News / Africa

Ethiopia Diverts Nile for Huge $4.7 Billion Hydro Dam

A boat cruises in the Egyptian Nile River in Cairo, May 28, 2013.
A boat cruises in the Egyptian Nile River in Cairo, May 28, 2013.
Reuters
Ethiopia began diverting a stretch of the Nile on Tuesday to make way for a $4.7 billion hydroelectric dam that is worrying downstream countries dependent on the world's longest river for water.

The Horn of Africa country has laid out plans to invest more than $12 billion in harnessing the rivers that run through its rugged highlands, to become Africa's leading power exporter.

Centerpiece to the plan is the Grand Renaissance Dam being built in the Benishangul-Gumuz region bordering Sudan. Now 21 percent complete, it will eventually have a 6,000 megawatt capacity, the government says, equivalent to six nuclear power plants.

“The dam is being built in the middle of the river so you can't carry out construction work while the river flowed,” said Mihret Debebe, chief executive officer of the state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, at a ceremony at the site.

“This now enables us to carry out civil engineering work without difficulties. The aim is to divert the river by a few meters and then allow it to flow on its natural course.”

Ethiopia's ambitions have heightened concerns in Egypt over fears the projects may reduce the river's flow. Addis Ababa has long complained that Cairo was pressuring donor countries and international lenders to withhold funding.

Ethiopia's energy minister moved to dispel fears over the dam's impact.

“The dam's construction benefits riparian countries, showcases fair and equitable use of the river's flow and does not cause any harm on any country,” Alemayehu Tegenu said in a speech.

Mohamed Bahaa El-Din, Egypt's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, said Cairo was not opposed to Ethiopia's development projects as long as they did not harm downstream countries.

“Crises in the distribution and management of water faced in Egypt these days and the complaints of farmers from a lack of water confirms that we cannot let go of a single drop of water from the quantity that comes to us from the Upper Nile,” he said.

A panel of experts from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan is set to announce its findings on the impact of the Ethiopian dam on the Nile's flow in the next two weeks.

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by: Optimist from: Everywhere
May 30, 2013 6:10 PM
Water will be the source of conflict within the next decade. Egypt and Sudan vis-a-vis Ethiopia are going to have a very difficult relationship in the coming few years, unless they start looking at the concerns of everyone that depends on the river Nile. Egypt's 100% source of survival is the river Nile and Sudan's 80% water needs come from the river Nile. Ethiopia on the other hand is driven by the economic interest of the river Nile, for it has never used it as a source of food production or other means till now.

There is no major Ethiopian center that could have benefited from the river Nile till now, although that may change. It would take another $10 Billion for Ethiopia to get some benefit out of this Nile dam project. To transport electric power to the Central and North of the country where there are major centers and industries that would benefit from extra power, but would require plenty of transformers and power line. Already the country is investing $5 Billion, adding double that amount would rob the poor country its soul.

One solution could be for Egypt and Sudan to build two nuclear power plants for Ethiopia, close to major population centers. That would increase Ethiopia's power needs while reducing extra expenses envisaged by going hydro-power, not to mention safe and reliable power supply without fear of sabotage. Let's face it, the country has plenty of restive spots and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Nuclear power plant would take five to seven years to come to fruition, but hydro-power source would take longer with all the negatives associated to the dam project.

In addition to the two nuclear power plants, the three countries plus Eritrea can create an economic zone that would be free of tariffs to exchange goods and services. This would be win-win for everyone. Currently, those three countries exist on aid regiment, and that integration would give that corner of the world a 200 million population for a lasting demand for consumer goods and services to be economic powerhouse in the region and the continent.

by: Beyene from: Thailand
May 28, 2013 11:40 PM
"complaints of farmers from a lack of water"; How about death and starvation of people from lack of water!!!!!!! Every body must by now know Egypt and Ethiopia MUST live together OR wither out together!! I would prefer to live, and I think so does any Egyptian!

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