By Berhanu Fekade
One of the projects funded by the Japanese government in Ethiopia, the newly-initiated Alto Langano geothermal power plant, is said to be delayed due to shortage of water supply that is essential in an initial test drilling work.
The Alto Langano geothermal project, which is being undertaken near Lake Langano is expected to generate some 70 MW electric power for the country. The project was set to be finalized and start power generation by the end of 2018. According to Jin Kimyaki, Chief Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for Ethiopia, however, the project is facing some challenges that are hindering its progress. One of the challenges he mentioned was the availability of water for the first phase drilling activity.
At a press conference held on Thursday at his office located off Ethio-Chinese road, in Wollosefer, Kimyaki said that the project had planned to conduct as many test drillings as possible before commencing with actual construction of the power plant.
So far, Japanese experts, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Geological Survey and the Ethiopian Electric Power, have manged to drill some 2,000 meters, Kimyaki told journalists. However, if it was not for shortage of water that is required while operating the drilling equipment, the drilling activity was scheduled to continue during the coming month, Kimyaki said. The whole drilling tasks, according to the chief representative, will be finalized in the coming two years’ time.
But it is also the case that Tokyo has not yet been able to embark on the funds required for this project. In fact, no financial details of this project has been disclosed thus far.
On the other hand, the trunk road construction which stretches down from the capital to the town of Debremarkos, some 300 km to the north of Addis Ababa, is also the other project that is lagging behind schedule. The road project, which was started in 1998 with a grant aid that was made available by the Japanese government, is stifled by another natural factor that is widely observed in the area. The delay this time is related to the recurrent landslide which happens following the rainy season at the Abay Gorge, Kimyaki explained. In spite of this the rehabilitation of the road is set to be finalized by this year. So far, some USD 42 million has been allocated for the project, the chief representative said.
On the other hand, the newly-constructed bridge, on the road that links Addis to Djibouti, is expected to be inaugurated soon, it was learnt. The 230 million birr bridge project is among the most typical infrastructure projects that JICA finances and has been financing in Ethiopia. The project is quite important since it facilitates the movement of goods and services along the Djibouti corridor, the import-export lifeline of Ethiopia.
In a related news, JICA is set to introduce rice plantation projects in Ethiopia. Kimyaki was bold in stating that Ethiopia has never been able to utilize its wetlands. Hence, the import of rice has been increasing from time to time. And, as a result, following some agronomical and marketing studies, JICA plans to expand into rice plantations in Ethiopia. According to Kimyaki, the town of Fogera in the Amhara Regional State is chosen to be a pilot project site for the rice promotion project which will remain for the coming five years in the area.
In related news, an advanced level of the Japanese quality and productivity improvement -Kaizen -will continue to be implemented for the coming five years in the major industrial and academic communities in Ethiopia. The four-year scholarship program called Africa Business Education (ABE initiative) plans to send 1,000 selected African youths to Japan to enable them attend Master’s level education and internships at some Japanese companies. The first batch of 23 Ethiopian students recently left for Japan. On average, 25 Ethiopian students will be receiving the scholarships extended by the Japanese government.