|Wednesday, 02 January 2013 20:26|
The government yesterday defended its decision to build the 532 km gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam, saying once complete, it will yield Sh1.6 trillion annually in reduced costs of generating power.
Speaking to reporters in the city, the minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, said after 18 months, the government would start saving $1.7m, the amount paid annually to companies generating electricity by using oil.
Another $202 million would be saved once natural gas becomes the major source of energy for domestic use and that of motor vehicles.
The minister said at a time when rainfall patterns are unpredictable, gas is the most economically viable way to go. The government currently buys one unit of oil-produced electricity for $0.30—0.43 and gas-produced power for $0.6—0.8.
According to Tanzania’s 2010—2015 strategic plan, the country expects its power production to reach 2,780 megawatts, which will have an adverse impact on growth from the current six to seven percent to between eight and ten per cent.
Realisation of this goal depends on the success of the Mtwara—Dar gas project which is now facing opposition from some quarters in the society.
The minister was reacting to a demonstration staged last week in the southern town of Mtwara against the government’s plan to pump the natural resource to Dar es Salaam.
The demonstration, with a theme ‘Natural gas comes before political affiliations’ was organised by eight opposition political parties. Participants wanted industrial investment to be made in Mtwara so that the local community benefits from jobs and abundant, affordable electricity.
But Prof Muhongo said this would be an expensive and uneconomic since electricity generation infrastructures are already in place in Dar es Salaam. The total electricity demand for Mtwara and Lindi regions was 12 megawatts, far less than the 18 megawatts currently produced for the regions, he said. Moreover, the demand was only one per cent of the total gas found at Mnazi Bay, Mtwara, alone, he explained.
He went on to clarify that the region in coastal areas does not go beyond 22.2 km (12 nautical miles)to the sea and any resources found farther belong to the deep sea territory. Therefore the total gas deposit found in Mtwara so far is only 14 per cent, Lindi seven per cent, Coast one per cent and Tanzania’s deep sea 78 per cent.
The minister spoke bitterly against regionalisation of resources which he said is a threat to national unity and national economy.
Confining the benefits from natural resource to the locality in which it is found, he said would approve the wrong notion that such resources belong to particular regions, district, wards and even villages in which they are found.
“Natural resources belong to the entire country and no particular region or group of people should demand preferential treatmen,” he said
The minister was also tough on politicians who organised the Thursday demonstration, saying that leaders of Chadema, NCCR-Mageuzi, SAU, TLP, APPT Maendeleo, ADC, UDP and DP had political motives rather than sound economic principles.
He said the demonstration set a bad precedent for a country that has since independence been run by virtually a handful of regions as economic power houses. Said he: “As an agriculture-run economy, since independence this country has depended on sisal, cotton, tobacco, tea and coffee. But none of the regions producing these economic drivers has ever demonstrated to demand special economic treatment.”
He explained that the demand was likely to spread to other areas in the country. This precedent would be unhealthy for peace and tranquillity as well as the economic development of the entire nation, he said. He swarned that the example set by Mtwara Region residents, if entertained, would spark more demands from Mtwara rural dwellers and villages.
On the Mtwara Urban Member of Parliament, Mr Hasnain Murji (CCM), who supported the demonstration, Prof Muhongo said like opposition leaders who organised it, the lawmaker is driven by politics rather than economics.
He said politicians, regardless of their political affiliations, should learn to think big for the benefit of the entire country if Tanzania is to remain united.
He added: “We should refrain from the temptation of dividing our country into small pieces for whatever reasons.”