Ethiopia aims to finish dam in 3 years

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Addis Ababa, 4 January 2014 (WIC) - Project manager Semegnew Bekele described the mega-dam as a "flagship" project for Ethiopia, ultimately aimed at improving citizens' lives.

Ethiopia hopes to finalize construction of its $4.7 billion hydroelectric dam project on the Nile River within three years, the director of the project said.

"Implementation has been going according to schedule," project manager Semegnew Bekele told Anadolu Agency, noting that the dam would be 30 percent complete within a few months.

The Grand Renaissance Dam, which is being built in Ethiopia's Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State near the border with Sudan, will allow the country to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity.

Bekele described the mega-dam as a "flagship" project for Ethiopia, ultimately aimed at improving citizens' lives. "But not only Ethiopians will benefit from the project," he said.

The hydroelectric project can also benefit downstream countries, which had initially been worried about the project's anticipated impact on their share of Nile water, said Bekele.

"It will prevent flood accidents from occurring each year in Sudan, help prevent silting up dams in Sudan and Egypt, and save significant amounts of water currently being wasted due to evaporation from dams in downstream states," he argued.

What's more, he added, a portion of the electricity generated by the dam can be exported to neighboring countries.

Ethiopia's plans to build Africa's largest hydroelectric dam had raised fears in downstream Egypt and Sudan that the new dam would sharply reduce their share of Nile water, which for both countries represents the main source of water.

In May of last year, Ethiopia diverted the flow of the river, raising alarm bells in Egypt.

A committee of experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was drawn up in 2011 and tasked with assessing the dam's environmental, economic and social impact on downstream countries.

A few days after Ethiopia diverted the river, the committee – which also included international experts – called for carrying out further studies on safety issues related to the dam's construction and their expected impact on Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia asserts that the new dam will benefit Egypt and Sudan, since the electricity generated by it will be available for purchase by the two countries.

Salini, an Italian company, is responsible for civil work on the dam, while all hydro-mechanical and electro-mechanical work is being carried out by a local firm. Some of the project's costs are expected to be borne by citizens of Ethiopia in the form of bond purchases.

According to a document issued by Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry, the country has long been interested in exploring the possibility of building a major dam on the river.

In 1927, Ethiopia reached an agreement with the J.G White Engineering Corporation of New York for a number of engineers and experts to visit Lake Tana and look into the feasibility of building a dam at the source of the Blue Nile.

Egypt and Sudan had initially based their objections to the dam on a colonial-era agreement that gives the two countries the lion's share of Nile water.

However, in December, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir confirmed his country's support for the Ethiopian dam project, noting that Khartoum stood to benefit from the electricity thus generated.

It was the first time for al-Bashir to voice Sudan's official support for the dam.

Ethiopia, for its part, insists the new dam poses no threat to Egypt's historic share of Nile water. (http://www.worldbulletin.net)


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