Contract signed for building Stiegler’s Gorge dam

The Tanzanian and Egyptian government have signed a contract for building the hydroelectric Stiegler’s Gorge dam in the Selous Game Reserve. The dam supposedly generates 2100MW after finishing. The building of the dam has raised questions, since critiques say it will harm the environment.

Negative impact on the environment

The Selous Game Reserve, where the Stiegler’s Gorge dam will be located, is a UNESO World Heritage Site. Estimations show the reservoir in the Reserve to be the biggest in East Africa. The reason the Wold Heritage Committee protects this Reserve, is the concern for elephant poaching. In 2017, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a report on the dangers of the Stiegler’s Gorge dam. According to WWF, there is no Strategic Environmental Assessment done, which is required by law in Tanzania. After research of their own on a potential dam, they found several negative impacts. For instance, erosion, drying out of other lakes, fish dying out and reduced fertility for farm lands surrounding the dam are potential consequences. Above all, this could impact over 200.000 livelihoods in Tanzania.

Proponents of Siegler’s Gorge dam

The National Environmental Management Council (Nemc) of Tanzania does not agree with these statements. Their general director assures the environmental safety of the Stiegler’s Gorge dam. They want to protect all the water sources in the surrounding area and say to make them environmental friendly. Also president Magufuli assured the protection of the surrounding eco-systems.

Vision 2025

Tanzania aims to become a middle income and semi-industrialized economy in 2025. To support this industrial economy, there is a need for power. The generation of hydropower increased in the last decade and stabilized around 2004, see the blue line in the figure below. Due to natural gas use, the development of hydropower stopped.

Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) by source for Tanzania 1990 - 2016
Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) by source for Tanzania 1990 – 2016

Alternatives needed for hydropwer

Hydropower is not always a reliable source, since it is severely effected by droughts. The IPCC showed how climate change will enlarge the water shortage. In Tanzania, there already have been droughts, due to El Nino, that stopped the hydropower supply. The Londen School of Economics already warned African countries for this outcome last August (2018). The IPCC researched the alternative. Their conclusion is that he technical potential of solar power, a renewable energy source, is the highest. Investing in hydropower could be a waste when dry seasons hit Tanzania and possibly have a negative effect on the environment. Investing in solar energy seems like a valid alternative.

Read more on solar power potential in Tanzania here.