Ethiopia will start generating electricity from its mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Sunday, government officials told AFP, which was an important milestone for the controversial project.
The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is set to become the largest hydroelectric plant in Africa, has been at the center of a regional controversy since Ethiopia began there in 2011.
“Tomorrow will be the first energy generation on the dam,” a spokesman for the Ethiopian government said on Saturday.
The information was confirmed by another official. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the development had not been officially announced.
Ethiopia’s neighbors downstream Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat due to its dependence on Nile waters, while Addis Ababa considers it necessary for electrification and development.
There was no immediate response from Cairo or Khartoum, who pressured Ethiopia to sign an agreement to fill and operate the dam from the start of work.
The governments of the three held several rounds of talks. but so far there were no signs of a breakthrough.
The $ 4.2 billion (3.7 billion euros) project is expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s electricity generation.
Ethiopia originally planned to generate about 6,500 megawatts, but later reduced the target.
“Newly generated electricity from GERB could help revive an economy that has been devastated by the combined forces of a deadly war that is rising fuel prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, ”said Addis Lashitev of the Brookings Institution in Washington.
The 145-meter (475-foot) dam lies on the Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan.
Egypt, which is 97 percent dependent on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.
Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding, but fears its own dams could suffer without an agreement on GERD activities.
Negotiations sponsored by the African Union (AU) failed to bring a tripartite agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, and Cairo and Khartoum demanded that Addis Ababa stop filling the massive reservoir until such a deal is reached.
But Ethiopian officials say the filling is a natural part of the dam construction process and cannot be stopped.
The UN Security Council met in July last year to discuss the project, although Ethiopia later called the session a “useless” distraction from the AU-led process.
In September, the Security Council adopted a statement calling on Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to resume talks under the auspices of the AU.
Egypt claims the historic right to the Nile from the 1929 treaty, which gave it the right to veto construction projects along the river.
The 1959 agreement increased Egypt’s allocation to about 66 percent of the river’s water flow from 22 percent to Sudan.
However, Ethiopia has not been a party to these treaties and does not consider them valid.
The process of filling the huge GERB tank began in 2020, and in July of that year Ethiopia announced that it had reached the target of 4.9 billion cubic meters.
The total capacity of the reservoir is 74 billion cubic meters, and in 2021 it is planned to increase 13.5 billion.
Last July, Ethiopia said it had achieved that goal, meaning water was enough to start producing energy, although some experts have questioned those claims.
© 2022 AFP
Citation: Ethiopia will start generating electricity from the Nile Dam on Sunday (February 20, 2022), obtained on February 20, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-ethiopia-power-nile-sunday.html
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