Ethiopia Starts Hydropower Worrying Neighbors
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
ADDIS ABABA (Worthy News) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has launched electricity production from the country’s mega-dam on the Blue Nile river, despite opposition from neighbors Egypt and Sudan.
Sunday’s inauguration of the controversial multi-billion dollar hydropower project added tensions over water supplies in the region.
Neighboring countries fear the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will cause water shortages downstream. Several rounds of talks were held in attempts to solve the stalemate with worried neighboring nations, without apparent results
Egypt, a big nation of nearly 100 million people, depends on the Nile for most of its water needs, including agriculture.
The Foreign Ministry of Egypt said Sunday that Ethiopia’s move is another “breach” of the agreement of principles that the three countries signed in 2015. It didn’t elaborate.
Prime Minister Abiy, however, said the dam would benefit Egypt and Sudan as well.
“We want to export our pollution-free electricity to Europe through Sudan and Egypt, so the way forward is cooperation among us. Ethiopia doesn’t want and intend to harm anyone else,” he claimed.
Ethiopia claims the $4.2 billion dam is crucial for its development and will enable power distribution to its population of more than 110 million. It reportedly provided more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s electricity output.
State media reported that the dam, which lies in western Ethiopia not far from the border with Sudan, had already started generating 375 megawatts of electricity from one of its turbines on Sunday.
The construction of Africa’s largest hydroelectric project started in 2011, roughly 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border with Sudan.
The first phase of filling the vast reservoir for the 145-meter (475-foot) dam began in mid-2020.
The reservoir’s total capacity is 74 billion cubic meters, and the target for 2021 was to add 13.5 billion, authorities explained.
Yet, the completion date was missed years ago due to the alleged embezzlement of funds and design flaws.
Those inconveniences were overlooked when Prime Minister Abiy and high-ranking officials toured the power generation site and pressed a series of buttons on an electronic screen. That move, officials claimed, initiated production.
Last July, Ethiopia said it had added enough water to begin producing energy, though officials did not provide a specific figure and were believed to have fallen short of the target
“This great dam was built by Ethiopians but not only for Ethiopians, rather for all our African brothers and sisters to benefit from,” an official said while presiding at the launch ceremony.
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