Ugandan Authority Stalls Yet Another Chinese Dam Project Over Structural Defects

On October 30, local media in Uganda reported that the Ugandan government and China’s Sinohydro Corporation are in dispute over the contractor’s progression to the testing phase of the Karuma Dam construction project.  The local project supervisor, Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), alleges that Sinohydro’s work has resulted in several structural defects to the dam that needs to be addressed before proceeding to the next phase.

In April 2020, UEGCL reportedly dispatched engineers to the dam site, where they found several defects in the project that, according to officials, could have negative implications for the safety and reliability of the project.  UEGCL also asserted that the project could not be commissioned in November 2020 (as previously scheduled) without addressing these problems.  Sinohydro officials have disputed UEGCL’s allegations and accused the Ugandan authority of hindering the project’s timely completion.

Construction of the Karuma dam was initiated in December 2013, with completion initially anticipated by the end of 2018.  Several delays in land acquisition and other aspects of the project led to a prolonged implementation period.  Reports suggest that the current dispute could mean a third extension to the initial completion deadline.

Earlier this year, in September 2020, UEGCL found similar issues with a Chinese-contracted dam project.  UEGCL withheld approximately $28 million in payments to state-owned China International Water & Electricity Generation Company Limited after nearly 700 defects were found in the contractor’s implementation of the 183 MW Isimba dam project.