Would you like to meet the President?

Reservoir of the Bumbuna hydroelectric dam

The Bumbuna hydroelectric dam delivers more than two thirds of Sierra Leone’s electricity. When phase II is complete with Lahmeyer’s expertise, electricity generation will quadruple. No wonder the country’s President met with Project Manager, Jens Mödinger, and the rest of the Lahmeyer International team.

Jens Mödinger doing discharge measurements at the Seli River“We will meet the President today”. When our local project coordinator announced this change in the day’s agenda, my first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to finish my field work…again.

Then I stepped out of work mode, and I slowly realised: I was going to meet Sierra Leone’s President. This doesn’t happen every day. But then again, this isn’t just any project.


The Bumbuna hydroelectric dam, a lifeline for Sierra Leone

Bumbuna is a hydroelectric dam that today delivers more than two thirds of Sierra Leone’s electricity supply. It’s an 80 meter high rockfill dam with a 50 megawatt hydropower plant located in the country’s north east.

The dam is a national symbol of progress, portrayed on their currency and frequently at the centre of national political campaigns.

While the dam is a lifeline for Sierra Leones, it isn’t nearly enough to meet their energy needs. Bumbuna delivers enough energy today to light up just one ordinary bulb per person for about 10 days a year.

After years of civil war and reoccurring Ebola outbreaks, Sierra Leone needs more electricity to power it’s present and secure its future.

This is where Lahmeyer International comes in.

Realising Bumbuna’s potential

We’re studying how best to use the hydropower potential still dormant since the dam was built nearly 50 years ago. The project, known as “Bumbuna II”, involves building a new hydropower plant in an adjacent valley.

The project consists of two major components.

In the first, water from the existing reservoir will be diverted through a 2.5 kilometre long tunnel. This bypass will boost the electricity yield of every drop of water reaching the reservoir by 50%.

In the second, an 80 metre high dam will be built about 32 kilometre further upstream. The new reservoir formed will capture most of the excess water during the rainy season for later release, rather than spill it down the drain unused.

The project will quadruple Bumbuna’s electricity generation, significantly improving living conditions across Sierra Leone.

Hence why we got to meet the President , and why so many Sierra Leones appreciate our efforts. From the airport in the capital to a round hut in a jungle village, when we say we’re here for Bumbuna II, we get a warm smile and heartfelt thanks or Tɛnki in the local Krio language.

A village in the jungle of Sierra Leone        Ride on the Seli River in a dug out canoe

Meeting the President

The firm and gracious handshake reminded our team just how important Bumbuna II is to the people of Sierra Leone and inspired us to keep pushing ahead despite the inevitable challenges we face.

I’m proud to report that today we’re on the finishing stretch of this bumpy road of development. Negotiations recently began between lenders and with the preferred bidder. In about five years’ time, we should all be celebrating its inauguration.

On this special day, Bumbuna will finally realise its potential to power this country forward to a brighter future. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to celebrate the accomplishment with the President and get another one of those handshakes.

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