Tanzania has picked Arab Contractors, an Egyptian construction and contracting company as the preferred contractor for the design and construction of the 2,100-MW Stiegler's Gorge hydroelectric project on the Rufiji River, which flows through the 45,000-sq-km Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest World Heritage sites.

Arab Contractors, which was the main engineer-procure-construct (EPC) contractor for Egypt's Aswan High Dam completed in 1970, has teamed up this time with Egyptian manufacturing company El Sewedy Electric Co. S.A.E. Once ground is broken, the $3.6-billion project will take 39 months to complete. No precise date has been given for the start of the controversial project, which is being promoted by state-owned Rufiji River Basin Authority.

After calling for expressions of interest in August 2017, Tanzania's Ministry of Energy indicated 81 bidders responded, but only four returned their detailed tender documents. However, the Ministry could not immediately confirm if Arab Contractors was among the four contractors that submitted their bids. T

The contractor will construct a 134-m-high roller compacted concrete dam and four saddle dams, with a combined capacity to impound approximately 34 billion cubic meters of water. In addition, the project will feature a power plant consisting of nine vertical turbine units and generators with a total installed capacity of 2,115 MW. Arab Contractors will also construct one 400-kV switch yard.

“The project will involve also construction of project supporting infrastructure including permanent projects houses, project road networks, communication facilities, utilities (power and water supply) and temporary accommodation for staff and laborer during project construction period,” the Ministry said previously.

Last year President John Magufuli dismissed mounting pressure to suspend the project on the World Heritage Site and insisted it would not have any impact on the Selous Game Reserve's 45,000-sq-km footprint since the reservoir would inundate only 1,350 sq km, an equivalent of nearly 3%.

Arab Contractors Chairman and CEO Mohsen Salah said the Tanzanian hydro power project “is within the framework of Egypt great eagerness under the leadership of (Egyptian) President El Sisi to support the development efforts in Nile Basin countries.” Both Tanzania and Egypt are members of the Nile Basin Initiative, an intergovernmental partnership that also includes Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

The contractor said in a statement in late-October “Tanzanian President wants that the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to make the dam construction project under his direct supervision the same as the mega national projects ongoing in Egypt under the supervision of the Engineering Authority for the Armed Forces.”

The project was conceived in the 1960s. Some of the entities that have previously expressed include Infrastructure Development Finance Ltd of South Africa, Energen of Canada, China's Sinohydro and Brazil conglomerate Odebrecht.

When completed, the project will boost Tanzania's Power System Master Plan, which aims to increase electricity generation to 4,915 MW by 2020. At present, 1,406 MW comes mainly from natural gas (43%) and hydro power (43%).