Geographical factors, difficulties with concrete slab filling work and a high pressure hot springs that erupted during excavation work are blamed for the recurrent delay in a dam, irrigation and sugar project that the government is said to be “very concerned about”.
The Prime Minister’s office had instructed the Ministry of Water and Energy (MoWE) to complete the construction of the Kesem Kebena Dam by the end of this fiscal year [July 8, 2012] but the project is still far from conclusion, Capital learnt.
The dam and irrigation project being carried out with 2.6 billion birr was launched close to seven years ago. The plan is to develop 20,000hct of land for irrigation at Kesem, Kebena and Bolhamo for a sugarcane plantation. From the total irrigation land 5,380hct is located in southern Kesem, and 4,430hct in north Kesem, 3,840 and 6,500hct in northern Kebena and Bolhamo respectively. Out of the total irrigated land, 10,000hct will be given to growers to cultivate sugar cane for the factory, which will be managed by Ethiopian Sugar Corporation.
“Even though we have been working with enthusiastic effort, the project will not be finished until this Ethiopian New Year, [September 11, 2012]” employees told Capital in anonymity. The employees who travelled to the site four months ago said that since the beginning of May, work has been going on 24 hours a day.
“The concrete slab filling work is being done around the clock,” sources explained.
Located in Afar regional state 250Km east of Addis Ababa the endeavour was already delayed for two years because of geographical factors. Then scalding, high pressure water came gushing out of the ground during excavation work making it difficult to carry out construction. Around May, work began in earnest to finish in two months. According to sources at the construction company senior government officials including Alemayehu Tegenu, minister of MoWE have been visiting the site frequently and the government is apparently very concerned about its success.
The contractor, which is under MoWE, has increased the number of employees and machines working on the project after pressure from the government to finish the project by early last month.
Upon its completion, it will irrigate around 20,000hct of land for sugarcane development and a sugar factory that will be built on the same site.
Construction of the sugar factory that is expected to be finalized in September 2013 will have 10,000 tons of cane crushing capacity per day. The corporation is currently constructing or under preparation to erect over ten new sugar factories at a cost of 80 billion birr before the end of the five year plan.
In order to make the Kesem Irrigation project more attractive, the Ministry office suggested incorporating the development of a hydropower plant system to utilize the flowing of water to the irrigated fields. The hydropower potential is dictated by downstream irrigation requirements.
According to experts the layout of the project will allow up to 15MW of power to be produced with only the additional cost being electromechanical equipments.
The Kesem Kebena Dam and Irrigation project was launched seven years ago to supply cane for Metehara Sugar Factory, which is 40Km from the irrigation land. Now the corporation wants to build a new factory on the irrigated area. The state owned Water Works Design and Supervision Enterprise is the consultant. WWCE also undertakes several governmental construction projects including other irrigation and water development projects.