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Tuesday, 10 May 2011 22:18

Dam Spells Hope For Ethiopian Economy

MillenniumDamBy Kester Kenn Klomegah

MOSCOW, May 10, 2011 (Buziness Africa) – The Ethiopian authorities have officially called for an urgent financial support for the construction and future maintenance of the Grand Millenenium Dam, a power plant expected to generate more than 5,000 megawatts (MW), which experts have unreservedly described as an effort to create a firm basis to boost economic growth.

The Ethiopian government has been exerting tremendous efforts to develop its hydro power since the past ten years using its natural resources. This is not only to meet the power need of the alarming economic growth and the boosting industry but also to contribute for the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. Sufficing power energy demands on one hand and effectively manipulating the income generating possibilities of the country's water resource on the other hand are among major reasons in investing much in this area.


The dam, which will be constructed on the Nile River in the town of Guba, Benshangul/Gumuz state, in western Ethiopia, some 40 km from the Sudanese boarder, is expected to be completed over the next four years, that's by 2015, and it will become the largest artificial lake with a capacity of holding 63 billion cubic meter of water, twice the size of the largest natural lake in the country – Lake Tana.


During the cornerstone laying ceremony, the Ethiopian government vows to fully finance the new grand hydroelectric project on the Nile River, which, according to the Ethiopian Prime Minster, would cost around 3.3 billion Euros, or 78 billion birr, and that the dam, when finally completed will also benefit Sudan and Egypt by preventing flooding and providing for irrigation land.


Prime Minister Zenawi Meles has already made it clear to Cairo that if it started a war with the upstream countries, it would suffer defeat. Quite apart from that, Zenawi Meles has also asked downstream countries not to block construction efforts of one of the world's 10 biggest dams and to abandon their anti-development policy against Ethiopia.


Labeling Egypt an "obstacle" to the development of Ethiopia, the Prime Minister condemns Cairo's uncooperative stance and cheap tactics of influencing donor countries and international financers against funding the dam projects, which is forcing Addis Ababa to fund the project from its coffers and sell government bonds. 


"On the basis of benefit from the project, Sudan and Egypt should cover 30 and 20 percent of the cost, respectively," Meles further suggested. "However, due to absence of fairness in the system, Ethiopia is the only country bearing the costs."


As part of financing the project, a government bond dubbed "Millennium Bond" with a five percent interest rate is ready to be sold to the public, according to the Prime Minister. Premier Meles called on farmers, urban dwellers, investors and Ethiopians abroad to participate in the grand project by purchasing this bond.


Earlier, at a press conference with local and foreign media on March 30, 2011, the Minister of Water and Energy, Alemayehu Tegenu, noted that the government would be forced to finance the project on its own because Egypt has been engaged in a continuous campaign telling international lenders and donors not to finance Ethiopian projects on the Nile River.


On the occasion the official launching ceremony, many high government officials including Mehiret Debebe, CEO of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) and Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister of Water and Energy, and some highly-level foreign delagtes as well as representatives of international organizations were in attendance.


The Ethiopian Diaspora in the United States, highly inspired by Girma Birru, Special Envoy and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the USA, has expressed utmost readiness to contribute their share towards the building of the Grand Renaissance Dam.


They hailed the timely measure of the Ethiopian government to undertake such unparalleled bold move as a "dream come true bedrock measure" that would usher in a huge impact on extricating the country from the grip of the existing grinding poverty and pave the way rapid development of the economy, according to media sources monitored by Buziness Africa in Moscow.


The Ethiopian Diaspora promised to throw its support unflinchingly behind the on-going Growth and Transformation Enterprise in general and the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in particular, sources told Buziness Africa.


The Italian company, Salini Costruttori, will be responsible for the engineering, procurement, and construction contract of the project. The procurement was conducted apparently through a procedure called "selective bidding" as there was no news of a bidding process, nor was there one of the signing of the contract that took place sometime between November – December 2010.


According official sources, Salini Costruttori, which is currently undertaking the construction of Gibe III Hydropower plant, will undertake the construction of the the Grand Millennium Dam. This same construction company, with a tract profile, that built Gibe I, Gibe II and Tana Beles hydropower plants.


The project has its own history: The Millennium Project dam has been renamed as the Renaissance Millennium Dam Project. The project has its roots from the reign of Emperor Haile Sellasie in the 60s and 70s, with studies by the US Department Bureau of Reclamation which conducted different water resources development and management in the country. Due to many reasons, the project was not realized until recently.


The project has also drawn controversies among the Nile River countries. Ethiopian Water Minister says that his country neither informed Egypt about its plans to construct Nile Dam nor discussed the issue with that country despite fears that the issue could spark a war between both. Meanwhile, work has already started, which has further angered Egypt.


According to investigations and research by Buziness Africa, Egypt has always opposed any construction on the Nile River, on which it claims sole authority as a result of colonial era treaties, which gave Egypt right to about 86 percent of the waters originating in that country, which is approximately 55.5 billion cubic meters from the total 84 billion cubic meters per year. Egypt continues to follow the colonial era treaties that gave Egypt the veto right over upstream dam projects.


An agreement signed by Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania on May 14, 2010, and later by Kenya and Burundi, the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) has been argued against by the upper riparian states of Egypt and Sudan (North Sudan to be specific). 


As the debate still rages on unbated, many water experts believed that the project is advantageous for all parties involved for the reasons that it would decrease the soil erosion that has been a problem for Ethiopia, and it will decrease the siltation and sedimentation that are problems for lower riparian countries.


The Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and SNNP region youth associations said the project will ensure positive development benefits for the youth. In exclusive interviews, the heads of the four youth associations explained assertatively that the successful completion of the project will supplement the developmental efforts of the country.


"It is an honor for the youth of today to see the realization of a century-old dream coming true," Kibrom Tadesse, chairman of the Tigray Region's Youth Association, said.


Henok Amare, chairman of the Amhara Region's Youth Association, also said that poverty had been playing a major role in preventing Ethiopia from utilizing its resources. "The commencement of the project signifies that the country is on the right economic track," Henok told the local media.


Jebba Adugna, president of the Oromia Region's Youth Association, on his part said that the youth is presented with the opportunity to make history by realizing the successful completion of the dam project. "The dam ensures developmental benefit for the youth," Jebba said adding that the association is working to mobilize resources from the Oromo youth residing in and outside of the country.


The South Ethiopian Youth Federation also announced its commitment to mobilize the youth of the region and participate by contributing financial, skill and labor resources, according to Ashenafi Abraham, Head of the Executive Committee of the Federation. 


Speaking about the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Abdel Hakim Gamal Abdel Nasser, who is one of the 48 member Egyptian public diplomacy delegation who visited Ethiopia, said that his country will not be against any project which benefits the Ethiopian people.


"We will be happy with a prosperous and developed Ethiopia. And, we are sure that Ethiopian people will never do anything to harm the Egyptian people," Abdel Hakim said in an exclusive interview.


"With the technology and the knowledge in the 21st century, Egyptian and Ethiopian scientists can come up with a scientific solution to maximize the positive and eliminate the negative side, we should work together," Abdel Hakim added.


Additionally, Bothaina Kamel, another delegate and the first woman presidential candidate for Egypt's 2011 election, said the delegate came to Addis Ababa to find where the truth lies about the impact of the dam and added that the Egyptian peasants have suffered a lot during the previous regime.


Bothaina said: "We believe that Ethiopia will not harm us because we are one Africa. At present, Egyptian peasants suffer from water shortage. This is because of the injustice of the previous government, not because of Ethiopia."


In conclusion, from all indications, it is in everyone's interest, including Egypt and the other Nile basin countries, to join hands and work for the appropriate use of the international waters based on equitable and fair distribution. (END)


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