Ethiopian Hydropower Dam Assessment Warns of Structural Weakness

October 3rd, 2013 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia’s plan to build Africa’s biggest hydropower dam on the main tributary of the Nile River must address concerns that there may be flaws in the design of its foundations, a group of international experts said.

They also called for further studies on what impact the 6,000-megawatt, $4.7 billion project may have on the downstream nations of Sudan and Egypt, the International Panel of Experts said in a report e-mailed to Bloomberg News and verified by Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry. Egypt, which relies on the Nile for almost all of its water, expressed alarm about the dam when Ethiopia in May diverted the Blue Nile as part of the construction process.

“Structural measures might be needed to stabilize the foundation to achieve the required safety against sliding” of the main dam, according to the report. There are also “weak zones” in the rock that will support an auxiliary dam that need to be studied, it said.

Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is part of a government plan to spend 569 billion birr ($30 billion) on infrastructure in the five years through mid-2015. The country, Africa’s second-most populous nation, targets becoming an industrialized middle-income nation by 2025.

Ethiopia is the source of 86 percent of the water that flows into the Nile, the world’s longest river that runs 4,160 miles through 11 countries from Burundi in the south to Egypt, where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Ethiopia has said it will take five to six years to fill the 74 billion cubic-meter (2.6 trillion cubic-feet) reservoir created by the dam.

Regional Specialists

The panel, which held its first meeting in May last year, was formed at the suggestion of Ethiopia’s government. It comprised two specialists each from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan and four from other nations. The report, which hasn’t been made public, was submitted to the three governments in June.

Ethiopia said the report found the project to be of international standard and won’t cause “significant harm” to downstream countries, while Egypt said it was inconclusive.

Ethiopia delivered a hydrological study to the panel that analyzed the downstream impact of the reservoir-filling period given low, average or high rainfall.

The project document concluded that Egypt faces a 6 percent reduction in the High Aswan Dam’s electricity-generating capacity and no water loss if the reservoir was filled during years of average or high rainfall. If the reservoir was filled in a dry year it would “significantly impact on water supply to Egypt and cause the loss of power generation at High Aswan Dam for extended periods,” according to the document.

A “comprehensive” additional study of the dam’s impact on water resources should be conducted, the panel said after reviewing the document. “The analysis presented is very basic, and not yet at a level of detail, sophistication and reliability that would befit a development of this magnitude, importance and with such regional impact.”

Ethiopia is working with Sudan and Egypt to enact the panel’s recommendations, Dina Mufti, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said in an interview today in the capital, Addis Ababa.

  1. Ittu Aba Farda
    | #1

    Even though I disagree with the current regime back home on many political issues but I will see or have no problem with such infrastructure projects. Dams, roads and communication lines are about-time projects that were neglected or looked upon for a long time. In the long term they will be put to good use benefiting the population at large. Our country has many grand rivers with little internal drainage system except one or two. The Awash(Hawaash) is one I can think of. But there are numerous seasonal streams that gush out plausible amount of water during the rainy season but stay dry during most of the year. Their raging floods should be skillfully retained and filtered for use as tap water and food production. Any planned projects meant to harness nature to bring our people out of the dark ages to modern times, I am for it. Economic progress is known to be killer of tyrants and bigots. I can cite quite a few examples. Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Taiwan, South Korea, The Philippines, Portugal, Spain and even South Africa are best examples our contemporary world that were once ruled by ‘invincible’ despots.

  2. kentu
    | #2

    in small town there is unusual happens so a lot of peoplehear about the news . the news was one tiger and a sheep leaving in peace in a zoo for a year so people went to the zoo to see if it actual finally the visitor ask the guard and the guard tell them the secret the tiger is true for a year but the sheep is not every day a new sheep comes may be you are ask me why this story comes here because weyane hiring a new president not girma but teshome

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