The realisation of any vision requires coordinated planning, and this is especially true when it comes to a nation's development. Electricity and water are two of the basic services that residents of any city worldwide should expect to be afforded, uninteruppted. Despite heavy investment, however, a lack of coordination in planning, alongside other limiting factors, has resulted in many unhappy residents in Ethiopia's capital city in this regard.
Every desire and ambitious dream depend upon reliable planning. At a national level, these separate plans need to be coordinated. Even unexpected natural hazards, like sudden volcanic eruptions or floods, require the necessary emergency logistics to be in place. This includes having some amount of contingency budget – a share from the national cake, so to speak.
Therefore, mobilising security patrols from one area to another requires huge expenditure, like transport cost, spare parts, food, water and daily allowances for all involved in the operation. This is quite a significant amount that boosts the military budget, best known to the executive members of the ruling party.
Whether it be preparing a swimming team or athletics squad or even the vow to expect gold, silver or bronze medals requires a substantiated plan.
The country’s economic development plan in particular requires a thoroughly researched and well-founded basis. This is not as simple as writing or speaking out well wishes or day dreams. Rhetoric from fearing political powers cannot be realised simply because it is being aired in mainstream media under the pretext of image building visions.
These days, research often has inadequately designed and non-objectively oriented questionnaires, even copying other people’s poor findings or being conducted by so called experts who have simply purchased their doctorate diplomas. Some inquisitive researchers have exposed such shortcomings and fraudulent behaviour.
All utility planning, like water, transport services and electricity, must be planned strategically, at least 30 years ahead of time. The realisation period could differ from one sector to another depending on their sequential realisation programmes.
If we go by the order of each utility and its importance, many researchers agree that electric power should be given top priority. Of course, the end objective of building a small or mega water dam, the likes of Gilgel gibe I, II, III, is primarily to generate electric power. This is essential and basic. But the main part of such projects are not enough by itself. The generated power has to be transmitted from the power house to the transforming stations, where they are transformed to measured scales down the line.
But the transmission line itself has to be carried from one sub-station to another substation down the line of scaled hierarchy. Judging by the complaints and repeated outcries from residents, we are forced to examine the quality of the transformers. A nation cannot be a laboratory mouse used to test the effectiveness of newly discovered medicines. It may be a good start to manufacture transformers. But these laboratory transformers cannot put the nation a risk. Unless the flow of power is proven to be usable beyond any germ of doubt, its negative consequences can only be imagined. The transformers may have been imported. Even then, the real source of the imported material has to be verified or the whole effort would be nil.
Some countries, like the US, never import goods from any country unless it passes testing and verifications. We remember that the oil refinery at Assab was donated from the then USSR on its salvaged value. But it was fully functional then. Sometimes I wonder what could have happened to that refinery after it had faced the salty weather conditions of the Assab Port.
The electric transformers installed throughout the villages of the capital break down every now and then. En route, some office holders in the Electric Authority are using the opportunity for self-enrichment or, in simple words, corruption or rent collection.
By the same token, the water flow and accessibility to clean tap water has also been used as a source of side income.
When we talk about the basic issues, we have to start with the basic data of the scale at which Urban population grows. As observed from the situation of other African countries, population censuses have become more than a political issue and are used to postpone political voting.
Knowing that political seats depend very much on the population living in the respective constituents, the job is taken as a reason to delay votes and delete correct figures to misrepresent the reality. This practice has even surprised the head of the Statistics Agency, in that the Amhara and Addis Abeba populations have shrunk a great deal in the second count. What the reason could be is anybody’s guess.
At any rate, for good or bad planning, economic development that does not take the population growth into consideration is as good as non-existent.
That kind of strategic planning needs to set a list of priorities based on the needs of people. In this regard, we can recall the contributions of engineers like Aragemo Tiruneh, the former CEO of the Addis Abeba Water Sewerage Authority. He gave priority to water supply, designing the Lege Dadi Dam – the main source of water in the capital. He used funds obtained from the EEC, as the EU was then called, to construct an underground drainage system in two directions that carry down the waste water to a treatment area in Kaliti.
We were able to visit the site and witness with our own eyes how the waste water, or sludge, can be exposed to the sunlight or open air. After a period of about three months, it decomposes to brown soil fit to be used.
The other direction of the drainage route was along the eastern part of the city. But of all the useful legacies we as residents of the capital owe the engineer, it is his farsighted plan of building two dams for collecting, water at Sibilu and Getbi, on the other side of Entoto.
I had taken up this project with the former Water Resource and Mining Minister Ato Alemayehu Tegenu. In my position as a member of the water committee then established in each wereda, I engaged him twice by posing questions as to why the two dams were not built in time. He said that the underground deep wells dug at Kaliti are enough to provide water for the metropolis. I argued that pumping up requires either generators or electricity.
What are we witnessing now? Electricity cannot be made accessible, thus interrupting water supply. Planning requires far sightedness. Any wishful thinking or ambitious thoughts cannot substantiate without proper coordinated planning.
They say that our two eyes are distant neighbours until they look at the mirror. It is only then, when one eye is able to see the other. In terms of planning, this means that every action should be planned in coordination.
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