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Sierra Leone President Speaks on Pending Hydro-Electric Project
By President Koroma
Apr 16, 2009, 17:17
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Fellow Sierra Leoneans,

I hope that you had a restful and happy weekend.

As you may know, I have in recent days been putting aside time to visit and speak with a good number of our fellow countrymen. After all it is you the people who elected me, and it is you that I serve. That is why as Father of the Nation I have vowed to make time to meet and converse with ordinary Sierra Leoneans and on the weekend of 4th April I travelled all over Freetown to speak to as many of you as possible.

I have always committed myself to being a listening President and to act upon the words and advice of the people of our great nation. One of the themes that came across clearly from speaking with people from all walks of life is that they appreciate openness and candour from me and my government. I have always tried to ensure that I am open and honest with you, telling you both the good news and the bad, but I am now determined to redouble my efforts and I am instructing all my officials to do the same. Integrity and openness are values at the centre of my campaign for attitudinal change and it is only right that we as a government should embody them.

One of the concrete ways that I hope to achieve this is by putting more government information into the public domain - and I hereby commit to ensuring that important documents, such as my Performance Contracts with ministers are made available to the public. The other way in which I propose to do this is by taking more opportunities to communicate directly with you, the people, about issues that affect us all.

In this spirit, today I wish to speak to you about Bumbuna, a project of vital importance to our national interest. During my speech to Parliament last October I expressed my strong desire for the project to be finished by April of this year. Well, April is now upon us, and so, you the people deserve to be updated.

Over the last couple of weeks, I, along with my new Minister of Energy - the world-renowned engineer Professor Davidson - and our dedicated team of experts visited the Bumbuna dam itself and also the Kingtom sub-station in order to personally oversee the final stages of work on this decades-long project.

I am pleased to inform you that the work is almost complete, with the final details being resolved:

-   The dam itself is complete, and is undergoing final pre-commissioning tests

-   The construction of the generation facilities are complete, with the turbines having been tested and final work being carried out to formally commission the generators

-   The main transmission line from Bumbuna to Kingtom is complete and is being inspected pylon by pylon to check for any remaining technical issues

-   The Bumbuna substation at Kingtom has been finished and work has commenced on a transmission line to link this substation to NPAs distribution network

-   Reliability tests on NPA facilities are being undertaken to ensure that the power from Bumbuna can be received and distributed safely

-   These developments are being certified by a panel of World Bank experts who are currently in the country to make a final inspection of the project

Unfortunately however, while the work is almost at an end, we have to wait for the rains to arrive in order to fill the reservoir to its operating level, so that the turbines can work effectively. Only then can we truly say that we have succeeded and that sustainable and affordable power will flow to Freetown and surrounding areas. This will mark the successful completion of one of the largest infrastructure projects in Sierra Leones history and will be duly celebrated by all who love their country.

As well as the need to wait for the rains, there are three other issues that need to be worked on in order to ensure successful completion of the project. These are issues that will require work from my government, but they will also require the effort and commitment of the people of Sierra Leone and I hereby call upon you all to do everything you can to see them resolved:

-   Bushfires along the route of the transmission line have the potential to destroy cables and disrupt the flow of power. I urge everyone to stop setting bush fires in the vicinity of the transmission line and to report any incidents that they see. In this regard, preventive measures have been put in place, including sensitization of local communities in settlements along the line

-   For the health, safety and security of our fellow citizens, all structures in the 30 metre wide Right-of-Way along the transmission line must be cleared before Bumbuna power can be switched on. These structures are being catalogued and the owners will be notified shortly of Governments position on this matter - I am committed to ensuring that these people are dealt with fairly, but also urge them to cooperate with our efforts for the good of Sierra Leone

-   Theft and vandalization of Bumbuna project materials and structures are also a threat to the project. Government is spending US$10 million to rehabilitate the transmission line because it was vandalized by unscrupulous individuals. Conductors and tower materials were used to make pots or sold as scrap metal. In this regard, I have put in place necessary arrangements for the security forces to take full responsibility for the security of Bumbuna Project installations but I also call upon you all to ensure that these vital facilities are not damaged

I want to take this time to express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the development partners who have generously funded the project and to the management, contractors and consultants who have worked so hard on it. But having come so far it is imperative that we will deliver on our commitments and see that the project is brought to a swift and successful conclusion. No delay or impediment can be allowed to stand in the way of meeting the expectations of our people.

The provision of energy is critical to our development and sits alongside agriculture and infrastructure in my tripod of economic priorities. This is why I pledged my governments commitment to provide reliable, sustainable and affordable access to electricity to the nation.

Upon assuming office, our first step was to put in place a programme of emergency power for Freetown, the completion of Bumbuna is the second step, but in the coming months and years we must move further and faster to ensure that electricity is spread across our great nation. To this end my government is in the process of developing a plan for expanding electrification to all parts of the country. We are also facilitating the establishment of an institution to construct and manage the national grid, which currently does not exist. The immediate task of the institution will be to strengthen the Western Area network, Bo/Kenema Power Services (BKPS) network, establish the Kambia-Port Loko- Lungi (KPL) network, and integrate them into the Bumbuna-Kingtom network.

I am confident, that we and our partners can rise to the challenge and ensure that many more Sierra Leoneans are able to access affordable power to improve their lives. As we move forward with these plans, I will endeavour to ensure that I keep you the people of Sierra Leone informed of all important developments.

God Bless You

God Bless Sierra Leone

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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