We are capable of averting disasters on our dams, experts reveal as Uganda Launches Committee on Large dams
KAMPALA- Rt. Hon. Lukia Isanga Nakadama, the third Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda and Minister Without Portfolio, says government is committed to saving lives through safe passage of water. She made the remarks while officially launching the Uganda Committee on Large dams (UCOLD) at a function organized by Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited at Serena Hotel, Kampala on the 29th November 2022.
Meanwhile, Ruth Nankabiirwa the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development says there is the need to have Uganda Committee on Large Dams (UCOLD) because it is requirement to set up a committee and a contingency emergency plan in order to avert disasters.
“In case disaster happens though we do not invite it, in the process of handling nature, we are disorganizing the natural flow of water. We are damming, piling, so you never know the effect of climate change and how it can affect these large dams,” hence the need to join the global commission, she said. Hon. Nankabirwa said there are examples of calamities that have befallen certain countries, where many people have died and governments have grappled with monies to put good what the disasters have caused.
It should be noted that in 1975, the failure of the Banqiao Reservoir Dam and other dams in Henan Province, China caused more casualties than any other dam failure in history. The disaster killed an estimated 171,000 people and 11 million people lost their homes.
As to whether Uganda has the capacity to overcome any natural calamity on our dams, Hon Nankabiirwa said we have never as a country had any huge disaster on our dams but that does not mean we shouldn’t join the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD).
“We are joining so that we can begin training our people to share experience with those who have experienced big disasters. We are building capacity and we think that we can handle disasters. She gave an example of the abrupt shutdown of the 183MW Isimba hydropower plant on Aug.08 2022 which caused anxiety amongst Ugandans. “The people who were on the ground had some knowledge on how to handle disasters, that is why they switched it off immediately, as safety measure number one, so that the power house is not filled with water,” she noted.
“It would have been huge calamity or disaster, but this did not happen because the Eng. on the ground, had to trigger safety measure number one and to close the plant immediately,” she added.
Hon. Nankabirwa added that Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited has Engineers as overseers attached to all the big dams monitoring all cracks just in case cavities come up and can always appear because naturally water flows through its natural established route like a road that carries vehicles and it gets worn out hence to repair it. So once that is detected, then you can talk about Uganda being ready, she explained.
She added that Uganda has detectors for natural calamities and also the life span of Nalubale kiira dam has been extended for 30 years because government has worked on the cracks and has repaired the 10 units by shutting down one unit while repairing and opening another while being cognizant of the fact that dams have a lifespan. “You can only increase the lifespan of a dam by responding quickly to whatever snag that happens,” she revealed.
Hon. Ruth Nankabiirwa also said that government will not let their hands off Isimba dam because the Engineers keep identifying snags and the developer has been told not to go before you repair it.
As for Karuma, it will not be opened up because a snag has been identified and sometimes it takes long for government to commission such dams. “Engineers in UEGCL can not allow the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development to recommend commissioning of a dam which still has snags,” she revealed.
Hon. Nankabirwa was ecstatic that East Africa Community States like Kenya, Tanzania, and other East African Power pool members like DRC Ethiopia, Egypt among others are members of ICOLD which expertise will go a long way in averting natural disasters.
Meanwhile, Prof. Laurent Mouvet, the ICOLD vice President who graced the launch in Uganda revealed that during the World Declaration on Dam Safety, the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) , as the leading organization committed to dam safety called upon all involved professionals and companies to make a firm commitment to safety improvements and risk reduction at all dams.
Dr. Eng. Harrison E. Mutikanga, UCOLD Vice President and UEGCL CEO promised professionalism while handling emergency cases. Uganda Committee on Large Dams (UCOLD)
Uganda Committee on Large Dams (UCOLD) is a national committee of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) that provides a forum to dam owners, authorities, designers, contractors, academia and people working with dams in Uganda to share knowledge and experience in dam engineering. Uganda formally joined ICOLD as the 101st member state on June 14, 2019, at the 87th Annual General Meeting and Symposium in Ottawa, Canada. International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD)
ICOLD was founded in 1928 to provide a platform for discussing and exchanging knowledge and experience in dam engineering. As the world’s leading platform, the objective of the ICOLD is achieved through regional clubs such as African Regional Club and National Committees such as UCOLD by exchanging information and experiences through studies, research, publications, technical committees, Annual Meetings and Triennial meetings. To prepare the next generation of engineers and ensure long-term future of ICOLD, a Young Engineers Forum (YEF) was instituted in 2011.
ICOLD YEF AND UCOLD YEF
The ICOLD YEF is a platform for experience and knowledge sharing among active members of ICOLD national committees below 40 years. UCOLD YEF has a natural link to UCOLD and ICOLD YEF, with a keen focus on collective capacity building.
The UCOLD YEF includes not only engineers but also all relevant dam engineering professionals such as scientists, technicians and technologists.