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“The Millennium Dam will not only provide benefits to Ethiopia. It will also offer mutually beneficial opportunities to Sudan and to Egypt. Indeed, one might expect these countries to be prepared to share the cost in proportion to the gains that each state will derive. On this calculation, Sudan might offer to cover 30 percent and Egypt 20 percent of the costs of the entire project. Unfortunately, the necessary climate for engagement, based on equitable and constructive self-interest, does not exist at the moment. Indeed, the current disposition is to make attempts to undercut Ethiopia’s efforts to secure funding to cover the cost of the project. We have, in fact, been forced to rely on our own savings alone to cover the expense” this was an excerpt taken from the speech of the late PM Meles Zenawi at the official commencement of the Millennium Dam project.
It has been a couple of years since Ethiopians go up with courage and motivation to build The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, previously known as the Millennium Dam. This dam which will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa upon completion is also the 14th largest in the world.
This giant project seemed nearly impossible to even imagine since it required a huge amount of money, USD 5 billion to be exact, before it was officially commenced.
When the project was announced back in April 2011, there was a lot of confusion and controversy. The controversy with being some countries that share the Nile river would be affected negatively if the dam was to be constructed and the project was put in place to intentionally hurt these countries.
Over the past century many treaties have been signed in an attempt to assure each country a right to the Nile water, with Egypt generally receiving the lion’s share, but sub-Saharan African counties have always argued that the old treaties deny their modern right to livelihood, and that there should be an equal right to the water.
Egypt, which receives the biggest share of Nile waters, said it will reject any deals that do not preserve its historic water rights. Egypt also opposes the dam which it believes will reduce the amount of water that it gets from the Nile but Ethiopia argued that the dam would not reduce water availability downstream and would also regulate water for irrigation.
The confusion is that, how in the world Ethiopia would come up with the money to actually build the dam. After all the amount of money that would take to build the Renaissance Dam equals the country’s entire annual budget.
International funders shy away from supporting this project because of “its potential for conflict.” The Ethiopian government then said “well hey, we will fund the project ourselves.”
So then it all began, devised a scheme to sell bonds and by encouraging Ethiopians to support the dam with their money for the journey of realizing the big dream. Besides the actual advantage that we will be gaining once the dam is finished, there have also been several positive outcomes from the process of the construction. Roads have been built benefiting rural communities and the construction has created jobs for more than 15,000 people.
Since climate change is a big issue, going green is a big trend. Hydroelectric is a very efficient way to produce electricity, in terms of greenhouse gases (GHGs), showing emission factors between one and two orders of magnitude lower than other alternatives.
In March this year it was stated by the GRD project Manager Simegnew Bekele that the work of diverting the course of Abay or the Nile River is approaching its final stage.
It is also stated that out of the planting of the two rock grinding mills needed for concrete production, one is already completed and has gone operational. So, it looks like everything is going according to the time table.
The mega project has the capacity to generate 6,000 MW of electrical power and 15,128 GWh of average energy per year. This means that beyond electrifying the whole country, Ethiopia will also be able to export electric power to countries in the region if not the continent.
Ethiopia is the world’s second biggest recipient of foreign aid, after Afghanistan. Although aid is necessary in some cases, it should never be what a country is only known by. Being dependent on aid always has a negative effect. This project can bring about pride because it is not done through aid. The Great Renaissance Dam is a huge project not just through the eyes of Ethiopians; it is a huge project in the eye of Africa and even the rest of the world.
It is stated that two generators would be operational by 2015. That is in just two and a half years. That is a very short period of time. In my opinion, it doesn’t even matter if it is not completed in that time frame. It doesn’t even matter if it takes five of ten more years.
For me what matters is that it has started, it has been started by the people of this country for the people of this country. It is the start of something that can potentially change this country in a significant way; it is revolutionary, at least for Ethiopians. Revolutionary ideas and actions might take time to show effect but what matters is that the fact that they are there and they have started to pave the way to a better future.
For that, each and every one of us should keep the faith and confidence, hold our heads up and be proud.