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Owen Falls (Hydro-Electric Scheme)

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made with the construction scheme at the Owen Falls; and what is the intention of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the initiation and continuation of the schemes of land reclamation in the Blue Nile Valley.

Work is nearly up to schedule. The foundations for the first two generating sites are almost completed and the walls of the power station are under construction. 15,000 k.w. from the hydro-electric station should be available by September, 1953, and a further 45,000 k.w. by the middle of 1954. The second half of this Question is within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, to whom I suggest that the hon. Member should address it.

While appreciating the information given in the first part of the answer, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware of two considerations? First, is he aware that far too little publicity has been given in this country to this extremely important project and to its great value to Africa, and will he consider that? Secondly, is he aware that it is a little undesirable that the very important ancillary schemes of flood reclamation, and so on, which have never been discussed in this House at all, should be subject to another Department, and would it not be a very good thing, at least, if the whole of the original work were controlled and planned by one Department?

In answer to the first part of the question, I should be very glad to see if publicity could be given to the nature of this scheme. On the second part of the question, I would say that we are dealing with geographical facts. No part of the Blue Nile flows through colonial territory, and it is unfortunate that inter - Departmental boundaries are governed by geographical and not by economic facts.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider arranging a small exhibition in the Palace of Westminster, perhaps accompanied by photographs of this bold, imaginative scheme, so that Members can see what is being done, and convey the information to their constituents?

May I ask whether, in view of the tremendous importance of the "Century plan," which hinges on the Owen Falls scheme, the right hon. Gentleman can use his influence with the Foreign Office to try to secure that the present differences between Egypt and this country shall not hold up the completion of this scheme?