By Amie Sanneh
The Gambia through the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, is hosting the 43rd OMVG Council of Minister’ Meeting at a hotel in Brufut.
The meeting which was held yesterday brought together all the four member states of The Gambia River Basin (OMVG), The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
According to the organisers, this year’s meeting will be crucial as it will take decisions and come up with resolutions that are critical to the implementation of the OMVG Energy Project, poised to address current and future energy needs of the OMVG member states.
Speaking on behalf of the Women’s Affairs Minister, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Claudiana A. Cole, said OMVG as a sub-regional basin organization has integrated programmes such as the OMVG Energy Project, geared towards the rational and harmonious development of their shared natural resources. The energy project, she said has been conceptualized out of the desire to develop the hydroelectric potential of the Gambia River Basin and the Konkoure River in Guinea. She explains that the African Development Bank provided the OMVG with support to develop an energy programme whose first phase included three main components known as the Energy Project which includes the Sambangalou Hydroelectric Facility on the River Gambia along the borders of Senegal and Guinea, with an estimated installed capacity of 128 megawatts (MW) and an average of annual production of 402 gigawatt per hour (GWh).
The other component she said is the Kaleta Hydroelectric Facility on the River Konkoure in Guinea with an installed capacity of 240 megawatts (MH) and an average annual production of 946 gigawatts per hour (GWh). The last component is the construction of a 225 high voltage interconnection network of 1, 677 km linking the electricity networks of the four OMVG Member States, and 15 high voltage/medium voltage (HV/MV) transformer stations. According to her, the contracts for the construction of the interconnection Power Transmission Line that will link all the four OMVG Member States have been signed, all logistical arrangements finalized and the project will start in earnest.
She added, “The main objective of the project is to supply clean energy at a competitive rate with a view to reducing energy deficits in the OMVG Member States at The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal”.
Madam Cole added that the project will provide OMVG member states with a total installed capacity of 368 MW as well as 1,368 Gigawatts per hour of cheaper renewable energy per year. She stated that it will also contribute to the establishment of a building block for the regional power industry as well as the establishment of a vital regional power market through the gradual integration of isolated national grids into the West African Power Pool’s unified regional interconnection system.
The Gambia, She noted is expected to initially benefit about a total quantity of 80 megawatts of electricity from the Sambangalou Dam Facility, which according to the National Water and Electricity Company will address most of the Gambia’s current electricity needs. She noted, “In addition, about 50,000 hectares of potentially irrigable land is also expected to be available for irrigation purposes to the Gambia as a result of the construction of the Sambangalou Dam Facility.”
However, she said in order to realize this development, OMVG Energy Project , Member States must be committed to implementing the decisions and resolutions that will come out of this meeting. According to her, the Gambia has settled all her arrears of contribution and her contribution to the annual operating budget as well as the counterpart funding for the Energy Project for 2016. “The Gambia settled over GMD120 million on accounts of contributions to the OMVG. The process has also started to settle our contributions to the OMVG for the 2017 fiscal year.” This, she said places The Gambia ahead of all three OMVG Member States in terms of honouring her commitments to the sub-regional basin organization.
She therefore called on other member states to honour their commitments to the OMVG with a view to supporting the implementation of OMVG Programmes in general and the Energy Project, in particular.
In his welcoming remarks, the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Lamin B. Dibba said the theme; “Time for Action” is mainly attributable to the expeditious implementation of OMVG Energy Project. According to him, this will stimulate renewed interest of the Member States in the OMVG as lack of clean and affordable energy supply is one of the banes of underdevelopment.
The environment minister assured them of his ministry’s support to ensure that The Gambia meets her obligations and commitments to OMVG as and when required.
The Minister of Natural Resources of the Republic of Guinea Bissau and Current Chairman of the OMVG Council of Ministers Baros Bacar Banjai commented on the significant progress made in the area of energy. He said the 43rd session will focus mainly on the rapid implementation of the OMVG energy programs. He called on the member states to fulfill their obligation to the OMVG by paying their contributions to enable them progress.