Ethiopia’s Nile mega-dam comes to stream

Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

By Atimaku Joan and James Atem Kuir

Ethiopian Sunday began generating electricity from its Nile mega-dam bitterly disputedbyEgypt and Sudan who fear reduction in the volume of water as a result of the project.

Abiy Ahmed the Prime Minister of Ethiopia inaugurated the generation of 375 megawatts of electricity from one of the turbines of the dam as he reiterated calls on the downstream countries to cooperate saying, “…Ethiopia has no intention of harming Egypt and Sudan”, according to Nebil Mahdi, the country’s Ambassador to South Sudan.

Referred to as Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the mega project has been the center of a regional dispute over fears the project would interfere with the flow of the water to downstream countries that depend on the Nile waters for irrigation and domestic use.

Ethiopia has however maintained that the project would spur economic development and provide electricity for 60 percent of its population that do not have access to the grid.

“We call upon our brothers in Egypt and Sudan to focus on cooperation to avoid the diplomatic challengers that we faced two years back,” stressed Nebil Mahdi in an interview with Juba Monitor yesterday.

The USD4.2bn (£3.8bn) dam, located in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region was started in 2011and is expected to generate over 5,000 megawatts of electricity, doubling the nation’s output when fully completed.

Ambassador Mahdi told Juba Monitor on Sunday the dam project was currently about 84 percent completed.

After launching the operation of the dam, Prime Minister wrote on Twitter: “This is good news for our continent and the downstream countries with whom we aspire to work together.”

Egypt, which lies downstream and depends almost completely on the Nile for its irrigation and drinking water, is worried the dam would affect the levels of water flowing into the country.

It, therefore, wants a guarantee of a certain volume of water coming into Egypt which Ethiopia seems to ignore as it could not agree on a certain figure of how much water to release as its priority was to make sure there was enough water to operate Africa’s largest hydroelectric plant.

Sudan is also worried about how the dam would affect its water levels.

According to reports last year, Sudan was disappointed when Ethiopia decided to shut three of the four diversion outlets for water.

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