Friday, April 15, 2011

The Nile Millennial Great Dam takes off!

Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity-

Our Passion is 2 reach Our Individual & Collective Potential 4 Excellence & Success-Always!

Taming the Nile with Millennium Dam to electrify the Horn is an Idea Whose Time Has Come!

By Pawlos Belete

The Ethiopian Government has embarked on developing the largest ever hydropower project in the nation: the Millennium Dam.The dam will be able to produce 5,250 megawatts of electricity after completion, more than two and a half times the current generating capacity of the nation.

The new endeavor, on the lower catchment of the Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, has been officially dubbed the Millennium Project. The dam, which is expected to be fully financed by the Ethiopian government, will cost the country close to 70 to 80 billion birr or about 3.3 billion euro. 

Within the next 44 months, two units of the dam are expected to produce about 700 megawatts. Construction will be carried out by Salini, an Italian construction company that constructs four dams including one under constrauction. The electromechanical work will come from the recently established Metal works and Engineering Corporation of Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, speaking at a press conference held right after his appearance at the Economic Commission for Africa for the official opening of the international conference of Hydropower for Sustainable Development 2011, said the project is a “cheap undertaking” considering the cost per kilowatt hour.  

An expert who wished to remain anonymous explained to Capital that the dam is supported by a bank at a gorge in a river. That gorge will serve as a reservoir when the retaining wall is built at the gorge’s lower basin. The narrow gorge, between 20-40 meters wide, will help reduce the cost. The natural topography will mean that water that might otherwise vanish in the lower basin will be saved.
The retaining wall of the dam will be 144 meters high. It will have the capacity to hold back the pressure exerted up on it by 62 billion metric cubes of water which is almost equal to two times the amount of water in Lake Tana. To fill the dam it will take three to five years, according to an official of Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.

The construction of the dam in no way will affect the down-stream countries, according to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. It will not reduce the flow of water in a pronounced way he said. In fact the development of the dam in Ethiopia will benefit Sudan and Egypt by reducing evaporation in the down-stream countries and providing irrigation opportunities. Ethiopia furthermore promised to offer “access to clean power supply at a competitive import tariff”.   

The Grand Millennium Dam will be built some 40 kilometers from the Ethio-Sudanese boarder in Benishangul Gumuz. It is estimated that the project site is about a thirty kilometer radius from the Eastern Sudanese border with Ethiopia.

The project announcement was accompanied by a local and international media frenzy and has been a point of concern to Egypt that has never changed its position on reassuring its “historical claim” to the lion share of Nile water. 

The environmental and social impact is very minimal according to Alemayew Tegenu, Minister of Water and Energy. The impact assessment has already been submitted to the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority.

In the past, the Ethiopian government claimed it managed to finance Beles, which cost the government close to 7 billion birr, and Tekeze with close to 3 billion birr. It also claimed that it financed 53 percent of the total cost from own resources. Another possible reason for the reduction in cost per kilowatt hour could be the involvement of the state engineering enterprise, added the expert

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