This article was originally published in the 5th issue (October 2016) of The Ethiopian Messenger, the quarterly magazine of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels
«There was a time where Ethiopians showed their greatness by constructing the historical obelisks and great castles in the ancient and medieval periods. Now in this age, the new generation has decided to leave its mark on Ethiopian history. Unlike the previous historical monuments, obelisks and castles, GERD is a multi-purpose project. It is a project that mobilized almost all sections of the society. It is a dam that created a new image to the new Ethiopia. It is a project that reversed the pessimistic view of “they can’t do it” philosophy into “they can!”»
These words (among other parts of this text from “GERD: Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ landmark”, The Ethiopian Herald, 15 November 2016) express what the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) represents in the mind of Ethiopians and the importance the project has for the development of the country. The recent progresses of the constructions work can be considered as important achievements for the country on its path to development.
The GERD Project General Manager, Engineer Semegnew Bekele said on 17th of November 2016 that the construction of the dam is well in progress as it is backed by unreserved endeavor of the greater public. Currently, well over 11,000 workers are toiling in three shifts under the scorching hills of Guba in Benishangul Gumuz State, where the GERD is located.
Engineer Semegnew Bekele further assured that close to 60 percent of the construction has been finalized so far, from just over 40 percent in April 2016. Moreover, preparations are well underway to generate 750 MW of electricity from two turbines which are part of the construction targeted to be launched soon.
Earlier in October, Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC), the main contractor of the Rrenaissance dam on divisions of the electromechanical and hydraulic steel structure, had announced that two of the 375 MW turbines of the dam are on the final phase of installation to begin early power generation.
The project has also seen finalization of construction of 400 and 500 KV power transmission lines traversing from the GERD all the way to World Bank-supported Beles project and Addis Ababa main power reservoir. These lines are readied to convey GERD-generated power to targeted destinations and repositories.
Taking into account the importance of exploiting its natural resources to alleviate poverty, Ethiopia started construction of the GERD in 2011. However, lower riparian countries, particularly Egypt, have expressed their concerns on the project and its impact on the water share of Egypt.
In the contrary, Ethiopia is assuring its stance adamantly that the GERD is being constructed for the sake of electric power generation only to benefit not only the national development, but also accelerate the economic integration of the region.
Upon finalization, the project will accelerate regional integration through cross-border electrification activities and Sudan and Egypt may benefit from the supply of cheap electricity as Ethiopia may not consume all the energy that would be generated. Moreover, the dam can help stop the silting that is causing considerable problems in Egypt and Sudan’s dams by rehabilitating the natural environment of the upper Nile Basin. The silt from Blue Nile is building up in Egypt’s Aswan dam and in a couple of smaller dams in Sudan. If the run-off is not controlled by the GERD, the silting will cripple all these dams. The amount of the debris deposited by the Nile in Sudan and Egypt is estimated at 110 million tons annually.
With 6,000 megawatts, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa at its completion forecasted for 2017.
Gibe III Hydroelectric Dam Inaugurated
On Saturday 17 December 2016, the Gibe III hydroelectric dam, which is located 470 km south west of Addis Ababa, was inaugurated after its full completion. It was built for a total of EUR 1.5 billion, 40 percent of which was covered by the government of Ethiopia, the rest by a loan obtained from the China Exim Bank. The construction of the dam was carried out by the Italian Salini Construction Private Ltd., a company which is also currently working on the GERD’s construction.
With a height of 243 meters, 610 meters of length and with total storage capacity of 15 billion cubic meters, the dam has total installed capacity of 1,870 megawatts. It is believed that the inauguration of this dam will potentially resolve problems linked with power cuts in different parts of the country.