By Ulf Laessing
JUBA, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Norway will help South Sudan build
a hydropower plant with work expected to start early next year,
diplomats said, raising hopes of ending an era of dark nights at
least in the capital.
Devastated by decades of civil war with Khartoum, South
Sudan has no power grid. Electricity is only for the rich who
can afford diesel generators at their villas in the capital,
Juba, or business travellers in the city's expensive hotels.
The government has made more than $10 billion in oil
revenues since a 2005 peace deal with Khartoum, but corruption
and inexperience have hampered development since independence in
Juba also has no sewage system. Running water in residential
buildings and offices comes unfiltered from the Nile, delivered
by an army of trucks.
To kickstart development, Norway will partly fund and
oversee construction of a 42-megawatt dam on the White Nile,
providing enough electricity at least for Juba.
Tenders will be awarded in autumn with work to start in
early 2014 and end in two years, Western diplomats said. The
project will cost around $160 million, of which South Sudan is
supposed to contribute a quarter.
With risk-averse Western firms largely shunning South Sudan
due to its inefficient legal system, bidders for the plant will
likely come from Asia, diplomats said. Chinese, Malaysian and
Indian firms dominate the oil industry in South Sudan.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Dale Hudson)