Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 13:22 UK

Poor rains 'shut down Kenya dam'

Masinga power station
It is only the second time Masinga has been closed

Kenya's largest hydro-electric dam has been shut down because of low water levels, raising fears that power prices may rise in the East African country.

The Kenya Electricity Generating Company said poor and late rains had forced the closure of the 14 megawatt Masinga plant on the Tana River.

It is only the second time in 28 years Masinga has closed.

Its remaining water is to be released to a dam downstream in an effort to reduce any impact on the national grid.

KenGen, the country's main power supplier, said it hoped Masinga would reopen by the end of the year.

"Masinga dam water level has been declining steadily due to poor hydrology for the past two years from 1,956.5m in May 2007 to the current level of 1,035.5m," KenGen said.

Kenya has two rainy seasons - the first lasts for a month and begins in October. The second usually starts in March and lasts until May.

Businesses in East Africa's biggest economy say there are already frequent power blackouts, which increases the cost of doing business, Reuters news agency reports.

The national power distributor - Kenya Power and Lightening Company - told the BBC it did not foresee an immediate impact on supply, but said it may have to rely more on diesel power in the future.

Correspondents say this would push up the price of electricity for consumers.

A drought three years ago forced neighbouring Tanzania to introduce daytime power cuts.

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