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Ethiopian Dam Starts Generating Power

FILE - Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, Sept. 26, 2019.

A controversial hydroelectric dam built on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia will officially begin generating power Sunday as the construction project reaches 80% completion.

Ethiopia’s national broadcaster reported Saturday that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which the country has been constructing on the Blue Nile River, will officially begin generating electricity Sunday for the first time.

The project has been under construction for 10 years. Initially, Ethiopia planned to finish the dam in five years, but the controversy it attracted from downstream countries, plus internal issues, slowed things.

Its completion may take another two to three years, said Kifle Horo, project manager for the dam. This project is totally run and funded by Ethiopians and the government of Ethiopia, he said, urging all to continue to take part in financing the project until it is completed.

Horo said downstream countries opposing construction because they’re afraid they’ll lose water from the Nile won’t be affected.

Ethiopia has been filling the dam’s reservoir for the past two consecutive rainy seasons; the second one was in July 2021. As construction of the dam continues, it could take years to fill the reservoir to the top.

But downstream nations, Egypt and Sudan, are concerned. In July 2021, Egypt appealed to the U.N. Security Council to review filling the reservoir. Ethiopia objected to the appeal and insisted the African Union oversee ongoing negotiations among the three nations.

State-run media reported Saturday one of 13 turbine units is now generating electricity. The dam is expected to generate upward of 5,000 megawatts of electricity when complete. Still, Egypt and Sudan oppose construction, saying the lives of their citizens would be affected due to water sharing concern.

Ethiopia insists it needs the power from the dam for its development. The nation of more than 110 million also says nearly 60% of its population has no access to electricity and the dam will improve availability to many households.