Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed Egypt’s latest proposal regarding, a massive Nile River dam project, shortly after Cairo said a new round of talks over the filling and operation of the soon-to-be-finished $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam failed to achieve progress.
The dam was originally called “Project X”, and after its contract was announced it was called the Millennium Dam. On 15 April 2011, the Council of Ministers renamed it Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Ethiopia has a potential for about 45 Giga Watts of hydro-power.
Egypt fears Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam could reduce its share of the Nile, which serves as a lifeline for the country’s 100 million people. Ethiopia has roughly the same population and says the dam will help its development as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.
The eventual site for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was identified by the United States Bureau of Reclamation during a Blue Nile survey conducted between 1956 and 1964 during the administration of Aklilu Habtewold.
Due to the coup d’état of 1974, however, the project failed to progress. The Ethiopian Government surveyed the site in October 2009 and August 2010. In November 2010, a design for the dam was submitted by James Kelston.
On 31 March 2011, a day after the project was made public, a $4.8 billion contract was awarded without competitive bidding to Salini Costruttori and the dam’s foundation stone was laid on 2 April 2011 by then Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
A rock crushing plant has been constructed along with a small air strip for fast transportation. The first two turbines are expected to become operational after 44 months of construction.
Egypt, which lies downstream, opposes the dam which it believes will reduce the amount of water that it gets from the Nile.
Zenawi argued, based on an unnamed study, that the dam would not reduce water availability downstream and would also regulate water for irrigation.
In May 2011, it was announced that Ethiopia would share blueprints for the dam with Egypt so the downstream impact could be examined.
The main contractor is the Italian company Salini Costruttori, which also served as primary contractor for the Gilgel Gibe II, Gilgel Gibe III, and Tana Beles dams. Simegnew Bekele was the project manager of GERD from the start of construction in 2011 up to his death on July 26, 2018.
Crickey Conservation Society 2007.