By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 10, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Construction of Ethiopia’s massive hydro- power plant project is almost halfway to completion, the Ethiopian Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCo) said on Thursday.
According to the state utility, construction of the dam project, known as the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), is currently 42% complete, with the first stage of the dam due to be operational next year, with an electricity generation capacity of 700 megawatts.
Once complete, the $4.1 billion dam project, which is being built along the Nile in Benishangul Gumuz region near the Sudanese border, will havea power-generation capacity of 6,000 megawatts.
Ethiopia aims to become a renewable energy hub for the region. It plans to export large amounts of clean and cheap hydro-power-processed electricity to its neighbours, and even to the Middle East.
The ambitious plan is part of efforts to propel Ethiopia to become a middle-income country by 2025.
Although construction of the GERD is seen by Ethiopians as having a vital role in transforming the economy of the country, Egyptians view the project as a potential threat to its water security.
The Nile River is a lifeline to some 80% of Egyptians and the desert North African nation fears Ethiopia’s huge dam project will ultimately diminish its historic water rights.
Long-standing disputes over Nile water between Ethiopia and Egypt reached boiling point last year after Egyptian politicians weren caught on camera suggesting sabotage, including an air strike to halt the project.
However, relations between the two countries have improved in recent months after the two sides engaged in a number of positive discussions.
Ethiopia maintains the dam will not have any significant impact on the two lower riparian countries, Sudan and Egypt, and will in fact provide economic benefits.
BASHIR VISITS GERD
Meanwhile, Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on Tuesday paid a visit to the GERD construction site.
According to the state-run Ethiopia broadcasting corporation (EBC), Bashir was accompanied by Ethiopia’s foreign affairs minister, Tedros Adhanom, where he was briefed by the project manager on the current status and progress of the dam.
Following the visit, Bashir reiterated his county’s full support for the project, which he says has regional benefits.
“I have all the information about the dam since its launch. We have also studied the effect the dam could have to Sudan,” Bashir said.
“We believe that the dam benefits riparian countries and I hope it will be completed on schedule,” he added.
Bashir was in Ethiopia to attend celebrations marking of the country’s ninth Nation’s and Nationalities Day held at the project site of the project in the Benishangul Gumuz region on Monday.