New Dam is a Big Win for Ethiopia




In another otherwise difficult year filled with political turmoil, Ethiopia has scored one huge win by inaugurating the Gilgile Gibe III Hydroelectric Dam over the Omo River which almost doubles the country’s power generation output.

The Omo River Basin, located in the southwestern part of the country, is one of 11 basins. The Omo River valley is grown into full force from the steams and brooks of the mountains of Amhara. The Oromia region flows down to the Jimma zone and down the basin as it quenches the thirst of the old Kingdom of Janjero and its people and animal inhabitants.

One can encounters the Gilgel Gibe Bridge, only 81 Kilometres away to the southwest of Addis Abeba. There are security guards installed at the check point, both to control speed and safety. Of late, this checkpoint, was also a spot of checking any illegal or smuggled coffee beans or the “green leaf” or “quat” or “chat.”

The Omo Valley is a settlement of at least nine tribes, with a total of over a quarter of a million populations. The river drains its waters at Lake Turkana on the border of Kenya. The whole basin is over 400kms in length.

Gilgel Gibe I was a rock and earth filled embankment located 75km northwest of Jimma. Its planned and installed power was about 184 Mega Watt of electricity. The tunnel was to begin construction in 1988, with a total length of 9.8KM.

Gilgel Gibe II which is about 80KM east of Jimma, is designed to produce 420Mg and was inaugurated amidst a controversy that originated as an Italian company, Salini impregilo, was given the project without due process and tender procedures. It was inaugurated in January 2010.

In December 2010, generation of power was halted because the retaining wall that had slid down and collapsed. The power production or generation had to be halted until it had to be rectified once more before it began functioning in full.

Gilgel Gibe III, with a planned capacity of 1870 plus mega watt, was inaugurated on December 16, 2016 and was even more controversial. The project generated controversy and opposition from those concerned with the dam’s impact on the environment and the people living in the areas.

This opposition came as no surprise as the argument was based on the fact that the planned power project would displace thousands of people and threaten their way of life without bringing local benefits.

Critics are not convinced that the construction of the access roads built to the power house as well as the water body where fish farming exists is enough to cover the downsides of the project for local residents.

The total power generated by the three dams is calculated to have a total planned power generation of about 2424 megawatts. The other vital point that needs mentioning is the construction of the transmission line in at least two directions. This involves the installation of heavy cable transmission lines, carrying long lines loaded with kilovolts. It extends to exporting lines across the border and towards the main national grid system.

This part involves the construction of sub-stations at crucial crossings and qualitative massive transformer units that could last longer and are sustainable.

As much as the country makes international investment a priority, the sustainability of uninterrupted power flow is of a crucial importance.



By Girma Feyissa


Published on Dec 27,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 869]


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