TUNIS (Xinhua) --
Wearing red and white safety helmets,
around 20 Chinese and Tunisian mechanics were binding
reinforcement bars on the floor at a dam project which is under
“I have worked in this dam
construction for one year,” said the 24-year-old Wael Torkhani,
a local resident. “I not only learned skills from my Chinese
colleagues, but also earned enough money to support my family.”
Passing through the mountains in El
Kef province in northwestern Tunisia, the dam is built by
Chinese power construction company Sinohydro, over the Mellegue
River, which provides major water resources for over 240,000
inhabitants in the province.
“The main function of the dam is
irrigation and flood control,” said Qiu Yusheng, the project
manager. “The El Kef province always suffers from water
shortage, causing slow development of agriculture, a major
economic mainstay of this region.”
Sinohydro signed a contract with
Tunisian government in 2016, according to which the dam will be
completed in 2022 and become one of the largest dams in Tunisia.
“This dam, with a total storage
capacity of 190 million cubic meters of water, will protect the
region from flood and meet the needs for irrigation and domestic
use of water in the region,” said Qiu.
In recent years, Tunisians from
underdeveloped inland areas, especially those from the west and
south, are demanding for more jobs. According to latest data,
Tunisian unemployment rate reached as high as 15.3 percent in
the country, a total of 628,000 people.
Torkhani told Xinhua that around 30
young men in his neighborhood worked at this dam. Before he was
employed at the project, he used to work everywhere, barely
making ends meet. The dam construction gave his life a leap.
“Under the current disappointing
economic situation, I think such projects help desperate
Tunisian youth ensure daily livelihood,” he said.
Naji Touhami was a 54-year-old father
of two and an experienced crane operator for 32 years. He joined
Sinohydro one and a half years ago.
“The salary here is good, above the
average level in this region,” said Touhami. “I almost have
everything I need, enough to make my family happy. I’m very
According to Qiu, the dam project has
recruited more than 130 local workers so far, and plans to
recruit over 400 in the next few years.
“During the construction, we also
train local personnel. Six to seven Tunisian mechanics work with
a Chinese technician, who patiently teaches them to master the
necessary skills,” said Qiu.
For Cheng Faji, a 56-year-old Chinese
technician, it was his third time participating in a project in
Tunisia. He works with six Tunisian apprentices at the dam.
“I used to work in Tunisia in 1993 and
2001,” said Cheng. “at first, the communication was a big
problem for me, gradually I learned the local language and now
get along well with Tunisian workers, like friends.”
Touhami said Chinese colleagues helped
him learn the key skills for better efficiency, “there is a lot
for me to learn from Chinese, such as their punctuality,
discipline as well as flexible management in human resources.”
Since 2011, the provinces in west
Tunisia near the border with Algeria have become main stronghold
of armed extremists. Qiu said even though the dam’s location was
near the borders with Algeria, they felt safe here.
“There are two sentry posts nearby,
and six armored vehicles patrolling around the camp and
construction site 24 hours every day, responsible for our
security,” said Qiu. “We are grateful that Tunisian government
attaches great importance to our safety.”
According to the Chinese Embassy in
Tunisia, the Sino-Tunisian hydroelectric cooperation dates back
to the 1970s. Since then, China has built a series of
hydroelectric infrastructure projects including dams and
irrigation systems to improve Tunisia agricultural production.