Ethiopians jubilate over maiden power generation of grand dam

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A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on December 26, 2019. - The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a 145-metre-high, 1.8-kilometre-long concrete colossus is set to become the largest hydropower plant in Africa. (AFP)
A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on December 26, 2019. - The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a 145-metre-high, 1.8-kilometre-long concrete colossus is set to become the largest hydropower plant in Africa. (AFP)

The latest announcement about the maiden power generation milestone from Ethiopia’s mega-dam on the Blue Nile river on Sunday came as a historic moment for Michael Alemu.

For Alemu, a 26-year-old, newly electrical engineering graduate from Ethiopia’s resort city of Bahir Dar, the 6,500 megawatts Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)’s much-awaited power generating milestone is “a moment of national pride.”

On Sunday, the Ethiopian government announced that the first turbine of the country’s disputed grand hydroelectric dam commenced generating power, setting a new momentum in the dam’s close to ten years of construction endeavor.

“Today, Africa’s largest power plant, the GERD’s first turbine began generating power,” Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in his message to the public upon the announcement.

“This is a good news for our continent as well as the downstream countries with whom we aspire to work together,” Ahmed said in his social media post, adding that “Abay’s mission to nurture our country and gratify our neighbors continues. As Ethiopia marks the birth of a new era, I congratulate all Ethiopians.”

Ethiopia’s state-television reported that one of the 13 turbines of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam commenced power generation, with power generating capacity of 375 megawatts of electricity. The dam is now 84 percent complete.

Alemu argued that in addition to generating the much-needed power to a country of over 110 million population, of which more than 60 percent does not have access to electricity according to official figures, the GERD project is seen as one that addresses the problem.

“One can imagine our mothers traveling far too long to collect firewood just because they do not have access to energy. I hope our dam will solve this and many other unfortunate realities associated with lack of energy,” he said.

The dam’s maiden electric energy generation benchmark saw Ethiopians, both at home and across the globe, flooding social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, among others, to mark the historic moment.

The Ethiopian government announced its ambitious development project back in April 2011, which will be regarded as Africa’s largest dam upon completion with a total volume of 74,000 billion cubic meters.

The dam has since then been a major issue among the three Nile-bound countries that are Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.

On Thursday, Sudan stressed the need to reach a legal and binding solution to the issue of the GERD, a long dispute between the neighboring countries.

Egypt, a downstream Nile Basin country, has been frequently expressing its concern that Ethiopia’s mega-dam might affect its share of the river water, while the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly vowed that the dam will not harm Egypt or Sudan, saying the dam project would “ensure an equitable and reasonable” utilization of the river waters among the three concerned countries.

Egypt and Sudan have been also calling on Ethiopia not to start filling the dam without reaching an agreement.

Amid the continued, yet less fruitful, trilateral discussions among representatives of the three countries on the filling of the dam, the three countries have been engaged in through African Union (AU)-led discussions towards reaching an agreement.

Ethiopia’s premier, however, on Sunday assured downstream countries that the dam would not cause any concern.

“The dam’s electricity generation is a blessing for the downstream countries too. We want to export our pollution-free power to Europe through Sudan and Egypt, ” Ahmed said during a ceremony held to mark the maiden electric energy generation of the dam. Enditem

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