Ethiopian dam starts generating electricity

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A controversial dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia will officially start generating electricity on Sunday when the construction project is 80% complete.

Ethiopia’s national broadcaster reported Saturday that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which the country is building on the Blue Nile, will officially start generating electricity for the first time on Sunday.

The project has been under construction for 10 years. Originally, Ethiopia planned to complete the dam in five years, but the controversy it attracted from downstream countries, as well as internal problems, slowed things down.

Its completion could take another two to three years, said Kifle Horo, project manager of the dam. This project is run and funded entirely by Ethiopians and the Ethiopian government, he said, urging everyone to keep helping fund the project until it is complete.

Horo said downstream countries, which are resisting construction over fears of losing water from the Nile, will not be affected.

Ethiopia has filled the dam’s reservoir for the past two consecutive rainy seasons; the second was in July 2021. As construction of the dam continues, it could take years to fill the reservoir to the brim.

But downstream nations, Egypt and Sudan, are concerned. In July 2021, Egypt appealed to the UN Security Council to review the reservoir’s filling. Ethiopia disagreed with the appeal, insisting that the African Union monitor ongoing negotiations between the three nations.

State media reported on Saturday that one in 13 turbine units is now generating electricity. The dam is expected to generate over 5,000 megawatts of electricity when completed. Still, Egypt and Sudan oppose construction, saying the lives of their citizens would be affected due to concerns about water sharing.

Ethiopia insists it needs the power from the dam for its development. The nation of more than 110 million people also says nearly 60% of its population has no access to electricity and the dam will improve availability for many homes.

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