work in our project. We also need our local engineers to nurture skills in construct a hydropower plant in Uganda,” he said.

He said the project is soon entering the mechanical and electrical phase which will be an opportunity for the local engineers to learn.

“I have proposed to the ministry of energy to invite more Ugandan engineers to come on site to learn when we are doing the installation,” he said.

He also said some senior engineers would have chances to go to China for more skilling in hydro power plant construction.

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