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Power Crisis in Mombasa Over
Story Filed: Monday, July 24, 2000 12:01 PM EST
Nairobi (The Nation, July 24, 2000) - Electricity supply to Mombasa and its environs was restored yesterday. Supply from the Kipevu Generation Plant was restored after it collapsed on Saturday.
The supply had however been unsteady in the morning and the Kenya Ports Authority, hospitals and factories used standby generators.
Major hospitals in the town such as Coast General, the Aga Khan and Pandya Memorial switched to generators.
A source at the Kenya Electricity Generating company at Kipevu said that the machines (two barges and two turbines) with a capacity to produce 85 megawatts had been repaired by yesterday morning.
Uganda, meanwhile denied responsibility for the power failure in Kenya saying its two power supply lines which were troubled had been isolated from the rest of the lines by the time Kenya started experiencing difficulties.
The Uganda Electricity Board said its engineers were working to ensure that full supply is restored today.
Most parts of Kenya were plunged into darkness on Saturday from 6.30 pm following interruption of power supply from Uganda. The supply was cut after power lines carrying electricity to Kenya were damaged when a transmission tower collapsed between Jinja and Tororo.
Yesterday, Kenya Power and Lighting Company Ltd Managing Director Samuel Gichuru, did not respond to questions by the Nation on whether the country was dependent on power supply from Uganda and diesel powered generators such as Kipevu.
Mr. Gichuru who was reached on the telephone three times failed to specifically respond to questions after promising to do so.
Instead, the power distribution firm's communications department issued a statement repeating what was contained in its earlier one released on Saturday detailing how the disruption in power supply from Uganda had affected Kenya.
The Nation had sought specific answers on the amount of power generated by the country's main dams such as Turkwell, Kamburu, Masinga and the Olkarias and why this did not cover for the shortfall in supply from Uganda leading to the countrywide blackout.
There has been suspicion that the country is relying on supply from the standby generators which operate on diesel and power imported from Uganda but the government and the power firm have denied this.
The darkness which plunged the town shortly after 7 pm went on until after 6 am yesterday morning.
The power crisis further worsened the situation as the town has already been experiencing unscheduled power rationing for the last four days.
The Kenya Power and Lighting Company Coast area manager, Mr. John Ombui, said that the enhanced power rationing in Mombasa was unplanned.
Mr. John Asuange of Redient Cottings & Inks said workers had reported on duty expecting the power yesterday but were disappointed there was no power.
Environmentalist, Prof Wangare Maathai blamed the power crisis on the lack of appropriate measures by government to safeguard water catchment areas.
She decried the wanton destruction of the catchment areas adding the invasion of pastolists into the Mt Kenya forest would make things worse.
A Kiambu resident, Ms Wanjiku Mwangi said they have not had power since Tuesday and demanded the power firm reschedule its rationing programme.
Uganda supplies up to 10 megawatts to Kenya during off peak hours, but the figure is expected to go up with the commissioning of more generators at the Owen Falls Dam extension project, at Jinja, some 82kms east of Kampala. On May 19, a 40megawatt generator was commissioned by president Yoweri Museveni.
Kampala and its suburbs last Friday experienced a black-out which was blamed on the failure of one of the generators at the old power station, Owen Falls Dam in Jinja.
Quoting the general manager of Uganda board, Mr. Paul Mare, press reports said that the generator which blew at the peak of demand caused the black out, adding that all other units were knocked off including those which supply power to the whole country.
There are discussions between Uganda and Kenya to increase power exports to Kenya. The commissioning of more generators on the Owen Falls Extension project is expected to make it possible for more power exports to Kenya even during peak hours, ministry of Energy and Minerals Development officials said.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary departmental committee on power will this morning question the Minister for Energy and the chief executives of Kenya Power and Kengen on the worsening power crisis.
Either of the two Energy Minister Mr. Francis Lotodo and Mr. Francis Masakhalia will answer questions on the escalating energy crisis, especially the Saturday night blackout.
Those summoned to the meeting scheduled to take of at 9 am in County Hall include the Energy Permanent Secretary Mr. Mwanyengela Ngali, Mr. Gichuru and KenGen's chief executive, Mr. Edwin Wasuna.
The committee chairman, Wundanyi MP Darius Mbela (Kanu), is expected to seek an explanation on Kenya's near total dependence on power from Uganda.
The power chiefs would also be questioned on whether apart from the drought, a cash freeze imposed by the world Bank on the Kenya's energy sector in 1990 was responsible for the current power shortage.
Mr. Mbela said the meeting with the power chiefs was fixed before the Saturday blackout.
"I was disappointed by the blackout and when I read the papers I was shocked to learn that some facts had been withheld from our committee. They kept telling us that Uganda was injecting 20 megawatts to the national grid. Little did we know that we are literally relying on them"
He raised questions on the report that the Kipevu Power generating plant at the Coast also broke down around the time that a transmission tower in the power line from Jinja fell, severing the high-voltage lines supplying the country with electricity.
He called for the removal of the top office holders in the energy sector.
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), July 25, 2000