ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia wants to make its multi-billion dollar mega-dam being built on Blue Nile river a source for cooperation and shared prosperity among downstream countries, says chief Negotiator Seleshi Bekele.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which started early power generation on Sunday, has been a source of a decade-long diplomatic standoff between Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan.
Khartoum and Cairo claim they fear the dam could reduce water flow of the Nile River. Addis Ababa disputes that while insisting it will key to give more than 60% of its citizens access to electricity.
The hydroelectric dam is also expected to power economic development in Ethiopia which has managed to add 375MW to its national electric grid as of Sunday, February 20, 2022.
‘Water flows uninterrupted’
Seleshi Bekele, chief negotiator and advisor on trans-boundary rivers and GERD, said the $5 billion Dam has now reached a “key milestone” early power generation in tandem with construction progress.
“It has proved the water flows downstream has not been interrupted and flows regularly as hydro-power doesn’t consume water,” said the chief negotiator.
The dam is currently 84% complete while its reservoir has hold water from Blue Nile River during the last two consecutive rainy seasons.
Seleshi said Ethiopia’s approach to filling and operation of GERD is crafted based on the bounds of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) signed between the three Nile nations in 2015, and subsequently negotiated rules and guidelines.
“Upon completion, it similarly provides water bank for regular renewable power generation in Ethiopia, enhanced power generation in downstream countries in existing dams. safeguard against flood and drought,” he added.
The top Negotiator said GERD should be “the source of cooperation, not conflict.”
It should also be the starting point “for shared prosperity not bringing scarcity, regional integration, achieving multiple goals” of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he added.
“Ethiopia honestly cares not only it’s benefits but also the well-being of brothers and sisters sharing the Nile River,” Seleshi said. “Our call is let us use our God given resources judiciously and realize the win-win for all.”
Africa’s largest hydro-electric power plant is expected to generate 5,760GW hours megawatts of electricity using 13 turbines, doubling the nation’s electricity output when it is fully completed.
It was the first turbine that started generating power on Sunday. Authorities expect the second one to become active in the coming few months, producing additional 375MW.
“This is a good news for our continent as well as the downstream countries with whom we aspire to work together,” said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Authorities say the vision with GERD is not limited to consuming the power generated but also to export power as far as to Europe, helping to reduce gas emission that affects the environment.