Tanzania has issued $309.65m advance payment to Egyptian firm Arab Contractors to help in the construction of the controversial Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric dam in the Selous game reserve.
The payment is part of an advance payment equivalent to 15% of the total project cost, Tanzania’s Finance and Planning Ministry said.
Expected to be complete in three years, the project includes construction of a 134m high dam and appurtenant structures.
According to the Tanzanian government, the project is expected to cost around $3 billion to build, but an independent study by Joerg Hartmann released earlier this year said that the dam may end up costing over three times initial estimates.
Covering an area of about 55,000 the Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest protected areas in Africa and the World Heritage Site. It is mostly known for its elephants, black rhinos and giraffes and other wildlife species.
Selous Game Reserve stands as the biggest wildlife conserved park in Africa with the largest concentration of elephants in the world where more than 110,000 heads are found roaming in its plains.
Other than elephants, the Reserve contains the biggest concentration of crocodiles, hippos and buffaloes than any other known wildlife park in the entire African continent, the wardens say.
Conservationists are opposed to this project saying it threatens the endangered animal species in the area especially the black rhinoceros and elephants.
But Tanzania believes that the Stiegler’s Gorge dam will help diversify its energy mix and end persistent electricity problems in the country. The project would more than double the country’s power generation capacity.
Upon completion, the hydro dam project will provide 2,100MW of electricity to a country that is currently extremely undersupplied. With a population of approximately 53m Tanzania has just 1,400MW of installed grid capacity.