Ethiopia to start generating electricity from Nile Dam – Channels Television

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Ethiopia will start generating electricity from its Blue Nile mega-dam on Sunday, government officials told AFP, a major milestone for the controversial project.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is set to be Africa’s largest hydropower project, has been at the center of a regional dispute since Ethiopia paved the way for it in 2011.

“Tomorrow will be the first power generation from the dam,” an Ethiopian government official said on Saturday.

A second official confirmed the information. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as the development has not been officially announced.

Ethiopia’s downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat due to their dependence on the Nile’s waters, while Addis Ababa considers it essential for its electrification and development.

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There was no immediate response from Cairo or Khartoum, which have been pressing Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement on filling and operating the dam since work began.

The three governments held several rounds of talks. but so far there has been no sign of a breakthrough.

The $4.2 billion (€3.7 billion) project is ultimately expected to generate more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s power output.

Ethiopia had originally planned a production of around 6,500 megawatts, but later reduced its target.

“Newly generated electricity from GERD could help revive an economy that has been devastated by the combined forces of a deadly war, rising fuel prices and the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Addisu Lashitew of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

– Talks fail –

The 145-meter (475-foot) high dam sits on the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, not far from the border with Sudan.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for around 97% of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate the annual floods, but fears its own dams could be damaged without an agreement on how the GERD will operate.

Talks sponsored by the African Union (AU) failed to produce a tripartite agreement on filling and operating the dam, and Cairo and Khartoum demanded that Addis Ababa stop filling the huge reservoir until until such an agreement is concluded.

But Ethiopian officials have argued that the infilling is a natural part of the dam construction process and cannot be stopped.

The UN Security Council met last July to discuss the draft, although Ethiopia later called the session an “unnecessary” distraction from the AU-led process.

In September, the Security Council adopted a statement encouraging Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to resume negotiations under the auspices of the AU.

Egypt claims a historic right to the Nile dating back to a 1929 treaty that gave it veto power over construction projects along the river.

A 1959 treaty increased Egypt’s allocation to around 66% of the river’s flow, including 22% for Sudan.

Yet Ethiopia was not a party to these treaties and does not consider them valid.

The process of filling the vast GERD reservoir began in 2020, with Ethiopia announcing in July of the same year that it had reached its target of 4.9 billion cubic meters.

The total capacity of the reservoir is 74 billion cubic meters and the goal for 2021 was to add 13.5 million.

Last July, Ethiopia said it had met that target, meaning there was enough water to start generating power, although some experts have questioned those claims.

AFP

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