More than halfway complete, Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam promises to provide the African country with a sustainable source of electricity. We speak to experts in Addis Ababa and Cairo on the impact that the dam will have on people in both countries.
By Leena ElDeeb (Progress) |
A $4.2 billion dam is being built on Ethiopia’s part of the River Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of the Sudanese border, and they’re calling it the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. 1,375 miles (2,213 kilometers) north, Egyptians have been panicking for four years about what the future of the Renaissance Dam means for their decreasing rights to the River Nile. Last month marked the completion of 60 percent of the Ethiopian mega project of the century.
Ethiopia’s green economy strategy aims to make the country middle income while also ensuring that it is environmentally and economically sustainable and resilient by 2025. The development of Ethiopia’s strategy is based on four pillars: agriculture, forestry, transport and generating power from renewable energy – which is where the Renaissance Dam comes in.
In the meantime, Egyptian environmentalists argue that the construction of the Renaissance Dam will gradually decrease Egypt’s share of the river, which is the country’s exclusive source of drinking water and is also used for irrigation. However, the greatest toll will be on the electricity supply of Egypt’s High Dam in Aswan, argues Alaa El-Zawahry, an Egyptian dam expert and member of the tripartite committee studying the effects of the Renaissance Dam.
“In the first two years, the level of [water in] Lake [Nasser, a reservoir in southern Egypt and northern Sudan] will reach less than half, which will create a 15 percent deficit in the production of electricity in the first year [for Egypt],” foresees El-Zawahry. “In the second year, the deficit will be approximately 45 percent, 65 percent in the third, 85 percent in the fifth and by the time we reach the sixth [year, the] turbines will stop generating electricity altogether.”