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Blackouts to persist

As Kapichira fixing delays

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Moses Gwaza

Malawians would have to wait a little longer before they could see an improvement in power supply following revelations that the Kapichira hydro power station might not be operational by December 22.

Details have emerged that upon agreeing on a design that uses cement and sand (CST) for a temporary cofferdam wall, officials from the Ministry of Energy advised a contractor who is working under the Shire Valley Transformation Project (SVTP) to only use sand and stones in order to meet the December deadline.

The development did not go well with financiers of the project, the World Bank, who requested for studies of the design that ensures safety.

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The situation, coupled with scarcity of fuel, especially diesel, has affected works at the site.

This came out during a visit to the site by the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament on Thursday.

Chairperson of the committee Werani Chilenga said such delays could have been avoided.

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“We still have questions as to why officials from the ministry would offer instructions to deviate from the original plan without consulting the World Bank. However, the government is paying for sins of not using local resources which are available at Marep as we earlier advised,” Chilenga said.

Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) spokesperson Moses Gwaza said there were six components in the project, five of which involved Egenco and one involving the SVTP.

He said all components under Egenco have been concluded but could not operate the turbines as in the process of regulating the water levels.

“We will not be able to start electricity generation in December and we are not sure when generation will start. The December 22 deadline was given to us by experts and consultants from the World Bank who are working under the SVTP this time around following these developments; they are yet to communicate to us when generation can commence,” Gwaza said.

In a separate interview SVTP irrigation engineer Martin Chidzalema said the decision to halt the project was by SVTP and not the World Bank.

“World Bank does not offer instructions to the contractor; it is us (SVTP). We did some evaluations and saw it fit to revisit the design and now the contractor is back on site.

“We were concerned with safety issues on a new plan that was thought to be the quickest to have some of the operations here running but we realized it won’t be safe and hence going back to the initial plan,” Chidzalema said.

The World Bank Group’s International Development Association (IDA) approved $44.7 million in funding to restore operation and increase resilience of the 129.6 Megawatts Kapichira hydro dam.

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