Tanzanian authorities have signed a three-billion dollar landmark deal with an Egyptian company for the construction of the Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric project in a game reserve.
The signing of the deal between the government of Tanzania and Egyptian state-owned Arab Contractors was witnessed by President John Magufuli and Egyptian Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly, in Dar es Salaam.
Speaking shortly after the agreement was signed, President Magufuli reiterated his dismissal of environmental concerns, saying the project will instead be eco-friendly.
He said only a tiny fraction of the Selous Game Reserve, a world heritage site, would be used to build the proposed hydropower dam.
Magufuli said 15-per cent of the money to be paid to the contractor was already available.
He said hydropower was cheaper than any other kind of energy sources.
Magufuli said the project would generate 2,115 megawatts which was more than all electricity generated from all other sources in the East African country which currently stood at 1,560 megawatts.
For his part, the Egyptian Prime Minister said the project was a symbol of his country’s commitment to supporting Tanzania in development.
“We believe that this project will be another opportunity to open a new chapter in the relations between the two countries,” said Madbouly.
The project has attracted intense scrutiny with conservationists both at home and abroad calling for a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment before it is implemented in the Selous Game Reserve.
But President Magufuli has made it clear that his government sees the project as a game-changer in its industrialisation drive by promising to provide cheap and abundant electricity to the energy-starved nation.
Known for its elephants, black rhinos and giraffes, the Selous Game Reserve covers 50,000 square kilometers and is one of the largest protected areas in Africa.