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Ethiopia inaugurates one of the largest dams in the world


After more than ten years of work and controversies with Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia officially launched on Sunday the production of electricity from its great Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile.

It is “the birth of a new era”, launched Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed while presiding on Sunday the launch of the production of the Gerd (“Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”), a controversial multi-billion dollar project.

Accompanied by many senior officials of the country, Abiy Ahmed toured the powerhouse and triggered production from the dam.

“This great dam was built by the Ethiopians, but for the benefit of all Africans, so that all our brothers and sisters in Africa can benefit from it”said a senior official attending the inauguration.

Various Ethiopian officials have praised Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to complete funding for a project that has long been on the verge of failure. In the absence of precise official accounts, the total cost of the project was estimated by the experts at $4.2 billion (3.7 billion euros).

Tributaries of the Nile

The Gerd constitutes, since the launch of the project in 2011, a dispute with Sudan and Egypt, both tributaries of the Nile for their hydraulic resources.

Cairo invokes a “historical law” on the river, guaranteed since a treaty signed in 1929 between Egypt and Sudan, then represented by the United Kingdom, a colonial power. Egypt had obtained a right of veto on the construction of projects on the river.

In 1959, after an agreement with Khartoum on water sharing, Egypt allocated itself a quota of 66% of the Nile’s annual flowagainst 22% for Sudan.

Not being a party to these agreements, Ethiopia has never considered itself bound by them and, in 2010, a new treaty signed by the countries of the Nile basin, which originates in Uganda, abolished the right Egyptian veto and authorized irrigation projects and hydroelectric dams.

5000MW

Seized last summer, the UN had recommended to the three countries to continue their talks under the aegis of the African Union (AU). Cairo and Khartoum, worried about their water supply, had asked Addis Ababa to stop filling the dam.

Ethiopia had nevertheless proceeded last July to the second phase of filling the dam, announced as one of the biggest in africa with an initial production target of 6,500 megawatts, revised downwards to 5,000 MW, ie double Ethiopia’s current production.

According to Ethiopian state media, the initial production of the Gerd is around 375 MW with the commissioning of a first turbine, out of the 13 of the entire dam. A second turbine should be in operation within a few months, and the entire dam should be fully operational in 2024.

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