By Girma Fistum
Ethiopia recently announced it is to build another dam, named Koysha, after Gibe III, which is the largest of all Ethiopian dams became operational. The Gibe III dam which can generate 1,800 megawatts has faced obstruction challenges by international rights groups and NGOs but was completed with domestic finance to become operational only a few months ago and has now started generating power partially.
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia announced the commencement of the dam following the successful end of long negotiations between the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) and the Italian construction company, Salini Costruttori. According to a local newspaper The Reporter, an Italian financial institution named Servizi Assicuative del Commerce Estero (SACE) is to finance the project estimated at EUR 1.5 billion.
Hailemariam told the Parliament that the country’s desire to tap several rivers for power generation is part of plan to boost manufacturing and industrialization and transform its agrarian economy. An Ethiopian delegation led by EEP CEO, Azeb Asnake (Eng.), and head of Legal Affairs Directorate at Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC), Wasihun Abate, travelled to Rome to finalize the vendor financing agreement and securing the necessary finance for the project.
Koysha Dam will have a capacity to generate 2000MW of electricity on the lower bank of the Omo River, which is an outward-bound river of Ethiopia to join Lake Turkana, near the Kenyan border in southern Ethiopia.
Koysha will face smear campaign like its predecessors
Although Gibe III Dam’s potential to transform the lives of millions of Ethiopians and Kenyans, its construction wasn’t an easy ride.
Anti-dam activist groups had left no stone unturned in their sinister but futile to stop the construction of the Gibe III dam project. They launched political drives against international funding institutions to hamper the process and by extension to prolong Ethiopia’s development activities.
To their disappointment, the government of Ethiopia withdrew its funding applications and chose to construct the dam using domestic finance. The anti-dam groups and many others expected the project to collapse.
After Ethiopia’s continuation of construction the Chinese and World Bank agreed to fund power transmission lines between Ethiopia and Kenya. The anti-dam groups campaigned against the Chinese and World Bank too, but at the time it was obvious that Ethiopia can complete the dam by its own.
For that reason, the anti-dam groups changed tactics to generate international pressure and halt the project. They made up unsubstantiated studies and conducted intense lobbying. They even succeeded to mislead one UNESCO committee for a while by claiming the dam destroys heritage sites.
A United Nations Environmental Programme study later debunked their claims by saying: “Although the lower valley of the Omo River (downstream of the Gibe III Dam) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (because of geological and archaeological importance), the proposed dam and the reservoir areas are not in close proximity to this UNESCO designated heritage site.”
The report also exonerated Ethiopia by stating that “without any significant climate change the Omo River would continue to provide some 80 per cent of the inflow into Lake Turkana, and that depending upon rainfall scenarios the median effect would produce a two meter fall in the lake levels over a seven month period while the reservoir was filling.”
According to the report should the rainfall levels remain the same, there would be no change and that the lake levels actually fluctuate three to four meters seasonally in any one year at the moment in any case. The hydrological impact however, at most would be a fall of up to 2 meters, less than the natural fluctuation.
All these attempts to halt Gibe III failed and the dam was completed and started generating power. However, it doesn’t take much to expect the NGOs to continue their campaigns on the Koysha Dam.
Ethiopia’s energy prospects
The five year economic plan of Ethiopia envisages to raise national electric output to 17,346 megawatts while the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which under construction and will cover 6000MW, one third of the plan.
Ethiopia also signed a USD 4-billion-deal with the US-Icelandic firm, Reykjavik Geothermal, to build the country’s first privately-run power plant, a 1,000 megawatt geothermal complex. Ethiopia’s hydro-power potential is estimated at 45,000 megawatts while also having the potential of generating 5,000 Megawatts from geothermal. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s wind power potential is also believed to be Africa’s third-largest just behind Egypt and Morocco.
So far, Ethiopia has delivered more than 50 million USD worth electricity to its neighbours in the past year. At this time, Ethiopia exports 100 megawatts to Sudan and about 50 megawatts to Djibouti. Power exports to Kenya will commence once transmission lines that can carry 2000 megawatts are finalized. These undertakings surge the foreign exchange earnings as well as strengthening regional integration and stabilization.
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