Ethiopia starts Blue Nile diversion in dam project

May 29, 2013
Members of the Ethiopian Orthodox church walk in the source of the Blue Nile in northern Ethiopia in 2010. Ethiopia has begun diverting the Blue Nile as part of a giant dam project, officials said Wednesday, risking potential unease from downstream nations Sudan and Egypt.

Ethiopia has begun diverting the Blue Nile as part of a giant dam project, officials said Wednesday, risking potential unease from downstream nations Sudan and Egypt.

The $4.2 billion (3.2 billion euro) Grand Renaissance Dam had to divert a short section of the river—one of two major tributaries to the main Nile—to allow the main dam wall to be built.

"To build the dam, the natural course must be dry," said Addis Tadele, spokesman for the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), a day after a formal ceremony at the .

The natural course of the river was diverted about 550 metres (yards) from its natural course, Addis said, but stressed that would not be affected.

"There is no problem with the river levels," he added.

The first phase of construction is expected to be complete in three years, with a capacity of 700 megawatts.

Once complete, the dam will have a capacity of 6,000 .

Both Sudan and Egypt, arid nations that rely heavily on the Nile for water including for agriculture, are extremely sensitive about projects that could alter the flow of the river.

Boats of the Blue Nile Sailing Club float on the river in Khartoum in 2007. Both Sudan and Egypt, arid nations that rely heavily on the Nile for water including for agriculture, are extremely sensitive about projects that could alter the flow of the Blue Nile.

However, EEPCo insists the project will not impact downstream needs, claiming the dam will provide "highly regulated outflows" by reducing floods at peak times and providing more water during otherwise low flows.

The dam project, in Ethiopia's northwestern Benishangul-Gumuz region near the border with Sudan, was launched in April 2011 by late prime minister Meles Zenawi.

Funding is being raised publicly, with the state raising funds locally, and no external financing has been provided.

Ethiopia is constructing a series of dams in order to produce for local consumption and export.

EEPCo has plans to establish to neighbouring countries, including Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti.

One of Ethiopia's deputy Prime Ministers, Demeke Mekonnen, officially launched the river diversion Tuesday, alongside EEPCo chief Mihret Dibebe.

When completed the dam wall will stretch almost 1.8 kilometres (about one mile) in length and 145 metres (475 feet) in height.

Explore further: Isolated indigenous communities of South America under threat

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ethiopian dam spurs debate

Jun 07, 2012

The mud-coloured Omo River which snakes through green gorges, feeding lush vegetation and providing vital water to one of Ethiopia's most remote regions, will also power a contentious dam project.

Swiss dam fault kills thousands of trout

Mar 31, 2013

Thousands of trout were killed in Switzerland after technical trouble at a hydroelectric dam stemmed the water flow in a national park, the Swiss news agency ATS reported.

Sudan seeks to tap 'blue gold' with new dam projects

Jun 26, 2011

Sudan is aggressively seeking to tap its abundant Nile waters with new dam projects as the oil-rich south's independence looms, but experts warn of the social and environmental costs, and the bearing on the ...

Laos vows to address Mekong dam fears

Jul 06, 2012

Laos has pledged to stall construction of a controversial multi-billion dollar dam on the Mekong river until all its neighbours' environmental concerns have been answered, state media said Friday.

Laos to start construction of mega dam 'this week'

Nov 05, 2012

Laos on Monday said it would start construction of a controversial multi-billion dollar dam this week, after adapting the design to calm environmental concerns from neighbouring nations.

Recommended for you

Big data confirms climate extremes are here to stay

14 hours ago

In a paper published online today in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, Northeastern researchers Evan Kodra and Auroop Ganguly found that while global temperature is indeed increasing, so too is the variab ...

Peru's carbon quantified: Economic and conservation boon

15 hours ago

Today scientists unveiled the first high-resolution map of the carbon stocks stored on land throughout the entire country of Perú. The new and improved methodology used to make the map marks a sea change ...

How might climate change affect our food supply?

16 hours ago

It's no easy question to answer, but prudence demands that we try. Thus, Microsoft and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have teamed up to tackle "food resilience," one of several themes ...

Groundwater is safe in potential N.Y. fracking area

16 hours ago

Two Cornell hydrologists have completed a thorough groundwater examination of drinking water in a potential hydraulic fracturing area in New York's Southern Tier. They determined that drinking water in potable ...

User comments : 0