Two-third of Ethiopia’s 110 million people does not have access to electricity and the Ethiopian Dam is expected to change that.
The Ethiopian government on Saturday announced that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is set to start generating electric power.
It came about a year after the second filling of the reservoir, which retained over 13.9 billion cubic metres of water. In the first round of filing,4.5 billion cubic metres of water was retained.
Eventually, the dam will hold about 74 billion cubic metres of water which is expected to generate over 5000 MW of power.
The work of installing two turbines has been underway since the second filling of the reservoir, but it is only one turbine that starts generating power on Sunday.
According to reports from state media, the mega project, which is said to cost over $US 5 billion, is 85 percent completed at this time.
Kifle Horo, chief engineer of the project of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, says it might take about two and half years to complete the project.
When the project was launched over ten years ago, the government plan to was to complete it in about five years with local financing
As it turns out, it faced internal and external problems. Internally, as reports that emerged after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in 2018 indicated, project mismanagement sapped financial resources that could have hastened its construction. Project delay incurred extra financial cost. The government has not yet disclosed total spending to date.
The quality of some aspects of project work were also questionable, based on a narrative from Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Government resolved to restructure the project management including contractors. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) officials who were managing it were removed and a new management was named. With that, the local contractors like METEC were removed from the project.
The project was also facing security challenges which is linked to foreign power. There had been security incidents reported by the government.
The external problem manifested itself in the form of political and diplomatic challenges, however construction was not halted because of it.
Sudan and Egypt
Egypt and Sudan have been disputing the project, particularly regarding the filling of the Dam. Egypt has been pursuing the goal of ensuring that it has control over it which Ethiopia finds as a matter of sovereignty.
For Egypt, filling the dam should take well over a decade, something Ethiopia did not accept.
Sudan was initially cooperative, and had a stand that the project is in the interest of Sudan in terms of preventing flooding that affected Sudanese farmers and also in terms of getting electric power supply.
But that did not last. It collapsed with former Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan Albashir. To be precise, Sudan had a positive stand towards GERD even during the transitional time in Sudan..
The GERD dispute eventually turned out to be a major international issue in the sense that it attracted great powers. It involved the United States, the European Union, Russia, the African Union, Russian and China.
The United States and its demonstrated intent to exploit the project for an interventionist agenda. They attempted to be mediators on the project, while demonstrating a tendency of advancing Egyptian interest at the expense of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, insisted that it is the African Union that should handle the mediation between the three countries. Russia and China have been supporting the idea that the African Union is the right platform to handle disputes over GERD.
It got to a point where the issue of GERD was discussed at the United Nations Security Council.
Eventually African Union was put in charge of the negotiation and it is not finalized yet.
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