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Ethiopia Continues Dam Construction

  • Marthe van der Wolf

Ethiopia and Egypt have been in a diplomatic dispute for weeks over the construction of what will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric dam - impacting the waters of the Nile River. But with Egypt facing political turmoil at home, attention has also been diverted from this controversial project.

The massive construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam continues despite sometimes angry protests from Egypt.

At issue is - diverting part of the Blue Nile since May.

The recently ousted Egyptian government feared the diversion would impact the Nile River flow - on which it is heavily dependent.

All of this will be a reservoir with 74 billion cubic meters of Nile waters. Ethiopia said it will gradually fill the reservoir in the coming years, leaving Egypt questioning how the reservoir can be filled without affecting the water flow, especially during periods of drought.

Simegnew Bekele, one of the dam’s project managers, said better water management by both Egypt and Ethiopia will be the key. “The water will flow through these culverts permanently. That culverts will be part of the dam, which will be embedded, which will have gates and during any low flow the water will pass through the culverts because it will be installed at the normal riverbed level. We cannot change the normal riverbed level,” he explained.

Ethiopia is proceeding with construction even as environmental experts and diplomats continue to work out Nile River resource management among affected countries.

The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will make Ethiopia Africa’s biggest power exporter in the next four years - producing 6000 megawatts of hydroelectric power. The dam will be 1708 meters long, 145 meters high and will be equipped with two powerhouses. Potential buyers of the electricity include Somalia, Uganda and even possibly Egypt.

The dam will be competed in 2017 at a cost of close to $5 billion.