News / Africa

Sierra Leone's Hydro-Power Dam Lighting Up Freetown

Sierra Leone's Bumbuna dam
Sierra Leone's Bumbuna dam

Multimedia

Fid Thompson

Sierra Leone's first hydro-power dam, almost 40 years in the making, was switched on in November 2009. It now produces 50 megawatts of electricity, sending regular power to most parts of the capital, Freetown. But transmission networks damaged during the country's civil war are so dilapidated that the capital can only absorb half of the dam's energy.

Nestled in the Sula Mountains in central Sierra Leone, the Bumbuna dam holds back 428 million cubic meters of water. Pressure from the dammed Seli river powers two massive turbines that provide a regular supply of electricity for the first time in the country's history.

Bockarie Vandi is one of the first Sierra Leonean mechanical engineers to work on the dam project. He says the dam at full capacity can actually produce twice the amount of electricity that Freetown's dilapidated networks can currently handle.

"At the moment our total capacity is 50 megawatts," said Bockarie Vandi. "But it is determined on the output that we give Freetown to take. If Freetown wants 20, we can give them 20. If they want 50 we can give them 50 - it depends on their network distribution. But for now we are giving them an average load of 27 megawatts at peak."

Much of Freetown's electricity infrastructure was destroyed during the country's decade-long civil war. Old distribution networks have not been maintained.

The National Power Authority says it is working to restore power to areas where old networks have failed and extend the grid to the rapidly expanding neighborhoods to the east of Freetown.

Generators still grumble a few times a week across Freetown. Even so, residents and businesspeople here say the hydro-power has changed life dramatically.

Akimatu Turay runs a streetside stall selling biscuits, sweets, and cigarettes under a large multicolored umbrella. Two bare bulbs strung from a nearby building light up his wares. For 25 cents, he will charge your mobile phone.  

Turay says since the powerplant was switched on, he has seen many changes. Business is much better. In the past, he says, when there was very little light, he had to use a generator which cost him a lot of money. The lights still go off every now and again, but the money he saves on diesel, he says, he invests into his business.

Turay says his two lightbulbs are essential for attracting customers. And with an average income of $7 a day just from charging mobile phones, he is pleased with the new power.

Before Bumbuna, the country functioned on an emergency power plan costing $2 million a month to fuel diesel generators that produced only enough power to cover essential services. There is no national power grid in Sierra Leone leaving about 5 million people outside the capital to rely on costly generators.

Brima George runs an internet café in western Freetown. He is pleased with the new flow of electricity. A month's electricity supply now costs him what he used to spend for four days of power from a generator. But, he says, there is room for improvement.

"It's still in the hands of the government because we still hear that Bumbuna is not fully completed," said Brima George. "So there are some places that do not get current at all, some places get it time after time. So I think if the government can pay more attention and invest there more to complete it, I think. And satisfy the people because there are businesses that depend on the electricity."

With cheaper, cleaner and more regular electricity in the capital, the government does have plans to light up other areas of the country. The second phase of the Bumbuna dam project will build a larger reservoir upstream that could add more than 100 megawatts to the dam's capacity.

According to Vandi, this would be enough to cover greater Freetown and parts of the northern provinces.

But it will be costly. Unless the government can secure the entire investment cost of $520 million, the second phase could be a long time coming. 

Related report by VOA's Scott Stearns

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop illegal money flow from continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid