President Jakaya Kikwete has outlined projects to be implemented in Mtwara and Lindi regions, saying residents of the two regions don’t need to panic and wreak havoc.
He mentioned projects to be implemented as including a power station, Mtwara and Lindi ports, fertiliser and cement factories, road projects, a gas processing plant as well as some education programmes.
In his end of the month address to the nation the president was forced to speak at length on development projects in the regions, to appease the anger of southerners following incidents of chaos that culminated in deaths and destruction of property worth more than one billion shillings.
Residents of the two regions are demanding a fair share from gas proceeds. They are protesting against the government decision to build a gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam, to boost power generation as well as other uses.
In his speech yesterday President Kikwete said only 16 per cent of the gas extracted in Mtwara would be ferried to Dar es Saalam via the gas pipeline while the remaining 84 per cent would remain in Mtwara for various uses, including exportation.
He also notes that it is not true that his government does not pay attention nor having an interest to develop southern regions. Secondly, he affirmed that the government’s intention to construct a gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam does not deny opportunity for southern regions to benefit from the discovered natural gas resources.
He said plans are underway for the expansion of Mtwara port so that it might is able to serve gas exploration at sea, and in a position to serve various economic projects related to gas exploitation in the region.
The president said that after negotiating with gas drilling companies and realizing there was a need to have Mtwara port expanded and rebuilt to serve the purpose, the port authorities assured him of implementation as planned. To facilitate the port expansion program the port zone has shifted from 70.68 hectares to to 2,693.68 hectares of land, he said.
There is also free space for Dangote Company and other space located for gas companies currently doing exploration, he said, noting that there is a process of expansion of the current port which would involve the construction of a new gate to Msanga Mkuu. The project is in various stage of preparation and implementation, he stated.
On the side of Lindi region the president noted that plans to expand the port have developed tremendously, quoting Deputy Minister for Transport Dr. Charles Tizeba to have confirmed the ongoing progress of the project at the Lindi and Kilwa ports, that both are in good progress.
In Lindi one of the companies which had discovered gas at the sea have decided to build the port and a centre for purifying gas and later to be transported out in other regions as it is in Mtwara region, the president noted further.
The cement processing plant which is expected to be built by Dangote Company, a Nigerian investment firm, had asked for an area more than what it had acquired. Their view was that an added area had good raw material for cement manufacturing, and in view of this, the government had instructed the company to wait for this demand to be worked upon.
As for the fertilizer processing plant, he said various investors had emerged since 2008, with a process of scrutinizing investment outlays to find those with good qualifications for selection, with bottlenecks arising from contention between Artumas Company which had entered a partnership with the National Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) and according to TPDC, it had failed contractual terms on the purchase of the gas.
The president said investors wanted the price of the gas to be reduced for them, but Artumas and TPDC were not ready to reduce the intended price “more than what they had already reduced,” while investors saw that this was not enough to run the production of the required fertilizer profitably.
Another reason cited was on the financial constraint following the global economic downturn in 2008/2009 whereby Artumnas was affected and as a result it was forced to sell all its shares to another investor.
Either he said that he was not ready to allow anybody in his government to repudiate the needs of the people of Lindi, Mtwara and other southern regions as it would not be fair to do so, in the national interest. Instead the president said he had reminded them to take time to put up more work on their responsibility to enlighten the public on the various issues involved.
Energy and Minerals minister Professor Sospeter Muhongo said yesterday in Dar es Salaam that the government’s plan to construct a gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam remains intact, urging residents from Lindi and Mtwara regions to remain calm.
The call by the government comes amid complaints by residents in the regions who the government to change its plans despite that it is already contracted. He said the agreement will remain the same as well as the planned dates for the commencement of the project.
Professor Muhongo told a press conference that the gas pipeline project will be built as planned, urging people to remain calm at this time as the government is finalizing logistics to end the perennial problem of electricity in the country.
However, he also noted that detailed design for a project to enable residents of the two regions to use the gas without hindrance was being worked upon, in which case worries about the matter and disturbances were just creating problems for nothing.
According to Professor Muhongo, the $ 1.22 billion for pipeline construction secured as a loan from China with interest rate of 1.5 per cent will be paid for a period of 20 years after grace period of seven years. When construction starts, no citizen who will be relocated from their places as per the earlier feasibility study, he declared.
Chinese ambassador Lu Yuoqing said at the press conference that their goals are to turn the gas natural resource that Tanzania is blessed with for the welfare of the people. Elaborating over the issue from an economic point of view, he said that gas is a crucial commodity that would expand the market and in turn increase national economic growth.
He said that the construction of the gas pipeline to Kinyerezi on the outskirts of the Dar es Salaam will enable industries in the city get electricity to run manufacturing plants.
“Transferring natural gas from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam will bring many business activities along the pipeline for the whole period the pipeline will be under construction,” he said, affirming that local people in the two regions will experience a favorable environment for investment, creating job opportunities for many local residents.
The gas pipeline project will not only transform the country into a bigger economy but will also help to maintain good relationship between Tanzania and China that started in the years following independence.
In another development, China has sponsored scholarship to Tanzania students to study matters related to gas technology in China at the Energy University in China. The Ambassador noted that his country has many universities that are strong in gas and energy technology.
China has welcomed the first batch of 20 students from Tanzania this academic year to engage in study areas of energy and minerals. The sponsorships include tuition fees, allowances and other expenses that will be covered by the Chinese government.
In response to the scholarship offers, Professor Muhongo said that the ministry would make this information available to the wider public next week.
He has however encouraged students to come to the ministry to engage for the competition where winners will be listed and released to the public in April.
Students seeking Master’s programs are required not to be older than 35 years and for PhD not older that 40 years in order to get admission, the minister added.