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HomeCorruptionHydropower: Inside Mpanda’s BIF 54billion powerplant.

Hydropower: Inside Mpanda’s BIF 54billion powerplant.

  • It was one hundred percent funded by the Government, the project cost was estimated at BIF 85billion.
  • Burundi’s electricity demand reached 100Mw while the country’s capacity stands at 45Mw.
  • Activists poke on governance fraud and corruption

Burundi’s Mpanda hydropower project worth BIF 54billion (around 26Million USD) stand-stilled after funds shortages as power demand escaladed up to 100MegaWatts in 2020, according to recent data.

In the meantime, the powerplant was expected to upgrade as well as boost the national energy to 30% with its 10,4Megawatts additional.

According to the World Bank recent data (May 2022), Burundi remains one of the least electrified countries globally,as of 2020, 11.7% of the population had access to electricity while rural access stood at 3.5%.

All this despite the country’s natural capacity favourable to the sustainable use of water and solar energy or wind power. According to Faustin Ndikumana, president of PARCEM, a Burundian advocacy organization.

He added that there is still a great portion of resources unexploited.

Researches have shown that Burundi has huge solar energy potentials. The aggregate annual power sums up 2000 kWh / m² per year. However, one of the main challenges is to develop a sustainable fire wood supply.

Mpanda’s powerplant belongs to the Burundi’s energy pool dominated by waterpower generation (73,0%) whereas it is followed by the renewable energy (14.0%).

The Mpanda hydropower plant drowned down after 35% of progress recorded in 2015.

Two years after, the project completely ceased, leaving behind a handful infrastructure_ thatched as of today.

Witnesses pointed out they were built on sliding soil.

“Houses started knocking down by 2020. It is absurd that infrastructures could not last longer, less than 3 years”, a resident of the locality told a local newspaper.

Other witnesses were left numb judging impossible how the engineers could lay first stones on gliding soil.

“I don’t really know what happened, but I don’t think that the quality of the soil is the cause of this disaster,”, one said who was on part of team designed to build the house.

The project came as effort by the government to satisfy the country’s demand. However, the expected 10.4MegaWatts_that the power plan could have generated_ fainted away.

Of the overall budget elevated at BIF 85bilion, BIF 54billion was drawn on.

Activists could not stop questioning where were deputies when the projects diverted.

Gabriel Rufyiri, president of OLUCOME a watchdog association, was baffled.

A.K, a journalist and observer wisecracked about it as environment friendly.

He said that Mpanda hydropower has proved an outstanding and pioneering accomplishment in technology today, and it aligns with COP26.

“The dam is environmentally friendly; no concrete, no steel”, said A.K

“Elsewhere, the forest is dug up, the mountain is broken up, the earth is cleared and filled in. In Mpanda, Mother Nature has not been infringed”, he added.

In Burundi power demand is dominated by Bujumbura and Gitega representing 220,107kWh and 16,369 kWh respectively as of 2015, according to the 2021 National Bank Data.

As of 2020, Bujumbura power consumption stood at 284,450kWh and 20,286kWh for Gitega.

Other provinces shared 21,333kWh in 2015 while in 2020 the tally grew up to 29,494kWh.

The key to socio-economic development is electricity, said Agathon Rwasa opposition leader of the Congrès national pour la Liberté party, speaking to a local newspaper.

He added that a sustainable development is unlikely to flourish without power.

While the country has many power dams in construction, he quizzed the government how long the load shedding and power cuts in Burundi will last, and when the plans to build hydroelectric dams will bear fruits.

The country’s production of electrical energy grew to 262,566kWh in 2020 from 165,985kWh in 2015.

To date six hydropower projects are under construction.

According to Regideso, approximately 200 MW of production is expected if these dams are all built and operational by 2027. An output which will be added to the 45 MW currently available (34Mw locally produced, 6Mw thermal, and 5Mw imported from the Republic Democratic of congo.

On this is added 30 MW bought from the company Interpétrole.

Power shortages solutions
In Bujumbura, some part of city do not know the power during the day or during the night.

For us in the North, we are supplied power at 6 p.m said B.E a resident of Kamenge.

As for South, power cut comes up between 10p.m and 11p.m. it comes back at around 6a.m.

“I have barber, during the day I can hardly finish one customer without power cut”, said Abdul owner of a barber.

In centre town, small business owners substituted power with generators. “Once the power goes and we have customers or ongoing projects, we use the generator”, said Nzopfabarushe found in Bujumbura.

For him, the cost of fuel has decreased his profits. “I work only for petrol and generator repair, he added.

In Regideso, they said that power cut is observed due to old equipment

However, observers bet on EU suspension of its aid. “It had been funding around 30Mw paid to supply generators by Inter Petrol”, said E.

However, as far as Mpanda hydropower is concerned, Gabriel Rufyiri pokes on governance fraud and corruption.

To be continued…

Espoir Iradukunda
Espoir Iradukunda
Data Investigative Journalist


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