Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mtwara residents verses the government, who shall win the battle?

AS the government gets prepared to start construction of 532km gas pipeline from Mtwara to Kinyerezi on the outskirts of the Dar es Salaam city during the 2013/14 financial year, misunderstandings still surrounds residents of Mtwara region who seemed to be resisting the government’s move over the matter. Although there have been a series of demonstrations accompanied by chaos caused by irate residents since last year in protest against governments decision, this week the government announced openly of its intention will be executed by all means. The gas pipeline which is to be constructed at a cost of Sh. 1.86 trillion shillings ($1.2 billion) will be funded through loan scheme from the Export-Import Bank of China and the construction is expected to be completed within 18 months.  On Wednesday this week, the Minister for Energy and Minerals, Professor Sospeter Muhongo said that, plans by the government to construct a long stretch gas pipeline is still there and will be executed effectively from 2013/14 fiscal year. Professor Muhongo was tabling his ministry’s budget estimates for 2013/14 fiscal year whereby he said that, among the government’s strategic plans for his ministry is the construction of the gas pipeline which he insisted is unavoidable despite protests already shown. However, he assured Members of Parliament that, the government’s plans is there and will not be changed whatsoever, added that the project is set to benefit major government’s economic development for people of all walks of life regardless of their political affiliations. The minister’s call was opposed by the spokesperson of the opposition camp who is also the ministry’s Shadow Minister, John Mnyika (Chadema) who outlined in his speech during the presentation of the opposition camp’s views. In his speech, Mnyika insisted that, the government must stop the construction of the gas pipeline unless otherwise all contract details which have already been entered by the government are made open to the general public through their representatives in the National Assembly citing the reasons that the loaned project will be paid by the tax payers in the country. Either he said that, the government should make a thorough statement to show how people of Mtwara region and other surrounding regions are going to benefit from this project following their protests which resulted into deaths of innocent civilians and several individual properties such as houses and cars were destroyed by irate demonstrators Earlier, Professor Muhongo noted in his speech that, the government has taken various steps to educate residents of Mtwara region and its surroundings and their leaders on the importance of the discovered natural gas and what the government is intending to do for the future economy of the nation. Muhongo said moving the gas to Dar es Salaam makes sense because the city is already equipped with the infrastructure needed to convert the gas into electricity and upload it to the national power grid. Allowing those power plants to work at capacity will help bring down the cost of electricity for the entire country, he said.  According to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals Eliachim Maswi, who was frequently quoted as saying that, since 2006, Tanzania has been experiencing periodic power rationing, which he hopes will be resolved when this project is completed and production begins. According to him, the project which the government has awarded the contract to China Petroleum Technology Development Corporation, Petroleum Pipeline Engineering Bureau and China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering Corporation will have the capacity to transport 784 cubic feet of gas per day, which will generate 3,920 megawatts of electricity.  Following the matter, investigations by this paper has discovered that, there are two groups divided among legislators representing Lindi and Mtwara regions over the matter. It seems that, there are those who oppose the government’s move and those who support the move.  Cornered for comments, one of the Member of Parliament from Mtwara region under CCM ticket who spoke on strict condition of anonymity told The Guardian on Wednesday in Parliament grounds that, the government has consistently neglected regions in southern Tanzania, leaving them in abject poverty.  He said, since independence time, the people of southern regions of Lindi and Mtwara have had no good roads, schools, hospitals or access to clean water in most parts of the region, and employment is also a nightmare. “Mtwara is a symbol of poverty in our country." He added In order to generate employment and distribute the national wealth equitably, the government should build infrastructure to convert the gas into electricity in Mtwara and then transport it to other parts of the country, he suggested. However, he has supported the continued protests by southerners who he said are tired by government’s promises which have not been fulfilled ever since by government leaders whenever they sit down to strategize main priority areas for national economic development. He further noted that, the discovery of natural gas in the region is an opportunity for local development rather than the consolidation of resources and opportunities in the congested capital, adding that, developing sectors and creating jobs in Mtwara and other regions would ease the pressure of migrants who head to Dar es Salaam in search of jobs.

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