Liu Bao (second right, front row) introduces the Djiploho Hydropower Station to Equatorial Guinean officials (XINHUA)
Before the Djiploho Hydropower Station (DHS) was built, Djiploho was a secluded forest village in Equatorial Guinea. The change has shone a spotlight on the Wele River, now quite literally the center of power.
Liu Bao, chief supervisor of the DHS project, said the power plant satisfies more than 90 percent of the country's electricity demand and has promoted industrial and agricultural growth. Liu is general manager of Sinohydro Bureau Six Co. Ltd., a hydropower engineering company based in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province.
"Who could have imagined that in the desolate primary forest a group of Chinese friends with a love for Equatorial Guinea are constructing such a grand project?" asked Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea, at the cornerstone-laying ceremony of the power plant in December 2008.
In 2014, the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy of Equatorial Guinea signed the certificate of transfer to take over the project. In the process, Equatorial Guinea became one of the first African countries to benefit from the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative by having its infrastructure built.
Djiploho, also known as Oyala, is now being built to serve as the new capital of Equatorial Guinea.
Largest hydropower station
Liu still remembers the first time he visited Djiploho in June 2007 with his colleagues to investigate local conditions for building the power plant. They were fully equipped, wearing shirts with long sleeves, tight pants and boots and carrying machetes, axes, spades and saws. The rattans in the area weaved such a thick net that they couldn't see the sky above them. Shrubs and weeds made it impossible to walk without using machetes to clear a path.
After an investigation of multiple rivers in the Central-West African country, the team found that Equatorial Guinea is rich not only in oil, but also in water resources.
Compared with oil which may become exhausted as a result of excessive exploitation, water has the potential for long-term harnessing and can be used as a clean renewable energy source. "To build hydropower plants by making full use of water resources not only satisfies Equatorial Guinea's demand for electricity but also for exporting electricity to other West African countries," Liu told ChinAfrica, a monthly publication of Beijing Review, adding that he was fortunate to have met with President Mbasogo, who included his hydropower generation ideas in the country's 2020 economic development plan.
Liu's team paid special attention to environmental protection during the construction of the power plant.
"We placed great emphasis on environmental protection during our construction and our environmental impact assessment report was passed by local authorities," said Liu. During construction as few trees as possible were cut and all the waste water was treated before being discharged. Garbage classification was also practiced.
The strict environmental protection measures were welcomed by the local government and the local community. DHS is the largest hydropower station in Equatorial Guinea, ending the country's reliance on oil for power generation, heralding the dawn of green energy.
The Djiploho Hydropower Station in Equatorial Guinea (XINHUA)
The power plant has brought a series of unexpected changes. Although the infrastructure construction of Equatorial Guinea started late, the government is committed to improving education and has established a number of schools nationwide. However, limited access to electricity hampered students' learning progress.
Aware of its social responsibility, since 2007 Liu's company has donated more than $2 million to build several primary schools and a technical school. It has also donated school materials on a regular basis, and thus developed a good relationship with villagers in the area.
However, it is the hydropower plant and the extension of the electric network of the port city of Bata that completely changed local people's lives. The Bata grid project enabled electricity generated by DHS to be transmitted to urban and rural areas, which has helped transform the way of teaching in schools.
Children are now able to have access to light, watch films and local TV programs. They learned about Chinese kungfu, martial art master Bruce Lee and China's Three Gorges Dam through films.
Another area of improvement is in the agricultural sector.
"Agriculture is underdeveloped in Equatorial Guinea because the country mainly consists of mountainous areas which are unsuitable for the growth of crops," Liu said.
In order to promote local economic growth, the company invited Chinese agricultural experts to help Equatorial Guinea plan its husbandry development with the help of the Chinese Embassy. A production chain of meat, eggs and milk was formed by developing the dairy and poultry industries. Liu also suggested producing canned food and industrial starch by taking advantage of the abundant pineapples and cassavas in the country.
To reduce the reliance of locals on foreign expertise, Liu has been a big advocate of technology transfer and strengthening technological training. Given that there was no training school for electric technology in Equatorial Guinea, Liu applied for $1.3 million from the Power Construction Corp. of China (PowerChina), the parent company of Sinohydro Bureau Six, to build the country's first training school for electricity technology.
In addition he has looked ahead and established a joint training program between China and Equatorial Guinea for hydropower plant operation and management. Under the program, PowerChina donated more than $1.5 million to fund 53 young people from Equatorial Guinea to have two to five years' training in hydropower plant management in universities and training centers in China. In May 2013, the first batch of 35 students graduated and began working.
"We focused on promoting localized management of the hydropower project and hired local people to take part in the construction," said Liu. By participating in the construction, local employees mastered technical skills such as equipment operation, electrical engineering, welding, drilling, concrete pouring, and steel bar making and installation. The project created jobs for locals and improved their lives.
With his interest in youth development, since 2009 Liu has been busy recruiting local university students to participate in project management and construction in every summer vacation. In addition to salaries, students who excel are assisted with their tuition fees.
For his dedication, Liu has received the country's highest civilian honor and has become a celebrated figure.
Copyedited by Francisco Little
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