ABIDJANL: A magnificent building has emerged at the Sassandra River of western Cote d’Ivoire in Africa, about 400 km from its economic capital of Abidjan.
About a week ago, a ceremony was held here to officially mark the start of electricity generation at the Soubre hydroelectric power station, a hydropower plant built by a Chinese company with a capacity of 275 MW.
The power station, the construction of which began in 2013, was completed eight months in advance, creating a new “Chinese miracle.” “This is the fourth year I’ve been working for the hydropower plant project and I really appreciate the job opportunity,” said Kouadio Alphonse, a 31-year- old topographer with three children.
“My Chinese fellow workers taught me pragmatic skills and I learn from them the hardworking spirit,” he said. “This is an important lesson that benefits all my life.” An ancient Chinese saying has it that water afar quenches no fire and a close neighbor is better than a distant cousin. Now Alphonse understands that more than ever.
In July last year, Alphonse’ house caught fire and all his family was trapped in a sea of flames. “My Chinese colleagues helped me pull them out of the blaze and put out the fire,” he said.
“The company later put on a fund-raising event for me,” Alphonse said in tears. “The selfless assistance helped pull me through and got me to start a new life.” Situated 20 km from downtown Soubre was Kouamekro, a relocation village that accommodates around 500 residents from the reservoir area.
“The local government gave a house and settlement allowance to us. We moved here at the beginning of this year,” said villager Martin Kouakou. “My house has three bedrooms and one living room. I had never imagined living in such a big and pretty place,” he said.
Soubre Mayor Traore Lassna said nearly 3,000 people had to be relocated because of building the Soubre hydroelectric power station and that Kouamekro was one of the relocations.
It is a pressing and important task to help the transmigrants strengthen their own capability to make a livelihood, in addition to support from the government, said the mayor.
“I am planning to buy seeds and farm machinery with the relocation allowance and start cultivation,” said Kouakou. “I want to thank China for its cooperation with Cote d’Ivoire to build the hydropower plant for my hometown and make such a beautiful homeland for us,” he said.
Secretary of the technology department of the project Maryline Kouadio came to Soubre in 2014, right upon her graduation from Cote d’Ivoire’s Boigny University. “When I first arrived here I was a bit frustrated because of the language barrier between the Chinese workers and me,” she recalled.
But as time elapsed she started to find his colleagues all being nice and glad to befriend her. “In 2015, they invited me to celebrate together the Chinese New Year. I had a bit of Chinese dumplings and the taste was amazing” said Kouadio.
With the hydroelectric power plant completed and starting to operate, many Chinese colleagues of Kouadio’s will be going back to China in just a couple of months. “I feel reluctant to part with them,” she said. “We will run Soubre hydroelectric power station as its new owner and we will serve the businesses and benefit the people with the technologies and spirit learned from the Chinese over the past three years.”