Chinese Supplier that Has Raised Past Environmental Concerns Selected for Major Tanzanian Hydropower Project

On June 11, Xinhua reported that Dongfang Electric Corporation signed a contract to supply equipment for the expansion work underway at the Rufiji Hydroelectric power station in Tanzania, which is being carried out by two Egyptian companies.  The project to expand the power station, which is sometimes referred to as the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Station, has been in discussion since the 1960s, but has remained stalled partly due to the dam’s expected negative environmental implications for the Rufiji River Basin – reportedly situated in one of the most biodiverse sections of the basin that is also a longstanding protected area. The project only recently gained traction with support from the administration of Tanzanian President, John Magufuli.

Dongfang Electric’s involvement in this project is a source of concern due to its consistently poor environmental track record.  One example is the Gibe III hydropower project in Ethiopia, which was alleged to have worsened water and food scarcity issues for nearby communities.  The company has also faced quality control concerns associated with work at the Nandipur Power Project in Pakistan.

When finished, the Rufiji hydropower station is envisioned to have nine 235 MW units and a total capacity of 2,115 MW.  If this is achieved, the station would nearly double the percent of the country that has access to power, which was a mere 36% as of 2018.  As of 2017, 40% of Tanzania’s energy output was derived from hydroelectric power.  Tanzania has faced regular power shortages recently that have been attributed, in large part, to low rainfall in the country, which is particularly acute during the dry season.